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The rooting of the mind in the body: New links between attachment theory and psychoanalytic thought

Fonagy, P; Target, M; (2007) The rooting of the mind in the body: New links between attachment theory and psychoanalytic thought. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association , 55 (2) 411 - 456. 10.1177/00030651070550020501. Green open access

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Abstract

The relationship between psychoanalysis and attachment theory is complex indeed. A brief review of the psychoanalytic literature as it concerns attachment theory and research, and of the attachment literature as it pertains to psychoanalytic ideas, demonstrates an increasing interest in attachment theory within psychoanalysis. Some of the difficulties that attachment theory faces in relation to psychoanalytic ideas are traced to its links to the now dated cognitive science of the 1960s and 1970s. Today, however, a second-generation cognitive neuroscience seeks neurobiologically plausible accounts in which links with brain and body are seen as shaping mind and consciousness, which increasingly are seen as "embodied," as emerging from or serving the needs of a physical being located in a specific time, place, and social context. This idea has also been at the core of much psychoanalytic thinking, which has historically affirmed the rootedness of symbolic thought in sensory, emotional, and enacted experience with objects. Now neurobiological advances supporting the concept of embodied cognition offer an opportunity to forge powerful links between the hitherto separate domains of attachment theory and psychoanalysis. Speculations about the nature of language are presented that emphasize the origin of internal working models (and of representations in general) in early sensorimotor and emotional experiences with a caregiver. It is argued that language and symbolic thought may be phylogenetically and ontogenetically embodied, built on a foundation of gestures and actions, and are thus profoundly influenced by the experience of early physical interaction with the primary object. Finally, the clinical and research implications of these ideas are discussed.

Type: Article
Title: The rooting of the mind in the body: New links between attachment theory and psychoanalytic thought
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/00030651070550020501
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/00030651070550020501
Language: English
Keywords: Therapeutic action, infant attachment, cognitive science, adult attachment, early-childhood, sexuality, psychopathology, representations, consciousness, discontinuity
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/11874
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