Psychoanalysis and the analytic field

Authored by: Antonino Ferro , Giuseppe Civitarese

The Routledge Handbook of Psychoanalysis in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Print publication date:  April  2016
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415626927
eBook ISBN: 9781315650821
Adobe ISBN: 9781317308201


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The roots of analytic field theory – or, shall we say, Bionian analytic field theory (BFT) – ultimately lie in gestalt theory, the work of Kurt Lewin and the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty. The underlying idea is that certain phenomena can be studied only in their dynamic totality, which is seen as more than the sum of its components. In addition, it is postulated that investigation of the human mind calls for a psychology of the subject in relation to the object, a psychology inspired by the French philosopher’s famous adage “I am a field, an experience” (Merleau-Ponty, 1945, p. 473) – that is, a system of relations. During the 1960s, two important authors reached the same conclusion: Winnicott noted that a child had no existence (unless seen as a part of the mother–child dyad/system); while Bion, profoundly influenced by his first analyst, Rickman, held that the essential point was to consider the analyst–patient couple as if it were a group. From a different perspective, Lacan too stressed the radically intersubjective nature of the ego. The initial attainment of subjecthood arose from the subject’s primordial alienation on seeing itself reflected by the object.

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