Stranger, Visitor, Metaphor

By JONATHAN SKLAR – Sept 14th at 6 pm London time/ 7 pm Berlin time/ 8 pm Cape Town and Jerusalem time/ 1 pm New York Time/ 12 noon Chicago time/ 10 am Vancouver time NB: This seminar is on a Thursday

Part of the Psychoanalysis and Politics series Crises and Transmission

The paper discusses ideas around the uses and functions of metaphor in language which transfers understanding and knowledge in the unconscious. I will be concentrating on ideas around the uses and functions of metaphor in language as a critical means of carrying the weight of the unconscious, which can transfer, as in transference, understanding and knowledge of that part of the mind. I contrast the metaphors in the stories about St.Christopher and the Erl King in relation to the psychic function of carrying over. And the psyche-soma sometimes needs to carry the burden that is too much to bear mentally.

As metaphors are hidden in language and culture, the power of psychoanalysis to transform lies in the transference or for Winnicott, lies in the ‘holding’. It is in Winnicott’s work that analytic holding has profound resonances of carrying/supporting a child with protectiveness, care, calm, and the maternal ecstasy of the burden. The dropping of the baby is the rupturing of continuity that needs to be mended and repaired by mother or not; later it can become re–framed in analysis.

In the first metaphor, the Christ Child, carrying the world, is being carried by St Christopher. For the patient, the analyst carries the weight of the lived life, and with some patients, the burden contains a fear of the impossibility of returning to life.

So the metaphor of St Christopher, like the metaphor of psychoanalysis –metaphor, transference, holding – is but a metaphor. Perhaps we analysts have a task to restore metaphoricity to the metaphors, so that deeply understanding the language of the patient in its transmission of the monster’s release is the place where our work stands. In analysis, the analytic dyad re-finds the present in the past, and this can spark off an act of freedom. That is how the patient enters a “New Beginning” (Balint, 1968). The medium for this may be an interpretation given by the analyst or be found by the patient. It can also be a humble metaphor, which carries on a grain of a word the transfer of a sensually perceived connection that reveals insight.

Jonathan Sklar is a Training Analyst in the British Psychoanalytical Society,  an honorary member of the South African and Serbian psychoanalytic societies and Founder of the Independent Psychoanalysis Trust. He is the author of Landscapes of the Dark: History, Trauma, Psychoanalysis (Karnac 2011), Balint Matters: Psychosomatics and the Art of Assessment (Karnac 2017), and Dark Times: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Politics, History and Mourning (Phoenix 2019).

This seminar has passed. The film based on the seminar is available for rental, see Films. 

Image: Hieronymus Bosch, (c. 1490-1500) Saint Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, oil on panel, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Source: Wikimedia Commons. 

Terms and conditions: Please register early. If you haven’t registered at least half an hour before the seminar starts, your participation cannot be guaranteed. Your ticket will only be refunded if the seminar is cancelled or postponed. If you have registered for a seminar and miss out for whatever reason, you can e-mail psychoanalysis.politics[at] and ask for a private copy of the talk minus the discussion, which will be ready a few days after the event. For those who haven’t registered for a seminar, the video will be available for rental after a few days, see Films