Ursula Burkert, 14 December 2020
The Body and Psychoanalysis
‘The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego’, writes Sigmund Freud in 1923 in The Ego and the Id [1]. And Eugenio Gaddini (1998) continues this thought by describing how in the intrauterine situation the foetus constantly perceives itself, the limits of its own body, through contact with the uterine wall, which is part of the maternal body. With birth, this stable boundary is lost, and so at first the child's self-boundary is lost. For Gaddini, this represents one of the strongest impulses for the development of a psychic function that reconstructs the experience of the physical boundary on an autonomous level, independent of the maternal body [2] (see Gaddini, 1998, p. 35). In being psychologically appropriated, the physical body of the mother becomes a part of the child's psychological self. This is perhaps how it all begins. The child separates from the mother's body through psychic functions, but body and psyche remain forever inseparable and interwoven through various mechanisms and connections. In this way the body also plays an important role in psychoanalysis. 

In our 12th issue, nine authors deal with some of these connections. 

When it comes to the body, eroticism and sexuality are often the focus of psychoanalytic thinking. After all, the erotic charge of the body from the beginning of life plays a significant role in psychic development. It is in this sense that Dianne Elise traces the development of the child's erotic body in the relationship with the parents, understanding psychoanalysis as an ‘erotic project’.

Amrita Narayanan deals with female sexuality and uses the example of an Indian woman to describe the inner conflict between her personal development and her group identity, i.e. the psychological confrontation of her individual body with her ‘community body’. 

In her work, Rhona Kaplan deals with the physical experience of reproductive medical treatments and/or pregnancy, and associated feelings. Here it becomes clear that it is only physical experience in the course of psychoanalysis that brings complex intra-psychic conflicts to light.

Of course, some thoughts in this issue are still influenced by the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic, by the irritations and ruptures we are experiencing. In her contribution, for example, Alison Feit reflects on the meaning and possible consequences of the unusual imperative to keep one's distance, and introduces the aspect of death via the association with ‘six feet under’. She also deals with the fear that some aspects of closeness in our life together could be irretrievably lost. 

In psychoanalysis, the significance of the body is felt very directly. In an impressive case vignette, Paola Golinelli illustrates how in a jointly constructed enactment in the treatment room, previously invisible, non-integrated aspects of a patient became visible and present in the analysis, namely lightness and liveliness. It becomes clear that the analysis lacks a significant dimension when a presence on the couch is no longer possible under the conditions of the pandemic. 

However, it can also happen that when physical aspects recede in remote analysis, a psychological development catches the eye more sharply. Thus, in the vignette described by Cláudia Carneiro, the fading out of the visible attributes of the analysand's female body in the online analytical situation makes the analysand's transformation into a man, and thus their unconscious body image, more clearly perceptible to the analyst.

Following up on Gaddini, Uta Karacaoglan describes the function of tattooing as a way of regulating the distance to the object while there are no other possibilities available. The tattoo can mark the body limit of the patient as well as symbolize the contents of his inner conflicts. In the course of the analysis, the patient in this case vignette develops a symbolic space that makes further tattooing unnecessary.

Christoph Dejours focuses his contribution on pychosomatic phenomena and diseases, on the basis of Freud's drive theory and some further developments.

Finally, Fernando Orduz presents us with a work of art consisting of 44 thoughts about the body, looking at it again and again from widely varying viewpoints.
We hope you enjoy reading these contributions!

[1] Freud, S. (1923/1961). ‘The Ego and the Id’. S.E. XIX, p.26. London: Hogarth Press.
[2] Gaddini, E. (1998). ‘Remarks on the Psyche-Soma-Problem’ in Ders: Das Ich ist vor allem ein körperliches. Eds. G. Jappe and B. Strehlow, Tübingen: edition diskord.