Towards a better use of psychoanalytic concepts: A model illustrated using the concept of enactment

Bohleber, W., Fonagy, P., Jiménez, J., Scarfone, D., Varvin, S., & Zysman, S. (2013). Towards a better use of psychoanalytic concepts: A model illustrated using the concept of enactment. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 94, 501-530.
Canestri, J., Bohleber, W., Denis, P., & Fonagy, P. (2006). The map of private (implicit, preconscious) theories in clinical practice. In J. Canestri (Ed.), Psychoanalysis. From Practice to Theory (pp. 29-44). Chichester: Whurr Publishers.
Canestri, J. (Ed.). (2011). Putting Theory to Work. How Are Theories Actually Used in Practice. London: Karnac Books.


It is well known that there is a lack of consensus about how to decide between competing and sometimes mutually contradictory theories, and how to integrate divergent concepts and theories. In view of this situation the IPA Project Committee on Conceptual Integration developed a method that allows comparison between different versions of concepts, their underlying theories and basic assumptions. Only when placed in a frame of reference can similarities and differences be seen in a methodically comprehensible and reproducible way. We used “enactment” to study the problems of comparing concepts systematically. Almost all psychoanalytic schools have developed a conceptualization of it. We made a sort of provisional canon of relevant papers we have chosen from the different schools. The five steps of our method for analyzing the concept of enactment will be presented. The first step is the history of the concept; the second the phenomenology; the third a methodological analysis of the construction of the concept. In order to compare different conceptualizations we must know the main dimensions of the meaning space of the concept, this is the fourth step. Finally, in step five we discuss if and to what extent an integration of the different versions of enactment is possible.


Werner Bohleber

Am Ebelfeld 1 A, D-60488 Frankfurt a.M.