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Neville Symington

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Neville Symington, a member of the Middle Group of British Psychoanalysts, 'has trodden a long and interesting path...tak[ing] him from his birthplace in Portugal, via England, to Australia, and with membership of the Port Wine Trade, the Catholic Church, the Tavistock Clinic, and the British Institute of Psycho-Analysis as stopping-points'.[1]

Symington was a Catholic priest, before working at the Tavistock in the 70s and 80s. He emigrated to Australia in 1986, and was President of the Australian Psychoanalytical Society from 1999-2002.

On narcissismEdit

Symington is perhaps best known for his work on narcissism, producing what has been called his 'very particular, complex, and intriguing understanding....Symington (1993) understands narcissism as the psychopathology that underlies all other'.[2]

Symington considered that 'the infant/child becomes narcissistically disordered by making an unconscious choice either towards the lifegiver (its authenticity or spontaneity) or to its disavowal and the use of magical pretence in order to evade psychic reality and to avoid external reality'.[3] The result of the latter choice is that 'in place of autonomy, the adult...would come to obey an internal source that the psychoanalyst Neville Symington calls the "discordant source"...pathological'.[4]

Religion and psychoanalysisEdit

Template:Confusing-section The origins of his book on narcissism came about, in Symington's words, when 'I started to work on the subject of Psychoanalysis and Religion, and it came to me quite early in that research that the connecting link between the two disciples was narcissism'.[5] The two subjects were both very close to Symington's central concerns.

'At one time a Catholic priest, but subsequently Tavistock trained...in later writings, Symington mingled metaphysical faith-claims with his psychology of the mystical'[6] in what might perhaps be almost seen as a "return of the repressed" (religion) into psychoanalysis. It was a move that created a certain amount of controversy: thus for example Robert M. Young - taking exception to Symington's study of W. R. Bion as 'a very particular, idiosyncratic and controversial rendering of Bion's thinking' - considered that 'the evangelical and pontifical elements of this book are illuminated by his recently declared views on religion'.[7]

Symington sees 'the psychic process, with its therapeutic arrival at the depressive position, as a process of moral education', declaring that '"Psychoanalysis is a natural religion but not a revealed one"'.[8] Following that lead, 'many analysts, who have adopted a positive understanding of religion with a Winnicottian twist...make a distinction, in the spirit of the deists, between natural religion[s] and revealed religion...with reference to Symington'.[9]

Others however consider that 'Symington's wish to establish a fertile relationship of mutual need between psychoanalysis and religion is based on rather simplistic philosophical arguments', with the result that 'inevitably Symington becomes moralistic'.[10] They might favour instead the position that 'though psychoanalysis is not a religion - and is notably insufficient if used as one' - it is nonetheless 'inescapably a moral enterprise - "tending as it does towards greater freedom in the making of moral choices" - that has to work hard not to become a moralistic one'.[11]

Training, spontaneity, and truthEdit

Nina Coltart, in expressing some of her own doubts about psychoanalytic training, noted that 'Neville Symington...is of the opinion that a long personal analysis, which we all have as part of our training, leaves the narcissism stronger, and the ego weaker, than they were at the beginning'.[12]

This may perhaps be linked with Symington's early work on the importance of the analyst's spontaneity - 'a therapeutic orientation that has been dramatically captured by the British "middle school" analyst Neville Symington (1983) as "the analyst's act of freedom as agent of therapeutic change"'[13] - as well as with his 'existential point of departure...the unique perspective of profound ontological insecurity'.[14]

Symington maintains that 'truth in psychoanalysis emerges between the analyst and the patient and...demands that a preconception is abandoned in both'.[15]

PublicationsEdit

  1. "The response aroused by the psychopath", International Review of Psycho-Analysis 7 (1980)
  2. "The analyst's act of freedom as agent of therapeutic change" Int Rev of P-A 10 (1983)
  3. The Making of a Psychotherapist (London 1991)
  4. Narcissism: A New Theory (London 1993)
  5. The Analytic Experience (London 1996) - Tavistock Lectures
  6. Emotion and Spirit (London 1998) - Religion and Psycho-Analysis
  7. The Spirit of Sanity (London 2001) - Religion and Psycho-Analysis
  8. The Blind Man Sees (London 2004) - Essays
  9. A Healing Conversation (London 2006)
  10. Becoming a Person through Psychoanalysis (London 2007)

Joan and Neville Symington, The Clinical Thinking of Wilfrid Bion (1997)

See alsoEdit


ReferencesEdit

  1. Anton Obholzer, "Foreword", Neville Symington, The making of a psychotherapist (London 1996) p. xi
  2. Marcus West, Feeling, Being, and the Sense of Self (London 2007) p. 205 and p. 200
  3. James S. Grotstein, "Foreword", Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (London 1993) p. ix
  4. Polly Young-Eisendrath, Women and Desire (London 2000) p. 112-3
  5. Symington, Narcissism p. xvii
  6. Dan Merkur, in Jacob A. Belzen, Changing the Scientific Study of Religion (2009) p. 128
  7. [/www.psychoanalysis-and-therapy.com/human_nature/papers/pap123h.html Robert M. Young Online writings]
  8. Merkur, p. 128
  9. J. Harold Ellens, Religious and Spiritual Events (2008) p. 22
  10. Gregorio Kohon, No lost certainties to be recovered (London 1999) p. 152 and p. 158
  11. Nina Coltart, quoted in Adam Phillips, On Flirtation (London 1994) p. 138-9
  12. Nina Coltart, The Baby and the Bathwater (London 1996) p. 32
  13. Charles Spezzano, Affect in Psychoanalysis (2003) p. xiii
  14. James S. Grotstein, "Foreword", Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (London 1993) p. ix
  15. Quoted in Michael Parsons, The Dove that Returns, the Dove that Vanishes (London 2000) p. 150
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