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Akhtar, S. (2001). Things are Us: A Friendly Rejoinder to Marianne Spitzform's Paper “The Ecological Self: Metaphor and Developmental Experience?”. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 3(2):205-210.

(2001). Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 3(2):205-210

Things are Us: A Friendly Rejoinder to Marianne Spitzform's Paper “The Ecological Self: Metaphor and Developmental Experience?”

Salman Akhtar, M.D.

Letter to the Editors

In her paper, “The Ecological Self: Metaphor and Developmental Experience?” Marianne Spitzform (2000) extends psychoanalytic developmental theory into an area that has remained less than optimally understood, namely, the role of relatedness to the non-human environment in the formation and function of the human psychic structure. She introduces the term “ecological self” to designate the aspects of one's self representation which emerge as a consequence of the environmental context during the process of one's growth and maturation. Locating the roots of the human “ecological relatedness” (p. 272) in an evolutionary perspective on attachment and need for safety, Spitzform elucidates nuances of self experience contingent upon a dynamic engagement with the non-human environment around the self. She evokes the data from child developmental research (Spitz, 1963; Stern, 1985; Beebe, Lachman, & Jaffe, 1997) as well as notions from contemporary relational psychoanalysis (e.g. Fast, 1998) in order to buttress her view that relatedness to the non-human world is fundamental, interactional, and deeply self-regulatory. At the same time, she does not overlook the role of the human body and the instinctual drives in the actual and/or imaginary interplay between the human and inanimate worlds. Not content with speculation, Spitzform goes on to illustrate her notions by providing some interesting clinical material.

If the tone of this thumbnail sketch of Spitzform's work has failed to convey my enthusiasm about it, let me be explicit. I find the paper not only intellectually rewarding but one of great conceptual value in so far as it genuinely extends the scope of psychoanalytic developmental theory into important but hitherto ignored realms.

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