views updated May 11 2018


The term process is used extensively from within different perspectives, not all of which fall within the scope of psychoanalysis. The concept has been defined in the fields of philosophy, psychiatry, psychopathology, and psychoanalysis, with various meanings that, over time, have come to overlap one another, gradually expanding its scope.

Only the salient points of the term's evolution can be given here. Etymologically, "process" is derived from the Latin procedere, which means "to move forward," and reflects the dynamic aspect of the concept. In philosophy it designates "a succession of phenomena presenting a certain unity or that are reproduced with a certain regularity." André Lalande notes that the term is often used to refer to physiological, psychological, or social phenomena, and much more rarely to mental phenomena.

In psychiatry, "process" indicates the dynamic and productive nature (of symptoms) of a given state or modality of mental operation. For example, we speak of a process, the psychotic active phase, to indicate that there is a particular evolutionary moment in mental pathology that is considered to give rise, more or less transiently, to the emergence of delusions or hallucinations.

In psychopathology it is the German school of the nineteenth and twentieth centuriesespecially Karl Jaspersthat developed the distinction between "process" and "development." At the time, existential philosophy and phenomenology had completely revitalized conceptions of psychopathology. Consequently, so-called quantitative disturbances (developments) were isolated from qualitative disturbances (processes). The first were associated only with an anomaly in the intensity of certain psychic mechanisms (fears, inhibitions, rituals), which were relatively easy to understand, while the second implied a disturbance of mental operation that was currently incomprehensible to the outside observer. We can see how, from this point of view, the neuroses would be seen as developments (even though eventually an author like Pierre Marchais would introduced the concept of "neurotic process") while the psychoses are processes, since they are associated with a break with external reality and the entrance of the suffering subject into a specific representational world.

In psychoanalysis the description of defense mechanisms associated with neurotic and psychotic mechanisms harmonizes fairly well with the above psychopathological viewpoint, since the neurotic subject is here considered as having recourse, in a quantitatively abnormal and rigid manner, to certain specific, but normal, defense mechanisms (repression during hysteria, isolation and retroactive cancellation in the case of obsessive neurosis, displacement in the case of phobias), while the psychotic subject has recourse to defense mechanisms (splitting, denial, projection, idealization) that are qualitatively different than those used by the so-called normal subject. The neurotic subject would thus have lost only the flexible and extensive use of the entire range of defensive mechanisms at the disposal of the normal subject, but the mechanisms used by him would be qualitatively normal (development). The psychotic subject, however, would make use of qualitatively abnormal defensive mechanisms (process).

In reality this approach needs to be modulated to the extent that extensive study of psychotic and archaic processes has shown that the mechanisms in question in this type of psychopathology can also be described at the so-called "primal" levels of mental functioning (Piera Aulagnier), especially in the infant, but prematurely and much too transiently.

It is in the "Project for a Scientific Psychology" that Sigmund Freud lays out for the first time his neuronal theory of primary and secondary processes. The primary process tends to discharge excitations (free energy), while the secondary process provides various means of discharge (bound energy) since it operates at the level of psychic attention and extends to the mechanisms of perception and intelligence: "Wishful cathexis to the point of hallucination [and] complete gratification of unpleasure which involves a complete expenditure of defence are described by us as psychical primary processes ; by contrast, those processes which are only made possible by a good cathexis of the ego, and which represent a moderation of the foregoing, are described as psychical secondary processes. It will be seen that the necessary precondition of the latter is a correct employment of the indications of reality, which is only possible when there is inhibition by the ego" (1950c [1895], pp. 326-327).

Freud would return to this distinction on several occasions in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), but it was in 1911, when he fully described the two major types of psychic function (unconscious and conscious), that he returned to this distinction. Here he clarifies the differences between primary processes (free energy, pleasure principle), governing our fantasies, neuroses, and "everyday psychopathology," and secondary processes (bound energy, reality principle), governing the dynamics of rational thought, which is logical and desexualized (1911b).

Subsequently, Freud described positions anterior to and posterior to primary and secondary processes. The anterior processes have been extensively described by Piera Aulagnier, who distinguishes three successive registers that operate together: primal processes (the first level of embodiment of sensory experience by means of "pictograms"), primary processes (staging, staging of fantasies), and secondary processes ("vocalization" of so-called secondary thought experienced from a first-person point of view). The posterior processes have been investigated by André Green, who described "tertiary" processes as modalities of regulation (work of the preconscious) between primary processes and secondary processes or between thing-representations and word-representations.

Throughout these developments, the term "process" remains highly polysemic depending on the epistemological field in which it is used.

Bernard Golse

See also: Apprenti-historien et le maítre-sorcier (L'-) [The apprentice historian and the master sorceror]; Conscious processes; Desexualization; Group analysis; Identification; Individual, Individuation (analytical psychology); Integration; Introjection; Jokes; Metapsychology; "Outline of Psychoanalysis, An"; Primal repression; Primary identification; Primary process/secondary process; Reality testing; Thought; Violence of Interpretation, The: From Pictogram to Statement .


Castoriadis-Aulagnier, Piera. (2001). The violence of interpretation: From pictogram to statement (Alan Sheridan, Trans.). East Sussex, UK: Brunner-Routledge.

Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. Part I, SE, 4: 1-338; Part II, SE, 5: 339-625.

. (1911b). Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning. SE, 12: 213-226.

. (1950c [1895]) Project for a scientific psychology. SE, 1: 281-387.

Green, André. (1972). Note sur les processus tertiaires. Revue française de Psychanalyse, 36, 3, 407-410.

Jaspers, Karl. (1913). General psychopathology Manchester Universities Press, 1963.

Lalande, André. (1926). Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Marchais, Pierre. (1968). Les processus névrotiques: contribution à l'étude psychopathologique des névroses. Paris: L'Expansion.


views updated May 23 2018

proc·ess1 / ˈpräˌses; ˈpräsəs; ˈprō-/ • n. 1. a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end: military operations could jeopardize the peace process. ∎  a natural or involuntary series of changes: the aging process. ∎  a systematic series of mechanized or chemical operations that are performed in order to produce or manufacture something: the modern block printer needs to accommodate all the traditional factory processes in one shop. ∎  [as adj.] Printing relating to or denoting printing using ink in three colors (cyan, magenta, and yellow) and black to produce a complete range of color: process inks.2. Law a summons or writ requiring a person to appear in court.3. Biol. Anat. a natural appendage or outgrowth on or in an organism, such as a protuberance on a bone.• v. perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on (something) in order to change or preserve it: the various stages in processing the wool. ∎  Comput. operate on (data) by means of a program. ∎  deal with (someone) using an official and established procedure: the immigration authorities who processed him. ∎ another term for conk3 .PHRASES: be in the process of doing something be continuing with an action already started: a hurricane that was in the process of devastating South the process as an unintended part of a course of action: she would make him pay for this, even if she killed herself in the process of time as time goes on.DERIVATIVES: proc·ess·a·ble adj.


views updated May 29 2018


A series of actions, motions, or occurrences; a method, mode, or operation, whereby a result or effect is produced; normal or actual course of procedure; regular proceeding, as, the process of vegetation or decomposition; a chemical process; processes of nature.

In patent law, an art or method by which any particular result is produced. A definite combination of new or old elements, ingredients, operations, ways, or means to produce a new, improved, or old result, and any substantial change therein by omission, to the same or better result, or by modification or substitution, with different function, to the same or better result, is a new and patentable process.

In civil and criminal proceedings, any means used by a court to acquire or exercise its jurisdiction over a person or over specific property. A summons or summons and complaint; sometimes, a writ.


Service of Process.


views updated Jun 11 2018

1. (task) A stream of activity. A process is defined by its code, i.e. the ordered set of machine instructions defining the actions that the process is to take, the contents of its workspace, i.e. the set of data values that it can read, write, and manipulate, and its process descriptor, which defines the current status of any resources that are allocated to the process.

2. To carry out the actions defined by the sequence of instructions that make up the code of a program.


views updated Jun 11 2018

process fact of going on or being carried on XIV; proceedings at law; outgrowth XVI; continuous operation XVII. — (O)F. procès — L. prōcessus, f. pp. stem of prōcēdere PROCEED.
Hence process vb.1 A. (orig. Sc.) institute a process against XVI; B. treat by a special process XIX. In A — OF. processer; in B f. the sb. So procession formal or ceremonial act of going in orderly succession XII; emanation (chiefly theol.) XIV. — (O)F. — L. prōcessiō, -ōn- advance, (later) religious procession; hence process vb.2 go in procession XIX.


views updated May 23 2018

process (proh-ses) n. (in anatomy) a thin prominence or protuberance.

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