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Paul, M.I. Carson, I.M. (1976). The Sense of Strangeness. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 3:435-440.

(1976). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 3:435-440

The Sense of Strangeness

Michael I. Paul and Ira M. Carson

In this paper we hope to elucidate the relationship between certain ordinary words that have come up in the treatment of a variety of our patients. The words in question are: stupid, dumb, weird and strange. We have observed that there is a constantly conjoined relationship between these words which extends throughout a therapeutic session, even throughout years of an analytic process, and cuts across the differences between the individual analyses of patients, all of whom have in common the diagnoses of borderline psychotic or ambulatory schizophrenics. These words may be considered to represent a mental process describing the change in the use of the perceptual apparatus with respect to different stages of emergence from states of projective identification (psychic fusion).

Early in the analyses of three patients there has been pronounced exaggerated material at the beginning of the sessions with reference to the word 'dumb' and/or 'stupid'. The usage of terms such as 'dumb' or 'stupid' levied with great vociferousness has the flavour of self-judgment and violent self-attack, which has been later transformed in different stages of the analyses to the word 'dumb' or 'I have nothing to say'. Initially we thought this was primarily an attempt to maintain out of awareness the elements that were emerging into consciousness at that time. This experience occurs most frequently at the beginning of the session. Taking the word 'dumb' as a primitive pun and applying it to the concept of obscuring material, the word may alert the therapist to the recognition of a form of obscuration in the session.

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