Invasive Objects: Minds Under Siege, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Invasive Objects

Minds Under Siege, 1st Edition

By Paul Williams


266 pages | 13 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415995474
pub: 2010-01-29
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The "Director" controls Ms. B’s life. He flatters her, beguiles her, derides her. His instructions pervade each aspect of her life, including her analytic sessions, during which he suggests promiscuous and dangerous things for Ms. B to say and do, when he suspects that her isolated state is being changed by the therapy. The "Director" is a diabolical foreign body installed in the mind who purports to protect but who keeps Ms. B feeling profoundly ill and alone.

The story of Ms. B’s analysis is one of many vivid illustrations presented in this collection of papers by Paul Williams, who shares his lifetime of experience working with severely disturbed patients. As the title suggests, the unifying thread of these papers is the investigation of serious mental disturbance, often characterized by the presence of intrusive and invasive thoughts and fantasies that originate in a traumatic past but which can colonize and destroy the rational mind. The diverse papers are grouped into two related sections. Part one is comprised of papers with a clinical orientation, including a summary of the analysis of Ms. B as well as a speculative paper on the psychosis and recovery of John Nash. In part two, applied psychoanalytic thinking is integrated with Williams’ other professional passion, anthropology, in a paper that exemplifies generative thought through art, poetry, and tribal masks. Other papers in this section include a short essay that takes Freud-bashers to task, a reappraisal of the Rat Man, and a lively discussion of André Green’s "central phobic position" in borderline thinking.

Whether engaging in the coconstructed therapeutic relationship or the implications for "madness in society" at large, Williams’ diverse influences – psychoanalytic and otherwise – repeatedly come to the fore in an intellectually stimulating and clinically enriching way. It goes without saying that work with patients whose thinking is psychotic is a challenge, as these papers clearly demonstrate, but Williams reminds us that it is a challenge that psychoanalysis can not only engage but also treat with enduring and impressive therapeutic results.


"Paul Williams, in this beautifully written set of essays, manages to achieve something extraordinary: He succeeds in conveying the essential core of the psychoanalytic treatment of severe emotional disturbances. He shows the reader how he goes about the difficult task of locating psychologically the embers of the almost extinguished humanity of the patient, and of finding a way to enter into conversation with the patient on subjects that include the desolation resulting from the patient's severed human connection with himself and others. No one writing today brings to life as well as Williams the process of forging a genuine human connection with psychotic patients (and the psychotic aspect of healthier patients), and in doing so, helping to restore the patient's connection with his own humanity - a connection that is the foundation of sanity." - Thomas H. Ogden, M.D., author, Rediscovering Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2008)

"In this remarkable book, Paul Williams assembles a wide-ranging array of essays that derive from his experience as a psychoanalyst, anthropologist, and writer. He has long experience in helping psychiatrists to understand the severely psychotic patient, and as such his clinical skill simply leaps off the page. The breadth and depth of Williams' writing will ensure a wide readership of this unusual and important work." - Murray Jackson, M.D., Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist/Psychoanalyst, Maudsley Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry, London

"Drawing on his background as an anthropologist and his training as a psychoanalyst, Paul Williams describes how the search for meaning in human experience is the central quest of his work with his patients. The suffering individual, especially those suffering crippling psychotic anxieties, are at the core of his preoccupations, and his endeavor is to reach and treat them. This requires a continuous search for self-knowledge and a capacity to engage deeply in human relationships. In the compelling accounts of his clinical examples, one can see Williams at work, facilitating the transformation of his patients' disturbances into ordinary humanity. The book also develops his thoughts on potential space and the use of the analyst as a third in the process of enabling symbolization of the object. This is a profound and deeply moving book that I highly recommend." - Rosine Perelberg, Ph.D., author, Time, Space, and Phantasy (Routledge, 2009)

"Paul Williams' new book is an inspirational tour de force into the subtleties and complexities of human nature. The links and connections that Williams makes between the symbolic and the nonsymbolic, the psychotic and the ordinary, and the individual and the collective are his main contributions. Clinicians and social researchers alike, who are seriously interested in grasping and comprehending the humanity of people and the elusiveness of psychopathology, will find the book a must to investigate and a pleasure to read." - Leon Kleimberg, B.A., Training Analyst, British Psychoanalytical Society

"Not since Herbert Rosenfeld's pioneering application of psychoanalytic understanding to regressed psychotic states 50 years ago has such a comprehensive and convincing effort as Invasive Objects been made, applying present-day object relations theory to the apparently chaotic, confusing, and devastating regressive transferences of schizophrenic patients. Williams illustrates in great detail his psychoanalytic work with borderline and psychotic patients, and the open, candid communication of the painful, unavoidably complex countertransference developments that this work entails provides additional depth to the clinical chapters. The second part of the book further enriches the clinical contributions with a broad theoretical frame, and a call for action to improve the treatment within institutional settings of the most severly ill psychiatric patients. This book is warmly recommended to all professionals dedicated to the psychotherapeutic care of severe personality disorders and the psychotic spectrum of psychiatric illness." - Otto F. Kernberg, M.D., University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell

"A profound humanity comes through in Williams’s work and is characteristic of his relationship with his patients." - The Journal of Analytical Psychology

"…each chapter can be enjoyed in its own right…There were a number of chapters that I found myself particularly enthralled by… I anticipate that readers will find much in this book that will leave them enriched and that it will have made them reflect on their own ideas and practice and be useful in their daily work." - Brian Martindale, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Table of Contents

Gabbard, Foreword. Part I: Clinical Papers. Incorporation of an Invasive Object. Some Difficulties in the Analysis of a Withdrawn Patient. Psychotic Developments in a Sexually Abused Borderline Patient. Making Time, Killing Time. The Psychoanalytic Therapy of "Cluster A" Personality Disorders: Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal. The Beautiful Mind of John Nash: Notes Toward a Psychoanalytic Reading. Part II: Applied Papers.Madness in Society. The Worm that Flies in the Night. "The Central Phobic Position": Notes on Andre Green's "New Formulation of the Free Association Method" and the Analysis of Borderline States. Freud-baiting. Notes on "Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis" (Freud, 1909). Unimaginable Storms: Introduction and Conclusion.

About the Author

Paul Williams, Ph.D., is a training and supervising analyst with the British Psychoanalytical Society and a consultant psychotherapist in the British National Health Service, as well as a member of the Royal Anthropological Institute. From 2001-2007 he was joint Editor-in-Chief, with Glen Gabbard, of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. He has written widely on the subjects of personality disorders and psychosis, and co-authored, with Murray Jackson, Unimaginable Storms: A Search for Meaning in Psychosis (Karnac, 1994).

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

Founding Editor:

Stephen Mitchell

Editor Emeritus:

Lewis Aron

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen A. Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, feminism, queer theory, sociocultural studies and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.

 We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Adrienne Harris, Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. Committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts, he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and promoted new voices across the generations. Mitchell was later joined by the late Lewis Aron, also a visionary and influential writer, teacher and leading thinker in relational psychoanalysis.

 Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, those that extend and develop that tradition, and works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast them with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts, along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision. Our aim is to enable a deepening of relational thinking while reaching across disciplinary and social boundaries in order to foster an inclusive and international literature.   

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health