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Buckley, P. (1997). Discussion. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:585-587.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:585-587

Discussion

Peter Buckley

Mitchell (1988) has been the leading modern advocate of a purely relational model for psychoanalysis, one in which drive theory is abandoned completely and conflict derives entirely from relationships with others. Bachant, Lynch, and Richards (1995) have trenchantly criticized this as an extremist position that oversimplifies key aspects of Freud's theoretical system. They target in particular Mitchell's insistence on offering Freud's tension reduction, drive discharge model as Freudian theory. They observe that this model bears little relation to the contemporary classical view of drive as part of unconscious fantasies that organize childhood memory and experience and the drive component as part of a broader theory of the dynamic unconscious. They believe that in relational theory there is a drastic shift away from the importance of the dynamic unconscious to a focus on the interaction between patient and analyst, a move to a two-person psychology and away from intrapsychic conflict, leading to an impoverishment of understanding of what really motivates behavior and determines symptoms and the form of transference.

The books under review here do not support their contention that the relational perspective adversely affects the psychoanalytic situation by interfering with true understanding of the patient. They are more correct when they contend that there is a place for both constructivistic and positivistic epistemological perspectives in psychoanalysis in order to make some degree of sense out of the complexity of the clinical situation.

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