Sigmund Freud wrote in the ‘Ego and the Id’ that, ‘The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface’ (1923, p. 16; emphases added). For Freud the skin can be both the source and aim of the drive. Much has been written about this provocative understanding of mental life. Some have used this idea to suggest that the infant’s early experience of the body surface (i.e. sensory-affective stimulation) with the maternal figure sets into motion a major shift in psychic life: from the sensory to the mental. For Esther Bick, a positive experience with skin feeling produces a confident sense of a ‘containing object’ which in turn leads to differentiation of inner and outer: what is inside, what is outside, what is not me.
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