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Charles, M. (2001). Nonphysical Touch: Modes of Containment and Communication Within the Analytic Process. Psychoanal Q., 70(2):387-416.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(2):387-416

Nonphysical Touch: Modes of Containment and Communication Within the Analytic Process

Marilyn Charles, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis has struggled with issues of touching and being touched, and of holding and being held, since Freud's early essays toward “taking hold” of elusive thoughts through various means. More recently, observations of early dyadic interchanges between caretaker and child have illuminated how facets of the analytic process, such as the quality of gaze, tone, or empathic resonance, affect feelings of “being held” within the object world. These studies interplay with other analytic depictions and the work of affect theorists to show how meanings become represented and manifested over time through verbal versus nonverbal means. The author uses this literature to explore how our capacity to receive and transmit information cross-modally creates an interpenetration of meanings between self and other in the absence of actual physical contact. Clinical illustrations explore some of the meanings and uses of nonphysical modes of touch within the analytic environment.

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