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Lippmann, P. (2015). An Interpersonal Psychoanalytic Approach to Dreams: Commentary on a Sample Dream. Ann. Psychoanal., 38:181-189.

(2015). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 38:181-189

An Interpersonal Psychoanalytic Approach to Dreams: Commentary on a Sample Dream

Paul Lippmann, Ph.D.

An Interpersonal psychoanalytic approach, developed mainly at the William Alanson White Institute, has been central in my thinking as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. This approach, historically without a theory of dreams and without a pronounced interest in a theory of mind (beyond Sullivan's revolutionary and prophetic view of mind as interpersonal field), has allowed us to develop ways of thinking about and working with dreams free of a single dominating view. the goals of useful therapy have traditionally outweighed any particular “correct” point of view. Adherents of the brilliant works of Freud and Jung, in contrast, have often had to struggle with and work their way through the enormously rich theoretical contributions of their leaders to find their own way of being therapeutically helpful. In an Interpersonal approach, dreams are made use of mostly to advance the goals of the therapy.

In keeping with an independent and iconoclastic tradition within the group of Interpersonal analysts, I sometimes think of myself as an Interpersonal, Freudian, Jungian eco-psychologist. In working with patients and with dreams in modern times, in comparison with our ancient healer-ancestors, we are like babes in the woods and need all the help we can get from as many approaches as possible. A sense of authority (perhaps fueled by American psychoanalysis's initial home in medicine and psychiatry) is mostly gone and many of us recognize the uncertain nature of our efforts to be of psychological use to our contemporary patients in their contemporary struggles. Ancient psychological healers (e.g., shamans) worked in communities in which there existed a shared cultural view of life, gods, nature, spirits, and so on. the healer knew his/her community. the complex, heterogeneous, uncertain nature of our modern lives and of the rapidly changing nature of technological innovation makes it impossible for us to feel certain about the life of the spirit, the psyche, the soul, and the mind's underworld.

The independent, highly idiosyncratic, anti-authoritarian aspects of an Interpersonal approach center on differences from person to person, therapist to therapist, moment to moment, all within a fluid interpersonal field.

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