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could be very hard to work with such patients that are radically alienated from
their basic bodily feelings. These patients are not autistic, or psychotic.
You can understand their discourse, but (almost always) you cannot avoid
feeling that you are always missing something important in their discourse. You
can offer them various kinds of interpretations, but (again) you will always
have feeling that you cannot really reach them.
book is about walking heads, a term that refers to the manner in which
some people keep on going through life. They (metaphorically speaking) consist
primarily of a head and, to a great extend, they have done away with their body.
For them the body is first and foremost a machine to be led so that it can
properly fulfill its function as head carrier. Sometimes they indicate what
seems to be a kind of separation at the level of their neck, as if a large
collar were making it impossible for them to see what is actually taking place
below. Thus, they are especially entrenched inside their head, without any
instinctive contact with the rest of their body. On the outside such people
look the same as everyone else, but often they feel alien even though
they try to fit in with other people as much as possible.
is plausible to suppose that such people have spent their childhood in a
situation that they found hard to endure and from which there was no escape.
Their only possible solution was alienation in their ability to fantasize. It
is precisely the fantasy of being an exception that, under such conditions,
exerts a great attraction. In this fantasy the child becomes the adult it
thinks it will be in the future. In effect, he will go inside his own head in
order to enter a fantasy world that seems to be more tolerable than the real
world in which he is living at the moment in time. The price he pays for the huge
leap forward consists of sacrificing his existence as a child in favor of a
pseudo-adulthood. In this kind of pseudo-adulthood he takes on the appearance
of a proficient grown up who needs no one and who has no painful
feelings and yearnings because he is exceptionally well loved and it is
self-evident that his every yearning is fulfilled. Thus, this pseudo-grown
up is living in a situation in which the question of helplessness,
dependency, and feeling ridiculous no longer exists. This also means that the
body as a source of uncontrollable and shameful desire no longer plays any
important role. Because there is no (real bodily) desire everything seems under
control and absolute autonomy appears to have been achieved. However, this
(virtual) autonomy stands or falls on the ability to maintain a situation in
which the long-ago childhood world of the grown up remains inaccessible.
The door to the nursery must remain closed at all costs.
about walking heads Antonie Ladan is actually speaking about one
peculiar type of narcissistic pathological organization. His understanding of
the false self rests on his ideas about human memory. After LeDoux and
Schacter, memory can broadly be subdivided into explicit and implicit memory.
Explicit memory is concerned with the storage of events and facts that makes
our autobiography possible. Implicit memory is more primitive, it works outside
our consciousness, its function is to store information that have to do with
specific skills, habits, and basic emotional states.
knowledge that is stored in explicit memory uses symbolic concepts and
is represented in language or internal images, such as thoughts, convictions,
and fantasies. In principle, from the age of three or four on, because of the
brains maturing, and depending on the applied defenses, the explicit knowledge
can be stored in a such way that it can become available in the form of
(imaginable and thinkable) memories later on. The knowledge in implicit
memory is not remembered. It is enacted. This knowledge is not affected by
the infantile amnesia, but remains present as a constant factor in somebody’s
functioning for the rest of his life.
speaking, in the cases of narcissistic patients (as we can see, Ladan
metaphorically calls them waling heads), there is deep structural
splitting between explicit and implicit in the realm of their
This book will be of great interest for beginners and
for mature and highly experienced analyst. Its value is (or it could be)
practical and theoretical. The main importance of this book, I believe, lays in
its author's courage to see things from rather different perspectives. It is
not necessary to agree with him in all of his ideas and to accept all of his
theses. On the contrary, priority is on questions not on answers. And the
questions that Ladan poses make this such a rich book.
© 2006 Petar Jevremovic
Petar Jevremovic: Clinical
psychologist and practicing psychotherapist, author of two books (Psychoanalysis
and Ontology, Lacan and Psychoanalysis), translator of Aristotle and
Maximus the Confessor, editor of the Serbian editions of selected works of
Heintz Kohut, Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein, author of various texts that are
concerned with psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature and theology. He lives in