The cat-flap as a psychoanalytic metaphor

CatFlapStefano Bolognini, who is president of the International Psychoanalytical Association explores the usefulness of the cat-flap as a psychoanalytic metaphor in his book ‘Secret Passages : The Theory and Technique of Interpsychic Relations’ (2011 – Routledge).

The book is reviewed by Professor Cordelia Schmidt Hellerau in an essay entitled ‘SECRET PASSAGES:SOPHISTICATING THE CAT-FLAP’ (in: Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Volume LXXXI, Issue 2, pages 443–455, April 2012.) Bolognini’s work, explains the professor :

“[…] provide[s] us with the sense of getting to know a seasoned psychoanalyst who loves his work and generously shares with us not only the highlights of successful interpretations, but also the at times stumbling, tentative, or awkwardly searching steps that will help both, analyst and patient, find their way to the cat-flap.”

The ‘cat-flap’ metaphor in this context is illustrated by passages from the book.

“Perhaps, without our knowing, there was a draft, a door left ajar between our mental apparatuses, or a small opening, almost invisible, like in the great wooden doors of Italian houses in medieval times, at the bottom of which was a swinging flap (a ‘cat-flap’) through which the house cat could come and go unheeded, unseen, and without disturbing its owners, intent on other pursuits. [p. 66]

[The cat-flap] . . . is a good symbol for a structural (it is part of the door) and functional (it was specifically designed so that the cat can carry out its function of catching mice inside and outside the house) device that is not only intrapsychic but also interpsychic. The cat-flap is quite distinct from the door, which allows the passage of people, and from incidental cracks, which allow the passage of mice, clandestine, parasitical guest that harm the community / interpsychic-relational apparatus. [p. 67]”

Bonus Assignment [optional]:

Discuss the appropriateness (or otherwise) of ‘the cat-flap’ as a Freudian metaphor, bearing in mind that prof. Bolognini’s book was originally published in Italy, where ‘gattaiola’ (cat-flap) may not have the same euphemistic connotations as it does in English (clues may be found in the following) :

Resources (psychoanalytic journals):

• Psychoanal. Dialogues
• Int. J. Psycho-Anal.
• J. Anal. Psychol.
• Contemp. Psychoanal.
• J. Am. Psychoanal. Assoc.
• J. Am. Acad. Psychoanal.
• Int. Rev. Psychoanal.
• Psychoanal. Inq.

Note: The photo shows the Staywell 300 4 Way Locking Cat Flap available from Catflaps.co.uk (£15.16 inc. taxes).






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