Symbiosis and Ambiguity: A Psychoanalytic Study, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Symbiosis and Ambiguity

A Psychoanalytic Study, 1st Edition

By José Bleger

Edited by John Churcher, Leopoldo Bleger


392 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2012-10-26
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Symbiosis and Ambiguity is the first English edition of the classic study of early object relations by influential Argentinian psychoanalyst José Bleger (1922-1972). It is rooted in Kleinian thinking and rich in clinical material.

Bleger's thesis is that starting from primitive undifferentiation, prior to the paranoid-schizoid position described by Klein, autism and symbiosis co-exist as narcissistic relations in a syncretic ‘agglutinated’ nucleus. In symbiosis part of the mind is deposited in an external person or situation; in autism it is deposited in the patient's own mind or body. The nucleus is ambiguous and persists in adults as the psychotic part of the personality.

Symbiosis tends to immobilise the analytic process, so the analyst must mobilise, fragment and discriminate the agglutinated nucleus, whose ambiguity tends to ‘blunt’ persecutory situations. The psychoanalytic setting functions as a silent refuge for the psychotic part of the personality, where it creates a ‘phantom world’. At some point, therefore, the setting itself has to be analysed and the analytic relationship de-symbiotised, as Bleger observes in a celebrated chapter on the setting.

José Bleger’s work demonstrates the need to analyse early narcissistic object relations as they arise clinically, especially in the setting. More widely, he regards undifferentiation and participation as operating throughout life: in groups, institutions, and society as a whole.

Table of Contents

Etchegoyen, Preface. Bleger, Churcher, Editorial Introduction. Prologue. Part I: On Symbiosis. Study of Dependence-Independence in Relation to the Process of Projection-Introjection. Symbiosis in Warrior’s Rest. Modalities of Object Relations. Study of the Psychotic Part of the Personality. Part II: On Ambiguity. Ambiguity in Psychoanalytic Clinical Work. Psychoanalysis of The Psychoanalytic Setting. Part III: Appendix. Ambivalence and Ambiguity: The Background Literature. Commentary on ‘The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words'. Ambiguity and Syncretism in Freud’s ‘The "Uncanny"’.

About the Author/Editors

José Bleger was born in Argentina in 1922. An active member of the Asociación Psicoanalítica Argentina, he was also a highly-regarded Professor of Psychology and a well known intellectual. Author of many books and papers, his reputation grew steadily after his early death in 1972. He is now considered a major figure of Argentinian psychoanalysis.

John Churcher is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Manchester, and a member of the British Psychoanalytical Society. Until 2002 he was a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Manchester.

Leopoldo Bleger, born in Argentina, has lived in Paris since 1976. A Training Analyst of the Association Psychanalytique de France, he is currently General Secretary of the European Federation of Psychoanalysis.

About the Series

The New Library of Psychoanalysis

The New Library of Psychoanalysis is published by Routledge Mental Health in association with the Institute of Psychoanalysis, London.

Its purpose is to facilitate a greater and more widespread appreciation of psychoanalysis and to provide a forum for increasing mutual understanding between psychoanalysts and those in other disciplines. The series also aims to make some of the work of continental and other non-English speaking analysts more readily available to English-speaking readers, and to increase the interchange of ideas between British and American analysts.

The New Library of Psychoanalysis published its first book in 1987 under the editorship of David Tuckett, later followed by Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Susan Budd and Dana Birksted-Breen. A considerable number of Associate Editors and readers have assisted the editors.

Under the guidance of Foreign Rights Editors, a considerable number of the New Library books have been published abroad, particularly in Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, Peru, Spain and Japan.

The aim of the New Library of Psychoanalysis is to maintain the high level of scholarship of the previous series, to provide a forum for increasing understanding between psychoanalysis and other disciplines and to increase the interest of the general book-reading public in psychoanalysis.

The New Library of Psychoanalysis also aims to help the various schools of psychoanalysis to better understand each other. It has published books representing all three schools of thought in British psychoanalysis, including a particularly important work edited by Pearl King and Riccardo Steiner, expounding the intellectual and organisational controversies that developed in the British psychoanalytical Society between Kleinian, Viennese and 'middle group' analysts during the Second World War.

The New Library of Psychoanalysis has also translated and published several books by Continental psychoanalysts, and it plans in the future to continue the policy of publishing books that express as clearly as possible a variety of psychoanalytic points of view.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Jungian