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Blomfield, O.H. (1982). Interpretation—Some General Aspects. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:287-301.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:287-301

Interpretation—Some General Aspects

O. H.D. Blomfield


Interpretation is a basic activity founded in the phenomenology of perception and the structures of behaviour (Merleau-Ponty, 1942)(1945). The organization of experience in its interpretation leads out into the contrasting psychical modes of understanding and explanation. The phenomenon of transference, consciously exploited as a vehicle in psychoanalysis, is something to be both understood and explained, while its interpretation is the distinguishing mark of psychoanalytic therapy.

As Whitehead (1927), Langer (1942) and others have observed, a relatively small number of primitive experiences open out into an increasingly large number of symbolic representations. This reductive/expansive gradient in symbolism makes interpretation possible.

The psychoanalytic interpretation can be seen as the creation or elaboration of prospective symbols in Ricoeur's (1974) sense and is thus an art which deals with the emergence of new form in the structures implicit in the new symbolic function. But interpretation must start from pre-existing belief and a particular view of 'reality' derived from idiographic and nomothetic sources (in Windelband's (1894) terms). Successful psychoanalytic interpretation frees the individual from outmoded nomothetic constraints imposed by his infantile neurosis, the interpretation being derived from an immediate idiographic approach made possible by a type of phenomenological reduction (Husserlian epoché).

The unreliability of self-evidence can be offset by correctly placing it in the hermeneutic circle of the moment, so that there is an emphasis on the background from which the interpretation emerges as part taking meaning from the whole and in turn enriching it.

The implicit language of the transference and the explicit language of the analyst are founded in the primary and secondary processes and in this regard psychoanalytic interpretation takes on some of the attributes of translation. But beyond this the analyst has forced on him a dialogue with his own linguistic resources and its restrictions, biases and presuppositions. Ricoeur's (1973) work on the foundations of creativity in language throws light on the interplay between ordinary and specialized languages. His defence of polysemy and of a positive view towards ambiguity has a parallel in Winnicott's (1971) ideas on potential space and the role of creative play.

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