TA 107 (Rosen)


Response 6 (to L Sundararajan)


by Steven M Rosen
12 August 2008, posted 16 August 2008


In her comment on TA107, Louise Sundararajan speaks of “Klein bottling,” a term that emphasizes that the Klein bottle discussed in my article is best understood not just as a static object, but as an ongoing process. She then proceeds to open up a new application of this process. The intimate Kleinian interplay of opposites — inside and outside, subject and object, figure and ground — is brought to bear in the realm of emotion.   Familiar focal emotions such as anger, happiness, or fear are taken as analogous to well-defined perceptual figures, whereas the more diffuse overall mood of a situation corresponds to the unfocused perceptual background. Sundararajan brings out the creative and therapeutic implications of working with a “double vision” not limited to focal emotion but also taking into account the global affective tone or background mood (see Sundararajan 2000 for more detail).


Sundararajan’s invocation of emotional figure-ground reversal as an exemplar of Klein bottling, and her discussion of this in relation to poetry (T’ao Ch’ien) and art (
Cézanne), bring to mind what I have always seen as an important feature of Asian art: while traditional Western art is largely focused on sharply delineated positive figures occupying the foreground of perception, art such as the Chinese tends to draw attention to “negative space,” blank areas and peripheral stretches of background.


The other association evoked by Sundararajan’s elegant commentary concerns her reference to psychotherapy.  She mentions Gendlin’s technique of focusing (1981) as an example of Klein bottling, where a felt sense is obtained of the body’s otherwise unconscious global mood tone. This suggested to me a recent work by the Jungian analyst Nathan Schwartz-Salant (2007) in which the relationship between conscious awareness and its unconscious background is explicitly modeled by the Klein bottle.



Gendlin, E. T. (1981). Focusing. New York: Bantam.

Schwartz-Salant, N. (2007) The Black Nightgown. Wilmette, IL: Chiron.

Sundararajan, L.  (2000). Background-mood in emotional creativity: A microanalysis. Consciousness and Emotion, 1 (2), 227-243.


Steven M Rosen
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