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Guarton, G.B. (1999). Beyond the Dialectics of Love and Desire. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35:491-505.

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(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(3):491-505

Beyond the Dialectics of Love and Desire

Gladys Branly Guarton, Ph.D.

IN CONTRAST WITH THE STRUCTURAL, materialistic tradition, post-structural psychoanalytic theories increasingly view the individual as equally and fundamentally structured and unstructured, separate and related, assertive and receptive, and emphasize the freedom to experience and to transcend models of reality and “truth” as both a primary psychoanalytic technique and a central goal for the patient. Consequently, the end of psychoanalysis could not exclusively coincide with the patient's receptivity to rational truth, conceptualized as mature love, as Freud asserted, or with the patient's discovery of his or her separate voice and desire, as theories intended to treat the preoedipal individual have stated. This article explores how the self's free or genuine expression of either side of the duality implies the ability to experience and express the other; and, conversely, how holding on to only one side (i.e., separatedness or relatedness) implies compulsive defensiveness and stagnation. As Lao Tse (Blofeld, 1968) noted, “it becomes useless to be able to do what one cannot stop doing” (p. 24). Further, I discuss how relational-interpersonal approaches that emphasize the dyad's experience in the “here-and-now” space and time of the analytic session are best suited to facilitate the patient's freedom to experience, and thus, to transcend the dialectic between one's desire and love. The dialectic is reflected in the basic human dilemma of how to reconcile our needs to be both assertive and related, or to assert one's own desire and to recognize the other's.

Achieving the ability to love was, according to Freud, the central goal of psychoanalysis. In his view, however, mature love did not grow from the appreciation of the loved object, but from the need of individuals in society to limit the excessive demands implicit in the loving subject's desire. “Childhood love is boundless — it demands exclusive possession,


Portions of this essay were presented at the Seventeenth annual Spring Meeting of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39), American Psychological Association, Denver, February 27–March 2, 1997.

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