Psychoanalytic Engagement and the Dynamic Structure of the Central Nervous System

Integrated Child & Adult Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (ICAPP)
2021-22, 2nd Block — Mondays, 8:00-9:15pm
Ronald W. Levin, MD


When patients are in your office saying whatever comes to their minds about their problems, they are communicating on multiple developmental levels and using multiple modes of expression simultaneously all the time. Influenced by culture and training, we tend not to hear all that our patients communicate. Rather, we hear what makes “sense” to us; what fits our preconceived realities and the theories we bring to each patient encounter.

You may think that with their free associations your patients are only describing the external realities of their lives. They are not. Rather, using diverse modes of communication to express themselves, they are also describing the functional dynamics of their internal world—the structure of their mind.

Analytic treatment attempts to modify the functional structure of the patient’s mind. Improved object relationships, more constructive affect regulation, and creative insights in your patient are catalyzed by tuned-in interactions focused on the functional architecture, developmental level, and affective state of your patient’s mind—not the facts of your patient’s external reality.

This very short course is designed to expand your ability to hear and more fully understand what patients are communicating about their internal world. To do this, we will look at some individual psychoanalytic cases—to see how the therapist came to understand his or her patient in a more comprehensive manner—and we will look at some neuro-psychoanalytic literature to build a bottom-up approach to listening and mastering the physical and functional connectivity that is our internal world.


December 13, 2021 — The functional structure of the mind and analytic listening

  • What are the constituents of one’s internal world?
  • In treatment, how are the constituents of the inner world expressed?
  • What does pre-sentient processing encode?
  • What role do primordial processes play in every-day life?
  • How does neuroscientific knowledge of the central nervous system affect psychoanalytic process?

R. Levin (2020) “The Global Brain and Psychoanalytic Engagement”, SPSI Scientific Sessions

January 3, 2022 — Encoding of primordial experience

[26 pages]
  • How is early trauma encoded?
  • What role does secure attachment play is metabolizing early trauma?
  • What is the autobiographical self?
  • How does early trauma integrate in the auto biographical self?

Coates, S.W. (2016) Can Babies Remember Trauma? Symbolic Forms of Representation in Traumatized Infants. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 64:751-776

January 10, 2022 — Non-linear systems

[25 pages]
  • What are non-linear dynamics?
  • What are coupled oscillations?
  • What are emergent properties and how are they related to the therapist/patient relationship?

Galatzer-Levy, R.M. (2009) Good Vibrations: Analytic Process as Coupled Oscillations. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 90:983-1007

January 17, 2022 — The functional structure of the mind and analytic process

  • How does ongoing multi-level simultaneous processing of sensory registrations present clinically?
  • What differentiates a changed state of mind from a psychodynamic reaction?
  • What is scale confusion?
  • When are non-linear systems vulnerable to change?
  • How does one enhance access to another’s internal world?
  • What is the key to assimilating and re-regulating products of primitive experience?
  • What is “manageable autonomy?” [A. Wallace The Biological Universe]

R. Levin (2021) “Psychoanalysis and the Central Nervous System: The Rules of the Game”, SPSI Scientific Sessions