'Because psychoanalysis is a science of subjectivity, it is no surprise that symbolism has been of central interest from its inception and early development. There are few phenomena more obviously subjective than symbols. They conjure a particular fascination because of their enigmatic quality. For this reason, they manage to communicate something in an obscure manner. Thus, they partly hide. This duality and ambiguity approaches the fl eeting and evanescent quality of subjectivity itself: at its most subjective.'Thinking in this descriptive way is not the most immediately helpful approach to understanding symbols as phenomena because it omits immediate consideration of how symbols are formed and how they are used by the individual and the groups that seem to form around them. Initially, the promise of symbols to the pioneers of psychoanalysis was based on their offering an access to the unconscious. Like dreams - and manifest in dreams - they promised to be part of the royal road to the unconscious.
Psychoanalytic Ideas is a series which bring together the best of Public Lectures and other writings given by analysts of the British Psycho-Analytical Society on important psychoanalytical subjects. The focus of this series is to communicate some of the intellectual excitement about the past, present, and future of psychoanalytic ideas. The series aims to help make these ideas accessible to an even larger group of students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide.