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McLaughlin, J.T. (1984). On Antithetic and Metathetic Words in the Analytic Situation. Psychoanal Q., 53:38-62.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:38-62

On Antithetic and Metathetic Words in the Analytic Situation

James T. McLaughlin, M.D.


Freud's view of primal words emphasized their origins in the vocal acquisition of language and their similarity to primary process behavior in young children. Our English vernacular is rich in word play of reversals and antitheses, some words being truly ancient, others originating in the subversions of slang and in the child's penchant for mirror imaging and other primary process play. In the regression of analytic work the uttered word can combine with dream imagery and behavioral enactment to convey the antitheses abounding in the oral, anal, and early phallic concerns of the individuating child acquiring language.

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