Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unformulated Experience and Mentalization

In the period of my blogging-inactivity, between late July and late September, I started a journey in Psychotherapy/Psychoanalysis that is still underway. One of the first books I read was ``Affect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of the Self,'' by Peter Fonagy, Gyorgy Gergely, Elliot L Jurist, Mary Target, 2002. [See this post: New Books, and the following few which contain some quotes from the book.] The most important concept in this book is the idea of ``mentalization'', that is, the process that let us symbolize our experiences and be able to think about them and process them. 

One of the most fundamental ideas in the new book I'm reading, ``Partners in Thought: Working with Unformulated Experience, Dissociation, and Enactment,'' by Donnel Stern, is that our experiences are "unformulated" (or unmentalized) in the beginning. Here is how ``mentalization'' and ``unformulated experiences'' are related:

... Unmentalized experience is ``raw'' in the sense that it has not been symbolized. Mentalization is symbolization of one kind or another, and it makes thought, feeling, and the life of mind possible.
... The task of mentalization, broadly defined, is one of the greatest challenges of infancy and, in intrapsychic views, pre-exists the development of repression, which can only come about once experience of a certain degree of structure has been created. .... Experience that is not symbolized cannot be thought, nor can it be repressed, because such experience can never have been conscious in the first place.
Not-me, and all experience that has remained unformulated for unconscious reasons, therefore converts something important in common with unmentalized experience: it has not been formulated and the expelled from consciousness; rather, it has never been symbolized at all. And therefore, as in theories of mentalization, the task of treatment as conceived in this book is to make formulation possible where it was impossible before, and in that way to expand the limits and capacities of the self or mind. ... --- pp.20-21, Partners in Thought

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