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Knititation® - a new ground-breaking meditation technique

Professor Melania A. Duca Canavan
June 5, 2019

My thoughts on Knititation©®

A ground-breaking meditation technique by James McIntosh MA and Dr Thomas Ernst FRCP

In the picture above a photo-memory taken from the IBPI Archive: IBPI Opening Ceremony, Freud Museum London – Nov. 23rd, 2018.

James McIntosh with our dear friend Professor Tim Dornan from Queen’s University Belfast


I was introduced to Professor Melania Canavan through a mutual friend.

Professor Canavan, formally of the School of Psychiatry at the University of Milan and now the founder of the International Biocentric Psychoanalysis Institute (IBPI) invited Dr Thomas Ernst and myself to speak at the opening ceremony of IBPI in the Freud Museum, London.

James McIntosh MA, co-author of Knit and Nibble


I always tell my students and researchers, whenever they have to deal with patients, during their training or a trial, such as the one we are currently running in Italy (my home country), in collaboration with e-CampusUniversity Psychology Department, for which I have been working the last 7 years, that psycho-analysing is like hand knitting.

When you knit, you are basically doing 3 things:

  1. Pushing a knitting needle through a – let us say – textile surface [stitch], reaching the other side of it. A knitting needle can actually penetrate the tissue due to its exacting shape.
  2. Fishing the knitting needle back with a new stitch on it which will emerge from the tissue [old stitch] technically using another exit. If we are using a Double Knitting (DK) weight of yarn made of cotton for example, the yarn itself will have travelled through the tissue following the needle and so, we can say, it will have got in touch with each molecule of the tissue around the 'hole' and so will have experienced a portion of the tissue and the portion of the tissue will have interacted with the yarn the other way around.
  3. Stitching together larger sections of tissue to form something, which could be a 'ricamo' in Italian language: a decoration – a specific stitch pattern to make an example - or to repair damage. In both cases stitching is meant to empower, define and endure.

That is why when I first met James McIntosh and learnt abut his Knititation® as a mindfulness technique I immediately saw in his knitting way more than a way to achieve a static meditation. 'Knititation', a word made-up by James himself, reveals to me and my synesthetic eyes a whole dynamic process, colourful and powerful. Synaesthesia is a neurological condition determined by a perceptive overlapping of cognitive functions. In my case, words with colours, textures and emotions. A made-up word is challenging for a 'syn' because only it partially relies on a linguistic background. As a bilingual thinker and speaker, who is also affected by a light non-invalidating form of synaesthesia, I personally have two complete opposite representations of the same word 'Knititation' which are at the same time visual and tactile. Yes, I definitely prefer the English 'warm' version!

Back to us, it is well known that Anna, Freud’s daughter who first systematised and refined child psychoanalysis into a distinct form of therapy, used to knit during her training sessions with Arthur Couch who even writes about it in 1995 as also Michael Jacobs recently (2018) pointed out in print of his Our Desire of Unrest book. Knitting is a procedural activity which involves both sides of the brain and both genre of skills, mental and physical, at a relatively low level of energy expenditure. Calories are burnt while knitting – which is similar to other practical, repetitive but creative activities – regularly, with a rhythm which both mind and body, once synchronised, establish over time [circadian rhythm]. It is indeed a healthy cost-efficient practice. I’d say knitting could represent a reset or a cleansing operation, which point of strength is undoubtably its systematicity. A perpetual warming up and cooling down, hypnotically, a very gentle way to treat the mind, pushing on 'mirroring' to obtain an illusion of order and discipline. Physiologically speaking, burning calories that way keeps active a brain that has went into 'shut down' which is now gently forced into a concrete task, like starting to eat food in small bites after a long period of famine or drinking water in tiny sips. The right calculated dose of cognitive action to promote recovery. Neuromapping knitting experiences would be so interesting and even more interesting to do it within the psychoanalytical setting.

I have proposed for James to teach a Module of the 25+ available in our Course of Diploma in Biocentric Psychoanalysis as an Associate Clinical Lecturer. I truly believe that therapists strongly need to variate their armamentarium especially by adding practical tools like Knititation®© useful for the development of a certain mind capacity, in terms of self-awareness, self-confidence and self-reparative skills.

About Biocentric Psychoanalysis

Is it possible to self-heal?

It is, theoretically.

This from my personal point of you. I registered the Biocentric approach to mind analysis and therapy as a brand-new modality based on a simple concept inherited from Physics: it is the mind that created the Universe, not the other way around.

So, if – to a certain extent – the body is able to heal itself, then also the mind can. Biocentric Psychoanalysis affirms that we are all related somehow, we all possess a bio-centre at the very core of our being, made from the same substance as all others and so, a deeper connection, a communication which is not made of words or actions, which does not happen in this illusory reality we all experience, is definitely possible.

What if knitting was so relaxing to be engraved in our subconscious like a memory of a primary substance, we were an individualistic product of?

In a letter dated April 11, 1946 to his friend, Otto Juliusburger, seven years before his death, Einstein wrote: 'I believe that the abominable deterioration of ethical standards stems primarily from the mechanisation and depersonalisation of our lives; a disastrous by-product of science and technology'[1].

But who is Otto Juliusburger? We have lots of personal and intimate letters written by Einstein to the German psychiatrist, whose name is recorded in the Forensic experts’ database of the Institute for Sexual Science (1919-1933). We can browse his name and find less or more popular 'quotes' (i.e. the previous one), short biographies, and some books written about the life of the most famous physicist in recorded history, author of the Relativity theory; a Wikipedia page and other Google sources associated with a wrong picture: the portrait of Berndt Götz instead.

Einstein called his friend Juliusburger a 'loner'[2], in 1937, the same as he was and that is what, according to the scientist, made them so 'close'. In the same letter he declared he was still struggling with the unification of electromagnetism and gravitation, the same 'as ten years ago' [3]. At that time, in 1928, his friend Juliusburger was publishing a short paper (in the Psychiatric-Neurological Weekly, Thirtieth Volume)[4] titled: Biozentrische Psychoanalyse or Biocentric Psychoanalysis.

Juliusburger was obsessed with Arthur Schopenhauer and this cannot be a coincidence. The German Philosopher believed that the World must have been ruled by the Wille in German, 'will' in English, 'Voluntas' in Latin: a blind force, some kind of energy, able to reproduce itself generating corporeity.

There is a series of interesting essays produced by Juliusburger which are now archived in the public library of New York, including an unedited manuscript which myself and my research team are already working on.

What might be interesting in relation to Knititation is that Schopenhauer himself defined the revelation of truth as the slashing of a veil, where the textile component of reality had a specific meaning, this we should all carefully think about, as therapists and humans.

Whenever I registered my own therapeutic trademark in the United Kingdom: Biocentric Psychoanalysis, I was not aware of the existence of any of Otto Juliusburger’s works. Most of them are still unpublished or untranslated. Instead, I knew well enough Robert Lanza’s perspective on the origin and nature of the Universe.

Whichever inspiration we wish to recognise, whichever stitch we wish to knit to what we think and say, there is something going on here and this could possibly be the next stage of human awareness on its existential condition. A massive epistemological Revolution, right around the corner.

Professor Melania Canavan FNCP

Head of the International Biocentric Psychoanalysis Institute

About Professor Canavan

Professor Melania Canavan

Professor Dr Melania Canavan has been teaching for several years the subjects of Logic and Philosophy of Mind, training students enrolled with the Faculty of Psychology at e-Campus University, Italy both theoretically and practically.

She has been part of the Research Ethics Committee and has been Director of the Research Centre 'Storioss' and has effectively contributed to the scientific development of Humanities and Psychological Studies.

In 2017 Dr Canavan founded the MCI Research Foundation for the Experimental Research & Development of Social Sciences and began an International Project called IBPI to deliver the teaching of Biocentric Psychoanalysis, a brand-new therapeutic modality, to any country of the World.

Knit and Nibble by James McIntosh MA and Dr Thomas Ernst FRCP

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Knit and Nibble® by James McIntosh and Dr Thomas A. Ernst FRCP is published by McIntosh® Publishing ISBN 978-0-9934196-2-1

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Knititation® Knit and Nibble® and McIntosh® are Registered Trademarks of James McIntosh Omnimedia Limited. All rights reserved. www.knitnibble.com

Knititation© - Practical Tool for Complementary Psychotherapy based on knitting for the development of self-awareness, self-confidence and self-reparative skills is registered in the United Kingdom by James McIntosh Omnimedia Limited all rights reserved.

Photography Credits: Daniela Zappalà and Anders Beier

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  1. Einstein Archives, 56-505.
  2. See: Silvan S. Schweber, Einstein andOppenheimer, Harvard University Press, 2009, p. 268.
  3. See: Ibidem.
  4. From the front-page: Central paper on the entire nature of Lunacy and practical psychiatry and neurology. International correspondence paper for psychiatrists and neurologists. Federation of the imperial assembly of appointed German psychiatrists. With collaboration from numerous preeminent experts of both national and international origin. Released by (extensive list of contributing experts). Edited by Director of the Medical Council Dr. Johannes Bresler. Kreuzburg (Upper Silesia).

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