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Like Wind, Like Wave: Fables from the Land of the Repressed
2007-06-07

Stefano Bolognini ends one of his ˘stories÷ (as he calls them) by posing a challenge to his book: ˘But, as I said before, these are just fantasies, daydreams that drift away downstream on the gently flowing waters of a Venetian river thirty-five years ago. Apart from me, who remembers the story of that record in the mud?÷ (P. 48)

Dr. Bolognini, an Italian psychoanalyst, bases each of his stories except one on a theme or incident from his own life experience. He describes the experience(s), then lets his mind wander. Sometimes this turns to stream of consciousness, sometimes to brief consideration of an idea or ideas from psychoanalysis and how these ideas may contribute to understanding of the theme, the person(s) involved, or his own reactions. These do not add up to a biography. The choice of topics is governed by things he found memorable, not by the centrality of the topic to his own inner world. Where there is deeper personal meaning, Dr. Bolognini acknowledges without revealing anything more. There is no clinical material. The unfolding of reflections we are witness to have the air of going where they want to. Dr. Bolognini clearly has a fine mind. Here, he allows it to wander, imposing no imperative to attain great depth of understanding, completeness, or ultimate insight. So, is Dr. BologniniĂs implied critique accurate: are these only the reflections, admittedly charming and evocative, of one person, at times touching and thought-provoking, but ultimately of no profound significance to anyone else?

In his own introduction, Dr. Bolognini outlines what he is exploring: throughout life, he says, we need a certain amount of fantasy and mythology to nurture and give respite to the mind. Sometimes this functions ˘through a sort of mental splitting, whereby the rational part of the individual arranges not to know what is being dreamt up by...the infantile part, the dreamer in us that wants to protract for as long as possible the illusion of magical omnipotence that belongs to early childhood.÷ He is interesting in exploring the emotionally healthy as well as the damaging forms of this process. He is saddened by the encroachment of the contemporary world on the inner world of the imagination, and intrigued by instances where the imagination still holds its own. He is also interested in the moment of disillusionment, the shock of awareness that what is imagined is not true. He sees our manner of coping with this moment as unique to the individual. He explores these processes with respect to such topics as trees, dogs, collecting, teachers, the narcissistic depletion of the rejected lover, idealization, the hero and the ego ideal.

The stories worked for this reader in two ways: first, striking moments of insight, briefly and sometimes obliquely experienced; secondly, a quieter, slower, sometimes mundane-appearing wandering pursuit of something which glances in passing at all sorts of things which usually would not be thought of as related. The latter process at times had a contagious effect, and sometimes this reader would find himself almost continuing the chain of associations to think of still more connections. Content and style thus work together to offer a unique perspective on matters which well repay reflection.

To return to the authorĂs implied critique: reading this book is a wonderful, enriching experience. It is easy to read, yet deep. Its only fault is trivial, an occasional clumsy or inappropriate word or phrase in the translation. I obviously have no personal memory of the day the young Stefano and his friends found the record in the mud by the river. But I am grateful that he has remembered, and invited us to share in its meanings.

by: Dave Denberg, MSW, RSW

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Unformulated Experience: From Dissociation to Imagination in Psychoanalysis
Worlds of Experience
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