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May 5, 2023

The Genesis of Whispering at the Edges by Mark Winborn

The genesis of Whispering at the Edges began years ago with one of my analytic supervisors who often referred to the analyst’s use of reverie, and frequently illustrated her use of reverie with her own patients. She spoke of reverie in way that was both bewildering and profound. Her use of reverie was bewildering because it was difficult to see from the ‘outside’ how she arrived at the reveries she would access and utilize in analysis.

It struck me as profound because her use of reverie often seemed to facilitate the emergence of something new in the analytic field or touch on something deeply felt but previously unknown to the patient. Her facility with and confidence in her internal process of reverie became something I wanted to understand and cultivate in my practice.

Category: News
Posted by: Leigh

A post by Mark Winborn exploring the genesis of his paper 'Whispering at the edges: Engaging Ephemeral Phenomena'

Curiosity and Gratitude

I write from a combination of my areas of interest, curiosity, and deadlines. My interests typically revolve around clinical phenomena, analytic technique, comparative psychoanalysis, metaphor, music, and aesthetics. It was very gratifying when Whispering at the Edges: Engaging Ephemeral Phenomena won the Gradiva award, given annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, for best psychoanalytic paper published in 2022.

Ephemeral Poetics

As I mentioned in the paper, I also trace the origins of Whispering at the Edges back to 1989 and my first experience of being profoundly influenced by a poem, in this case a poem by Antonio Machado. The last line of the poem is “listening on the rim of vast silence.” I marveled at the poet’s capacity to utilize metaphor in ways that reveal previously unseen and transrational links between experiences.

In my analytic practice, I’ve found reading poetry essential to cultivating engagement with reverie, increasing sensitivity to ephemeral phenomena, and sensing connections within experiences, although I’m sure these sensitivities can be cultivated in a wide variety of other ways.

The Evolution of the Paper

More specifically, the genesis for Whispering at the Edges began when the call for papers came in 2019 for the 2020 JAP Conference that was scheduled for Sao Paulo, Brazil. At that time, I did not have a specific topic to propose for the conference. However, I keep an ongoing list of possible ideas for papers, seminars, and books. The file always has many more ideas that I’m interested in than I’ll ever have time to write about. As I shuffled through my list, I came upon the title Whispering at the Edges, but I could not recall entering that title in the list. At a minimum, it had certainly resided there for several years and had faded from my memory. Yet, as soon as I rediscovered the title, I knew immediately it was the topic I should propose for the conference.

As fate would have it, the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020 and the conference was postponed until later in the year. Then the conference was postponed until 2021 and was moved online. I began writing the paper in January 2021 for the conference now scheduled for April.

I knew that I wanted to write in a new voice; a voice I had not previously written in before. I desired to write this paper from a more poetic and experiential perspective that would actively illustrate the conceptual material being presented. As I began to write, structuring the paper like a play in several acts occurred to me spontaneously, as well as the idea of setting the presentation to the music of Anouar Brahem, a Tunisian oud player, accompanied by ethereal visual imagery. The writing of the paper unfolded quickly, and it was finished in just a few weeks. Even before I began sharing the finished paper with close collegial friends, I felt it was my best writing to date.

Ontological Writing and Critique

Often in my writing, I am crafting a commentary on something I find missing, underdeveloped, or overvalued in analytical psychology. Although I am well satisfied with being a Jungian psychoanalyst, I often find elements of other psychoanalytic approaches that complement my Jungian orientation and broaden my vision of what is possible in analysis. Whispering at the Edges is also such a commentary, although I only mention it in passing in the paper. Often in Jungian clinical discussions it seems there is a strong emphasis on naming complexes, identifying archetypal themes, or grasping the symbolic function of an image. While engaging in these activities is an important aspect of analysis, this focus can also lend itself to ‘searching for the known’ and a tendency towards reification (i.e., treating psycho-spiritual processes and experiences as if they are things, beings, or entities).

A circumscribed focus on complexes, archetypes, and symbols leaves less room for the ephemeral to enter the analytic space and less room for registering the ephemeral when it does enter. Thomas Ogden (2019) refers to this approach to psychoanalysis as the epistemological approach (i.e., having to do with knowing and understanding). However, Ogden advocates for an ontological approach to psychoanalysis (i.e., an approach grounded in experience and on being and becoming). I see Whispering at the Edges: Engaging the Ephemeral as a contribution to an ontological approach to Jungian psychoanalysis.


MARK WINBORN PhD is a Jungian psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist. He is a training analyst with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts and the C.G. Jung Institute - Küsnacht. He has published or edited five books: Deep Blues: Human Soundscapes for the Archetypal Journey, Shared Realities: Participation Mystique and Beyond, Interpretation in Jungian Analysis: Art and Technique, Beyond Persona: On Individuation and Beginnings with Jungian Analysts (with Lavinia Čšânculescu-Popa), and Jungian Psychoanalysis: A Contemporary Introduction (forthcoming August 2023 - part of the Routledge series: Introductions to Contemporary Psychoanalysis), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.

Ogden, T. H. (2019) Ontological Psychoanalysis or “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 88: 661-684.

Winborn, M. (2022) Whispering at the Edges: Engaging Ephemeral Phenomena. Journal of Analytical Psychology 67:363-374       

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