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Gedo, J.E. (1996). Contexts Of Being: The Intersubjective Foundations Of Psychological Life. By Robert D. Stolorow and George E. Atwood. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1992, xii + 145 pp., $26.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:1243-1246.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:1243-1246

Contexts Of Being: The Intersubjective Foundations Of Psychological Life. By Robert D. Stolorow and George E. Atwood. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1992, xii + 145 pp., $26.95.

Review by:
John E. Gedo

Jacques Lacan

In this slim volume, Stolorow and Atwood attempt to transpose self psychology into the camp of therapeutic schools that regard psychological life from a radically relativistic viewpoint, that is, only as a function of intersubjective transactions. To some extent, the book therefore constitutes part of a dispute with self psychologists such as M. Basch and even H. Kohut, who conceive mental life in terms of more or less stable structures. Of course, similar disagreements are taking place within most of the other traditions comprising psychoanalysis.

Analysts have long been aware of the fact that the observer's subjectivity shapes and potentially distorts perception of the data: the dire effects of countertransference were already understood eighty years ago, and Ferenczi's work in the last several years of his life put great emphasis on this problem. Most clinicians have realized that the range of transferences they are able to evoke in analytic work is somewhat limited by their own personality attributes. The advocates of an “intersubjective” viewpoint go much further; following in the footsteps of deconstructionist hermeneutics, they propose a postmodern epistemology based on the alleged hopelessness of attaining objectivity.

Most of us are painfully aware that it is extremely difficult to reach valid conclusions in clinical work; the requirement of a “preparatory analysis” for would-be psychoanalysts was instituted to make them aware of as many of their motivations as possible, so that they should be cognizant of the usual configurations of their subjectivity.

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