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Våpenstad, E.V. (2017). Attack and Defence: From “Attacks on Linking” to “Positive Capability” in a Child Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 34(3):290-299.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 34(3):290-299

Attack and Defence: From “Attacks on Linking” to “Positive Capability” in a Child Psychoanalysis

Eystein Victor Våpenstad, Ph.D.

The main purpose of this article is to introduce the concept of “positive capability.” It is inspired by Wilfred R. Bion's theory of “negative capability,” and the present analysis tries to illustrate and describe “positive capability” through another concept, namely “attacks on linking,” as conceived by Bion. Severely disturbed patients very often launch extremely powerful and devastating attacks on every form of linking between themselves and their analyst and between themselves and the creation of meaning. The analyst's primary approach when working with patients like this should be marked by his negative capability, that is, his capacity to tolerate, contain, and transform the patient's projections. But sometimes the analyst must introduce a more active, spontaneous and vital mode of being. To counter the patient's attacks, the analyst must let the patient experience that something can matter imperatively for the analyst, and he must create a home for the patient's mind by letting the patient discover more openly the functions of the analyst's mind. The transformation of the analyst's reverie into something useful for the fragmented, apathetic and despairing patient must frequently take the form of a vitalizing activity, where the analyst tries to reclaim the patient back to human relatedness. This kind of work is extensively illustrated through the analytic treatment of a child who was cumulatively traumatized as an infant, and who put her analyst through heavy attacks on linking.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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