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Mizen, C. (2015). Neuroscience, mind and meaning: an attempt at synthesis in a Relational Affective Hypothesis. Psychoanal. Psychother., 29(4):363-381.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 29(4):363-381

Neuroscience, mind and meaning: an attempt at synthesis in a Relational Affective Hypothesis

C.S. Mizen

This paper sets out a falsifiable Relational Affective Hypothesis, describing a neurological and relational pathway, through which affect and sensations arising from the interior of the body are translated, in a relational context, into language and a capacity for symbolisation. It describes the role of psychodynamic defences in narcissistic disorder, which can result in collapse in the function of this pathway. The hypothesis arose from clinical psychodynamic work with patients with severe and complex narcissistic disorders. They are characterised as severe, because they are at high risk of completed suicide and so are commonly treated in locked units, and complex because of their anorexic and bulimic eating patterns, tendency towards somatisation and the co-occurrence of autistic difficulties. A more or less profound failure of symbolisation is a feature common to these presentations. This interdisciplinary thinking offers a perspective on brain and psychological development, taking into account the complex interplay between genetic, environmental, relational and dynamic influences. It can be tested empirically and has implications for psychoanalytic thinking, psychiatry and neuroscience.

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