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Fast, I. (1992). The Embodied Mind: Toward a Relational Perspective. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(3):389-409.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(3):389-409

The Embodied Mind: Toward a Relational Perspective

Irene Fast, Ph.D.

Throughout his working life Freud rejected the dualism of mind and body, which suggests that we can study people's thoughts, feelings, and relationships without taking into account the bodily contexts in which people live their lives. In his conception of the bodily origins of mental functioning, however, children are seen to be oblivious to their environments for a significant period in their early lives (the first 18-24 months). This conception is increasingly found to be untenable: current perspectives and observations both within and outside psychoanalytic psychology suggest that infants interact with their environments from birth.

This paper attempts a model for an interactive perspective on the bodily origins of the mind. It proposes that from the beginning of life infant experience occurs in interactions. Because the mental and physical aspects of infant's experience are initially not differentiated, these interactions are absolutely body-bound. That nondifferentiation also results directly in the primitive experience modes Freud described as the primary processes. Development occurs by integration and differentiation. It leads to the transition, at 18-24 months, that Freud ascribed to the child's turn to the external world and to the testing of reality, the beginning of psychic conflict, and the relegation to the unconscious of unacceptable ideas, which in his view accompany it.

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