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Mendell, D. (1987). Symbolization and Creativity: By Susan K. Deri. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1984, 364 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:406-408.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:406-408

Symbolization and Creativity: By Susan K. Deri. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1984, 364 pp.

Review by:
Dale Mendell

In this difficult, ambitious book, Susan Deri attempts to revise Freudian metapsychology. Her language and concepts are taken from philosophy, Gestalt psychology, and Kurt Lewin's field theory, as well as from psychoanalysis. At first reading, the book appears dense and impregnable, but subsequent examination reveals an underlying cohesiveness and many nuggets of creative perception.

Deri places the "organismic urge" toward creativity, defined as meaningful "form creation of any kind" (p. 3), at the heart of her system. She considers psychoanalysis to be a subspecies, generic theory of structural development which follows the laws of Gestalt psychology (e.g., closure, figure-ground, and symmetry). Within it, percepts are inherently organized into more or less veridical patterns. Thus Deri places psychoanalysis within an overall biopsychological framework.

Deri agrees with the philosophers, Ernst Cassirer and Suzanne K. Langer, that man shapes his world by creating symbols out of percepts. She defines symbols as formed gestalts which carry meaning. They create bridges between the individual and the outer world and between different regions of the self. They transform chaos into order by selectively articulating resemblances between raw percepts, thereby allowing us to move beyond concrete reliance upon the present and the specific. Deri hypothesizes that, ontogenetically, symbols originate in the infant's wish to bridge the gap to the absent mother. These protosymbols are the wishful hallucination of the breast and the first transitional object. Symbols act as mediators and energy binders, delaying the push toward immediate drive discharge and thereby safeguarding organismic wholeness. According to Deri, the true function of symbolization is communication. She takes issue, therefore, with the narrow approaches to symbolism in traditional psychoanalysis that limit it to a disguise for or indirect representation of a repressed image or fantasy.

Deri finds Freud's topographic theory, with its emphasis on the transformation of primary into secondary process, most congruent with her interest in form creation and structure building.

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