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The role of imitation in the constitution of psychic reality: The contemporary psychoanalytic perspective of Thomas Ogden

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This paper intends to examine the meanings of imitation in the development of psychic reality, taking into account processes that relate to a primitive and sensory-dominated area of experience, described by Thomas Ogden as the autistic–contiguous position. Influenced by the works of Tustin, Bick, Meltzer, and Gaddini, Ogden understands imitation as a form of object relatedness associated to this mode of psychic experience. He emphasizes its role as a primitive and presymbolic mechanism that allows the subject to hold onto some aspects of the other in the absence of a consistent inner space of fantasies where they could be stored. Ogden also examines imitation from the point of view of psychopathology, stressing its role as a defense mechanism against experiences of disruption of the cohesion of the self, but by no means restricted to patients suffering from severe psychological conditions. The paper first examines Ogden's theoretical influences and how imitation may act as a condition for the emergence of an integrated self. Second, it scrutinizes imitation as a predominantly sensorial set of experiences engaged in the production of subjective changes and meanings, and draws distinctions between Ogden's and the other authors’ understanding of imitation.
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Keywords: Thomas Ogden; autistic-contiguous positon; identification; imitation; intersubjectivity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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