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Bell, D. (2017). Unconscious Phantasy: Some Historical and Conceptual Dimensions. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(3):785-798.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(3):785-798

Unconscious Phantasy: Some Historical and Conceptual Dimensions

David Bell

(Accepted for publication 16 August 2016)

This paper seeks firstly to grasp both conceptually and historically the different phenomenologies that are captured by the term ‘Unconscious Phantasy’. The term is shown to refer to a number of distinct though overlapping conceptual domains. These include: phantasy as scene, phantasy as representation of drive, phantasy as representation of wish as its fulfilment, phantasy as split off activity of the mind functioning under the aegis of the pleasure principle; phantasy as representation of the minds own activities (which Wollheim calls' the way “the mind represents its own activities to itself”). Lastly unconscious phantasy is understood as being the basic foundation of all mental life, including drives, impulses, all anxiety situations and defences. Having mapped out this territory through following the development of the concept in the work of Freud and Klein, the author draws on the work of the philosopher Richard Wollheim who, the author contends, has made a fundamental contribution to our conceptual understanding of unconscious phantasy. In the last section of the paper, the author draws a distinction between what he terms ‘objects’ (namely psychic objects) and what he terms facts’. It is suggested that this distinction, though implicit in much of our work, benefits from being made explicit and that in so doing an important dimension of analytic work is illuminated. We aim to help the patient to discover what he is like, to understand the ways in which he conceives and misconceives himself, to unravel the fact-ness of himself and his world from its ‘object qualities’, to differentiate between unconscious phantasy and reality.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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