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Mitchell, S.A. (1987). Discussion. Contemp. Psychoanal., 23:400-409.

(1987). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 23:400-409


Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

I WANT TO BEGIN BY THANKING Dr. Basch for an excellent, thoughtful paper. As usual, he has given us a rich blend of broad, cross-disciplinary considerations, innovative theoretical constructions, and interesting clinical applications, which places his contribution very much in the spirit that the planners of this conference were striving for.

I find myself in total agreement with Dr. Basch's larger project and many of his basic premises, which I would summarize as follows: 1) Freud's drive theory has for decades been an enormous retardant to the generation of theoretical innovation in our field. 2) The presuppositions of drive theory derive from and are inextricably bound up with now anachronistic principles of 19th century biology and neurophysiology; according to contemporary understanding, the brain is not an apparatus for energetic discharge but an information-processing system for the generation and organization of meanings. 3) Proponents of post-drive theory psychoanalytic models have tended to involve themselves in very destructive acrimony and mutual dismissals, in which each model itself claims to be a complete and sufficient replacement for the enormously comprehensive and intricate drive theory metapsychology. 4) One of the most important tasks in current theory-building is developing a synthesis of the study of interpersonal transactions with the study of intrapsychic processes (the latter separated from the specific content of the intrapsychic suggested by classical drive theory). and 5) In broad strokes, any such theoretical synthesis needs to take as its basic conceptual framework a consideration of more or less unconscious "patterns of expectation" regarding self and others—encoded transactions.

I share this larger vision of Dr. Basch's and thus am in essential agreement with the basic sense of where psychoanalytic theory needs to go. In fact, my impression is that more and more contemporary psychoanalysts from many different backgrounds are in general agreement about where psychoanalytic theory needs to end up, what it needs to encompass.

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