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Mitchell, J. (2013). Complementarity in Sibling Theory. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 21(1):227-230.

(2013). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(1):227-230

Complementarity in Sibling Theory

Juliet Mitchell

It is a “construction” when one lays before the subject of the analysis a piece of his early history that he has forgotten, in some such way as this: “Up to your nth year you regarded yourself as the sole and unlimited possessor of your mother; then came another baby and brought you grave disillusionment.”

—Freud, 1937, p. 261

Dear Mina Levinsky-Wohl,

I would like to start by thanking you and your colleagues very much indeed for your act of “linguistic hospitality.” It is a wonderful initiative; I have found your own work and commentaries, as well as your introduction to that of René Kaës and Luis Kancyper, inspirational. There is so much here that I can offer only some small reflections in which I will highlight differences between Kancyper, Kaës, and myself, rather than our observational and theoretical similarities. I do not think one of us is simply “right” and the others “wrong”—I see our work as complementary.

Siblings came to me like a revelation in the late 1990s after I had spent many years thinking there was something “missing” in our understanding of hysteria. That work had been oriented around male hysteria, in which the traumatic etiology is always highlighted. From the time of Charcot, there has been a link between trauma as sometimes a key theoretical postulate and sometimes as not, and the presence and absence of male hysteria. With hindsight, it must have been this “now it is there, now it is not” of trauma and male hysteria in the theory and practice that must have brought the missing sibling into my consciousness.

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