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“The Skin is the Cradle of the Soul”: Didier Anzieu on the Skin-Ego, Boundaries, and Boundlessness
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Clinical psychology.
2019 (English)In: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, ISSN 0003-0651, E-ISSN 1941-2460, Vol. 67, no 1, p. 37-58Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Didier Anzieu’s notion of the skin-ego builds on a long psychoanalytic tradition that began with Freud’s idea that the ego is first and foremost a body ego, a projection in the psyche of the surface of the body, or, in other words, the idea that psychic phenomena are always embodied. An interface, a container for the ego, but also its origin: thus did Anzieu conceptualize the skin’s psychic function. The baby’s fantasy of having a common skin with the mother is the concrete starting point for a development that, through the prohibition on touching, leads to the experience of being a separate and individual person. Psychoanalytic work with severe mental disorders makes it necessary to investigate deficiencies in the skin-ego’s containing function before the patient’s psychic contents can be explored. In the psychoanalytic situation, the analyst’s words replace tactile contact and thereby contribute to healing injuries to the skin-ego. The clinical implications of Anzieu’s theoretical model are illustrated by examples from psychoanalyses of children and adults. The close connection between touch, psychic envelopes, and thinking opens a wider perspective on the necessity of setting limits to violence, against both nature and human beings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 67, no 1, p. 37-58
Keywords [en]
skin-ego, psychic envelopes, borderline conditions, narcissistic personalities, taboo on touching, thinking ego, limit-setting
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167159DOI: 10.1177/0003065119829701ISI: 000461634500004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-167159DiVA, id: diva2:1297627
Available from: 2019-03-20 Created: 2019-03-20 Last updated: 2019-04-29Bibliographically approved

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