The Metapsychology of Christopher Bollas: An Introduction, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Metapsychology of Christopher Bollas

An Introduction, 1st Edition

By Sarah Nettleton


114 pages

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The Metapsychology of Christopher Bollas: An Introduction explores Bollas’s extraordinarily wide contribution to contemporary psychoanalysis. The book aims to introduce and explain the fundamentals of Bollas’s theory of the mind in a systematic way, addressing many of the questions that commonly arise when people approach his work.

Through chapters on topics such as the receptive subject, the creative unconscious and the implications of Bollas’s metapsychology for the technique of free association, the book enables the reader to acquire an understanding of his unique psychoanalytic language, to grasp the conceptual building blocks of his thinking and how these interrelate, and to appreciate the theoretical and clinical coherence of his thinking.

The Metapsychology of Christopher Bollas: An Introduction will be of use to psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and counsellors, as well as psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers wishing to explore the applications of psychoanalytic thinking to their practice. It will be of great value to trainees in these disciplines, as well as to postgraduate students and academics interested in contemporary psychoanalysis.


Sarah Nettleton’s excellent guide to the work of Christopher Bollas is written with accuracy, detail and brilliance. Her clear explanation of his central theories – including the receptive unconscious, psychic genera, idiom, character, and the unthought known - allows us to go deep into Bollas’s metapsychology. She shows us the depth and originality of his thinking, enabling even those who are approaching this for the first time to acquire a thorough synthesis of his ideas. It is a pleasure to recommend this book as a 'must read'!

- Sergio Eduardo Nick, Vice President Elect, International Psychoanalytical Association

Sarah Nettleton takes us on a deep and fascinating tour through the metapsychology of Christopher Bollas, presenting his distinctive model of the structure and functioning of the mind as he has developed it over the course of many years. She emphasises his theoretical pluralism and his focus on unconscious expression, allowing us to understand his concept of "transformative self experiencing". Her book demonstrates how Bollas’s work awakens the reader’s own creativity, achieving a broader view of the relationship between the patient and analyst.

- Silvia Flechner, Past President, Uruguayan Psychoanalytical Association

This wonderful book focuses on the theoretical thinking of an internationally admired and deeply inspiring master of contemporary psychoanalysis. Sarah Nettleton illuminates the richness, variety and conceptual coherence of Bollas’s many innovative ideas, providing us with both a clarifying exploration and an integrative reflection on his work.

- Stefano Bolognini, President, International Psychoanalytical Association

Sarah Nettleton’s readers will encounter a double pleasure: both the enjoyment of this book and the encouragement to engage with the original works of Christopher Bollas. Those who already appreciate the extreme creativity of his writings will be delighted to discover in her penetrating study a fresh inspiration to re-read them. I highly recommend this book.

- Haydée Faimberg, author of The Telescoping of Generations

"Bollas throughout his work demonstrates a distinctive model of the mind and makes a powerful argument for taking a pluralistic approach in our clinical practice stating: ‘Seeing patient through a single lens will obscure the complexity of the mind and its communications"

-Ann Hughes, BAPPS Supervision Review

Table of Contents

Foreword by Vincenzo Bonaminio Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction 1 Psychic dualities 2 The receptive unconscious & psychic genera 3 Idiom 4 The unthought known 5 Self-relationships 6 Character and interrelating 7 Evocative objects 8 Unconscious complexity 9 Free association 10 The Freudian Pair 11 Worlds apart 12 An integrated theory Appendix Index

About the Author

Sarah Nettleton is a psychoanalyst in London. Originally a piano accompanist, she has written on music and the internal world and on the psychodynamics of musical giftedness. For the past ten years she has taught seminars on the work of Christopher Bollas extensively in the UK, and in Norway, Israel, France, America and Turkey.

Subject Categories

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