Nonlinear Psychoanalysis: Notes from Forty Years of Chaos and Complexity Theory, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Nonlinear Psychoanalysis

Notes from Forty Years of Chaos and Complexity Theory, 1st Edition

By Robert M. Galatzer-Levy


272 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415508995
pub: 2017-06-15
Hardback: 9780415508988
pub: 2017-06-16
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315266473
pub: 2017-06-26
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Nonlinear concepts from chaos theory, complexity studies, and fractal geometry have transformed the way we think about the mind. Nonlinear Psychoanalysis shows how nonlinear dynamics can be integrated with psychoanalytic thinking to shed new light on psychological development, therapeutic processes, and fundamental psychoanalytic concepts.

Starting with a personal history of the author’s engagement with nonlinear dynamics and psychoanalysis, this book describes how his approach applies to diagnosis of psychological conditions, concepts of normal and pathological development, gender, research methods, and finally the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy. This book is full of new ideas about the basic nonlinear processes of human development, nonlinear views of gender and fundamental psychoanalytic process like working through, and the nature of the therapeutic process as conceptualized in terms of the theory of coupled oscillators. Galatzer-Levy questions many standard psychoanalytic formulations and points to a freer practice of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic thinking. His new approach opens the reader’s eyes to ways in which development and treatment can occur through processes not now included in standard psychoanalytic theory. The book not only provides useful theories but also helps readers take note of commonly passed over phenomena that were unseen for lack of a theory to explain them.

Galatzer-Levy brings an unusual combination of training in psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and mathematics to this unique study, which summarizes his forty years of exploration of nonlinearity and psychoanalysis. Nonlinear Psychoanalysis will appeal to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists as well as students of nonlinear dynamics systems.


"Whether as psychoanalysts or simply as human beings struggling to understand the course of our own lives, we easily mistake our underlying world view for reality itself. Galatzer-Levy’s book is a personal and stimulating look at how implicit assumptions about continuity, mechanism, and predictability color as well as limit analytic understanding. A larger and more variable universe emerges from the complex entwining of a mathematician’s curiosity with an analyst’s experience. The result is a surprising, often counterintuitive view of the nonlinear nature of mind, relationship, development, and healing."—Terry Marks-Tarlow, Ph.D., Core Faculty, Insight Center, Los Angeles; author, Psyche’s Veil; Clinical Intuition in Psychotherapy; Awakening Clinical Intuition.

"Robert Galatzer-Levy has written an extraordinary book with a new way of thinking about psychoanalysis. He uses an approach of non-linear systems theory and its dynamics to offer a new model which provides novel ways to understand how psychoanalysis works, how psychic change is possible and how new learning occurs. His critique of the psychoanalytic developmental paradigm from a non-linear point of view provides us with surprising new perspectives. Human development doesn’t primarily occur by epigenetic unfolding of predetermined developmental lines but by periods of relative disorganization. Reading this book with its innovative ideas one becomes more and more familiar with a non-linear worldview which alters one’s thinking about psychoanalysis and opens a wider landscape of analytic material."-Werner Bohleber, Ph.D., psychoanalyst, editor of the journal PSYCHE, author of Destructiveness, Intersubjectivity, and Trauma. The Identity Crisis of Modern Psychoanalysis.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Mathematics, Psychoanalysis and the Human Sciences

Chapter 1 A First Step – Qualitative Change from Quantitative Change:

Catastrophe Theory Psychoanalysis

Chapter 2 Characterizing Our Ignorance

Chapter 3 Chaotic Possibilities: Toward a New Model of Development

Chapter 4 An Example of Nonlinear Developmental Thinking

Chapter 5 Good Vibrations: Analytic Process as Coupled Oscillations

Chapter 6 Inexact Interpretations and Coupled Oscillators

Chapter 7 Prediction and Self Similarity

Chapter 8 Emergence

Chapter 9 On Working Through: A Model from Artificial Intelligence

Chapter 10 The Nonlinear Clinician at Work on the Edge of Chaos

Chapter 11 Afterwards and Forwards

About the Author

Robert M. Galatzer-Levy is a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago and a faculty member of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. He practices child, adolescent, and adult psychoanalysis and psychiatry in Chicago.

About the Series

Psychoanalysis in a New Key Book Series

When music is played in a new key, the melody does not change, but the notes that make up the composition do: change in the context of continuity, continuity that perseveres through change. Psychoanalysis in a New Key publishes books that share the aims psychoanalysts have always had, but that approach them differently. The books in the series are not expected to advance any particular theoretical agenda, although to this date most have been written by analysts from the Interpersonal and Relational orientations.

The most important contribution of a psychoanalytic book is the communication of something that nudges the reader’s grasp of clinical theory and practice in an unexpected direction. Psychoanalysis in a New Key creates a deliberate focus on innovative and unsettling clinical thinking. Because that kind of thinking is encouraged by exploration of the sometimes surprising contributions to psychoanalysis of ideas and findings from other fields, Psychoanalysis in a New Key particularly encourages interdisciplinary studies. Books in the series have married psychoanalysis with dissociation, trauma theory, sociology, and criminology. The series is open to the consideration of studies examining the relationship between psychoanalysis and any other field – for instance, biology, literary and art criticism, philosophy, systems theory, anthropology, and political theory.

But innovation also takes place within the boundaries of psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalysis in a New Key therefore also presents work that reformulates thought and practice without leaving the precincts of the field. Books in the series focus, for example, on the significance of personal values in psychoanalytic practice, on the complex interrelationship between the analyst’s clinical work and personal life, on the consequences for the clinical situation when patient and analyst are from different cultures, and on the need for psychoanalysts to accept the degree to which they knowingly satisfy their own wishes during treatment hours, often to the patient’s detriment.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis