The Malignant Ambiguity of Incestuous Language

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This article discusses the malignant ambiguity typical of incestuous language: the ambiguity of revealing and concealing, which creates a language that pretends to produce meaning and enable links whereas, in fact, constitutes a violent attack on linking. Through a detailed description of two clinical cases, the formation of two defensive positions is demonstrated: one involves the overall flattening of three-dimensionality, and the other is a defensive pseudo-phallic position employing various modes of ejection by way of fending off penetration. Finally, the article focuses on the inherent ambiguity of the therapeutic scene and the critical role of the therapist's work of reverie as enabling the reclaiming of both the patient's and the therapist's psychic polyphony.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-274
Number of pages23
JournalContemporary Psychoanalysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©, © William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis & Psychology and the William Alanson White Psychoanalytic Society.


  • ambiguity
  • incest
  • language
  • psychic polyphony
  • revealing & concealing
  • two-dimensionality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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