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Deri, P. (1990). Metapsychology, Symbol Formation, and the Work of Susan Deri. Psychoanal. Rev., 77(4):479-489.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Review, 77(4):479-489

Metapsychology, Symbol Formation, and the Work of Susan Deri

Peter Deri, Ph.D.

Susan Deri developed a reformulation of metapsychological theory based on an expansion of the concept of symbol formation. It is hard to pigeonhole her psychoanalytic orientation because of the unusual group of teachers she studied with. Her major mentor was Lipot Szondi, whose work consisted of trying to incorporate within psychoanalysis the ideas of biology, inheritance, and the nonrepressed unconscious. She was profoundly influenced by Imre Hermann and Michael Balint, the forerunners of what was later to become the object relations school. Much of what I will discuss here is synthesized in her (1984) second book, Symbolizalion and Creativity.

Let me say a few words about the first of the two concepts that I will discuss. The debate about the importance of metapsychology in psychoanalysis becomes progressively greater. It is hard to define the term without jumping into the debate itself. Laplanche and Pontalis (1973) state that metapsychology is

an ensemble of conceptual models which are more or less far-removed from empirical reality. Examples are the fiction of a psychical apparatus divided up into agencies, the theory of instincts, the hypothetical process of repression, and so on. Metapsychology embraces three approaches, known as the dynamic, the topographical, and the economic points of view. (p. 249)

Regarding the second concept, symbol formation, I shall try to distinguish the definition used by philosophers from the one traditionally used by psychoanalysts.

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