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Heimowitz, D. (2004). The Vitality of Objects: Exploring the Work of Christopher Bollas. Edited by Joseph Scalia. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002, 228 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(6):861-864.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(6):861-864


The Vitality of Objects: Exploring the Work of Christopher Bollas. Edited by Joseph Scalia. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002, 228 pp.

Review by:
Daniel Heimowitz

Christopher Bollas is a writer who arouses our attention. Born in California, he received his psychoanalytic training at the British Psychoanalytic Society and remained to live there. He allied himself with the Independent Group and has written several books that have furthered our understanding of object relations and other fundamental psychoanalytic concepts. He has become one of our leading contemporary psychoanalytic writers.

Bollas explores the paradox of knowing and not knowing illustrated by his concept, “the unthought known.” He invites us to think of all of life as objects which have the potential to surprise and startle us and at some times to transform us. He enlivens a number of his concepts with a new vocabulary with such words as idiom, psychic genera, and aleatory object. His writings are available for us to use in our own personal way. I am reminded of the Argentine writer Jean Luis Borges:

Every man is on earth to symbolize something he is ignorant of. No man knows who he is.

Bollas believes that we are born with a unique idiom (self) which can only be partially known and develops through its use of objects and by objects using the self. The object world is the entire world of life as we daily construct the dream work of our being.

This book consists of a number of essays by psychoanalysts and those from other disciplines discussing the work of Christopher Bollas. Joseph Scalia provides a fine introduction summarizing the articles; an interview with Bollas conducted by Anthony Molino concludes the text.

In one essay, Joel Beck discusses the importance of thinking in Bollas's work. As idiom evolves and articulates itself, psychic genera, that is, structures that provide new perspectives and thoughts about the unthought known, are formed.

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