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(1990). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Institute of New England, East. Psychoanal Q., 59:523-524.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:523-524

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Institute of New England, East

April 4, 1988. ON PSYCHIC DEPRIVATION. Dr. Joyce McDougall.

Dr. McDougall discussed a chapter from her book, Theatres of the Body. The central question in the chapter, "On Psychic Deprivation," is: What is happening when psychosomatic symptoms occur that is different from what happens when neurotic or characterological symptoms occur? She wondered whether the psyche can be deprived of psychic representations. In her previous book, Theatres of the Mind, she had suggested that in psychosomatic states it seems as though there is ejection of all the feeling and ideational components of affect, so that only the physiological component is left in the psyche. But since then, her thinking about it has developed further. From her studies of babies and of the regressed child aspects of her adult patients, and their way of communicating primitively by their use of fight/flight patterns and somatic expressions, she now feels that psychosomatic reactions are not due to deprivation of total representations of the affect in the psyche but that the deprivation is of word-presentations, leaving only thing-presentations for the psyche to decode. She also feels that there are few psychoanalytic concepts to deal with these matters. She has observed that many, although not all, polysomatizers dream rarely, and she thinks that their psychosomatic explosions are sometimes dreams that have never been dreamed.

She then presented the clinical vignette of Christopher from the chapter to illustrate this point. A crucial moment in the analysis occurred as Dr. McDougall responded to the patient's associations to a nightmare about roasting and beginning to eat a newborn baby. She said to the patient: "There are two people speaking … in you at this moment, the adult who treats himself as psychotic and hateful, a child murderer, a killer-mother, and the infant who tries to communicate his distress through this dream. This is a child terrified that others may come and take his place, and he will then feel damaged for life. He must eat up any others that threaten his existence.

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