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Freedman, N. Lavender, J. (2002). On Desymbolization: The Concept and Observations on Anorexia and Bulimia. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 25(2):165-199.

(2002). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 25(2):165-199

On Desymbolization: The Concept and Observations on Anorexia and Bulimia

Norbert Freedman, Ph.D. and Joan Lavender, Psy.D

The concept of desymbolization is introduced to reflect a substrate governing a broad set of clinical phenomena. It is a ubiquitous psychic event, which is nonetheless definable as the presence of the absent. It is a motivated act, the wish to eject knowing, to evacuate meaning, to disavow significance. The issues concerning meaning constructions are examined in terms of contemporary psychoanalytic perspectives. Four properties of this process are defined, amenable to empirical evaluation: psychic equivalence, evacuation and foreclosure of meaning, disavowal, and the loss of bodily rhythmicity. These properties are then illustrated through clinical and systematic observation in the eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia. Two distinct profiles can be observed, one characteristic of each clinical condition, suggesting two configurations of desymbolization, which we have termed pervasive and segmental, reflecting a reliance on evacuation and disavowal, respectively.

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