Peter Fonagy

University College London

The foundation of the embodied self

John Bowlby led attachment theory down a doubtful path in opting for a cognitivist model in the 1970s. It risked attachment becoming disembodied as a construct, yet our intuition is of attachment as a physical experience.
Psychoanalysis equally is failing to live up to its heritage of co‐locating mind and body, increasingly moving from the physical experience of the sexual to the mental world of relationships. Yet, more and more our clinical work is concerned with individuals who have evident emotional problems that are finding resolution at the level of the body, self‐harm perhaps being the prototypical example. This presentation will bring these themes together to suggest an embodied model of mentalization emerging from the nature of language, the physical representation of relationships and the catastrophic collapse of mentalization into the body at times of personal stress and crisis.

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