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Spira, D.S. (1988). The Defensive Function of Psychoanalytic Theories. Ann. Psychoanal., 16:81-92.

(1988). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 16:81-92

The Defensive Function of Psychoanalytic Theories

David S. Spira, M.D.

This paper grew out of an interest in the role of theory in psychoanalytic practice and the choice of theory that analyst and patient make in the course of an analysis. Patients present with certain theories about their own behavior even though these are not always well formed or conscious. Analysts also have theories with which they organize and reorganize the patient's material. Psychoanalysis has now developed and expanded to the point where there are a number of theories available which offer different perspectives on the patient's dynamics and refer to different developmental constructs.

Freud (1908) was the first to describe the power that theories could hold in shaping the development of the individual, such as the theories of sexuality which children develop and often retain unconsciously into adulthood. Gedo and Goldberg (1973) have described how different models within classical psychoanalytic theory are appropriate to different clinical situations. Roy Schafer (1985a) has recently described in his paper on “Wild Analysis”how psychoanalytic technique is theory dependent and how one theoretical position may lead to techniques considered “wild”by another theoretical position. Mitchell and Greenberg (1983) point to the apparent theoretical incompatibility of theories based on a drive psychology with theories organized around the primacy of object relations.

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