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Carvalho, R. (1991). Mechanism, Metaphor. J. Anal. Psychol., 36(3):331-341.

(1991). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 36(3):331-341

Mechanism, Metaphor

R. Carvalho, M.B.B.S., M.R.C., Psych.


As I came to write this paper, I increasingly realised the kinship of what I was saying to two other sets of ideas. The first set is Jung's ideas about theory: that theories are the owner's fantasy about an unknowable unknown and therefore revealing only of the owner's unknowable and unknown called ‘psyche’ or ‘mind’. This ‘psyche’ is an abstraction which we infer from our experience and our functioning. Jung's fear about theory is that it puts us in danger of reducing the phenomena of that experience to spurious simples, thereby obstructing what he called ‘individuation’ by erroneously identifying successively unfolding experience with theoretical artefacts.

This relates to the second idea with obvious kinship to what I shall say: this is Winnicott's notion of ‘creating the object(Winnicott 5). If we have prejudices about the object that the patient is, or is trying to find, one may prevent its creation or, as I shall suggest later, its ‘invention’. It is these prejudices which can lead us to make the theoretically ‘correct’ interpretation but obstruct our patients' unique development, requiring them instead to ‘identify’ themselves with our own construction.

My way into these rediscoveries of the ideas of Jung and Winnicott has, however, been via a route which is, I think, different. This involved starting with the function of fantasy which is implied in its etymology. Despite the centrality of fantasy to psychodynamic theory and work, I have never heard the etymology of the word discussed. It derives from the Greek word, phantasia which, according to Partridge, means simply to render (something) visible (to the mind). It is related to the word ‘epiphany’ meaning to show or manifest (Partridge 4).

Central to my point is that, while accepting that (in line with traditional psychoanalytic thinking) fantasy is sometimes merely defensive or wish-fulfilling in purpose, fantasy also has another less trivial purpose, at least on occasion.

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