The Work of Psychic Figurability: Mental States Without Representation, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

The Work of Psychic Figurability

Mental States Without Representation, 1st Edition

By Sára Botella, César Botella


240 pages

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pub: 2004-10-28
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The majority of psychoanalysts today agree that the analytic setting faces them daily with certain aspects of their work for which the answers provided by an analytic theory centred exclusively on the notion of representation prove insufficient.

On the basis of their experience of analytic practice and illustrated by fascinating clinical material, César and Sára Botella set out to address what they call the work of figurability as a way of outlining the passage from the unrepresentable to the representational. They develop a conception of psychic functioning, which is essentially grounded in the inseparability of the negative, trauma, and the emergence of intelligibility, and describe the analyst's work of figurability arising from the formal regression of his thinking during the session, which proves to be the best and perhaps the only means of access to this state beyond the mnemic trace which is memory without recollection.

The Work of Psychic Figurability argues that taking this work into consideration at the heart of the theory of practice is indispensable. Without this, the analytic process is too often in danger of slipping into interminable analyses, into negative therapeutic reactions, or indeed, into disappointing successive analyses.


"…the Botellas are … astute clinicians and their book is illustrated with clinical vignettes and case examples from adult and child analyses. While they may reason at a metapsychological level of complex theoretical and philosophical abstraction, they repeatedly return to the clinical moment to illustrate their main thesis: that a theory of psychoanalysis and mental functioning that assumes the capacity for representation and an intact, symbolizing ego is insufficient to account for the clinical phenomena and therapeutic exigencies encountered in an ordinary psychoanalytic practice! What they insist is needed instead is a theory capable of addressing and accounting for what Michael Parsons, in his very helpful introduction to the English language edition, describes as "that aspect of experience which will not 'go into words' because it will not, so to speak, 'go into thought' in the first place." (p. xvii).

"Put another way, the Botellas are attempting to create language and theory to describe the action of converting proto-elements of thought and feeling into something that is mentalizable and potentially articulatable and representable." - Howard B Levine, Psychoanalytic Quarterly

Table of Contents

Parsons, Introduction. Part I: The Work of Figurability and the Negative. The Limits of Thought: Paris-London Back and Forth. The Negative Duality of the Psyche. Non-representation. The Geometer and the Psychoanalyst. Figurability and the Work of Figurability. Part II: The Dynamic of the Double. On the Auto-erotic Deficiency of the Paranoiac. Working as a Double. 'Only Inside - Also Outside'. Community in the Regression of Thought. Part III: The Hallucinatory. The Negative of the Trauma. The Hallucinatory. Mysticism, Knowledge and Trauma. Part IV: Outline for a Metapsychology of Perception. A Psychoanalytic Approach to Perception. 'The Lost Object of Hallucinatory Satisfaction'. Bibliography.

About the Authors

César Botella and Sára Botella are child and adult psychoanalysts in private practice. They are training analysts at the Société Psychanalytique de Paris, and in 1983 received the International Price Maurice Bouvet for their article 'On the auto-erotic deficiency of the paranoïa'.

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 / Psychoanalysis