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skin series 3 - psychic skin: a metaphor for the containing function of the psyche by Martin Schmidt
In this paper, Martin Schmidt applies the concept of psychic skin to analytic work with people suffering from personality disorders and psychoses.
Some of the patients diagnosed as schizophrenic, with whom he works, have identified with archetypal characters such as Christ, Satan, John Lennon and the Queen. The adoption of these delusionary personas can serve as secondary psychic skins. Through clinical examples, Martin seeks to demonstrate how these archetypal ‘second skins’ can preserve life until it is safe for the self to emerge. He contrasts such psychotic identifications with borderline process, ‘thin skinned’ and ‘thick skinned’ narcissism where the psychic skin may be damaged but does not disintegrate. He also looks at how Jung managed to avert his own psychotic breakdown.
Martin Schmidt, MBPsS, is a Training Analyst at the Society of Analytical Psychology. He works in private practice in London and lectures widely both in the UK and internationally. He has published numerous articles and his paper ‘Psychic Skin: psychotic defences, borderline process and delusions’ (JAP, Vol. 57:1) won the Fordham prize for best clinical paper in 2012 and was nominated by the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis in America for the Gradiva award in New York in 2013. In August 2016, he became the Honorary Secretary of the IAAP and its Regional Organiser for Central Europe.