Denise Phillips, PhD

(212) 780-9852

43 East 10th Street
New York, N.Y. 10003

The Airs in Ps\chtnlu-rap\. Vol. 13 pp. 9-16. Ankho International Inc.. 1986. Printed in the U.S.A. 0197-4556/86 S3.00

PHOTOGRAPHY'S USE AS A METAPHOR1 OF SELF WITH STABILIZED
SCHIZOPHRENIC PATIENTS

DENISE PHILLIPS PhD*

But a photograph is not only like its subject. It is part of an extension of that subject: and a potent means of acquiring it, of gaining control over it.

-Susan Sontag, 1973

/ use photography to help me explain my experiences to myself.

-Duane Michals, 1976

Photography has the ability to concretize and capture a moment so that we, the spectators, can look at the image closely and discover the sub­tleties and nuances that otherwise often escape our awareness. Because the photograph both duplicates an experience and alters it to our subjective way of seeing, it simultaneously acts as a metaphorical device to incorporate idea, image and symbol into one frame while reflecting the reality-oriented aspect of the world. Also because of this, photography can be used as a therapeutic tool to help schizophrenic patients gain familiarity with their surroundings and firm up their ego boundaries, attain a sense of mastery and control and gain insight into their metaphorical way of thinking and perceiving.

My work at a hospital day program with chronic, stable schizophrenic patients has allowed me to view the difficulties this population has in establishing relationships. Arlow and Brenner (1964, p. 22) describe these difficulties as follows:

Often they are extremely remote and detached from the world about them . . . silent, solitary, and unresponsive, even to those whom they formerly loved. In some cases their whole relationship with their environment becomes primarily . . . negative or hostile . . . characterized by suspicion, fear and violence. When it is possible to learn what such withdrawn, psychotic patients are thinking, one often discovers that ... at times they believe the world has been de­stroyed . . . that everything and everybody is unreal . . .

Schizophrenic patients often fail to differentiate themselves from other objects in their environment, and as a result suffer a loss of ego boundaries. Hyman Spotniz (1969, p. 24) dis­cusses Federn's (1952) position on loss of ego boundaries and states that,

Federn associated the disorder with a deficiency in ego-libido. He viewed the basic disturbance as defec­tive ego boundaries. Consequently, there is a blurring of distinctions between ego and outer world and the ego has difficulty discriminating between false im­pressions and reality.

Photography sets up significant space between the subject and the object, making it easier for..

'Metaphor is defined in this paper as "language that implies a relationship, of which similarity is a significant feature, between two things and so changes our appreciation of either or both" (Deutsch. 1957. p. 67).
*Demse Phillips, whose doctoral degree is in clinical psychology, works part time at the Steinway Day Hospital and has a private practice.