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Slavin, M.O. (2013). Why One Self is Not Enough: Clinical, Existential, and Adaptive Perspectives on Bromberg's Model of Multiplicity and Dissociation. Contemp. Psychoanal., 49(3):380-409.

(2013). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 49(3):380-409

Why One Self is Not Enough: Clinical, Existential, and Adaptive Perspectives on Bromberg's Model of Multiplicity and Dissociation

Malcolm Owen Slavin, Ph.D.

This article brings us into the heart of a long-term analytic treatment relationship in order to illustrate, perhaps extend, Phillip Bromberg's creative thinking about the functions of multiplicity, dissociation, and integration in human self structure. We follow how my patient Tanya's capacity for access to her multiplicity played a key role in deepening the negotiation of our relationship as well as in resisting the environmental pull towards over-accommodating, dissociative integrations—identity foreclosures (Erikson, 1980)—in her own development.

More broadly, the article suggests that the centrality of a dialectical tension (including mind-body tension) between a unified experience of self-sameness and an experience of one's multiplicity goes well beyond its functions in managing individual trauma. It may represent a crucial evolved human adaptation to the existential challenge of creating and recreating meaning in face of the ambiguity, hidden multiplicity, deceptiveness, and bias inherent in even the good-enough relational world.

Patients like Tanya thus require not only that we empathize deeply with their experience, but that we allow them to open the often hidden multiplicity in ourselves. In so doing, we will confront the tensions between multiplicity and integration that are a fundamental dimension of human experience as well as the shared, existential truths carried within each patient's trauma. Bromberg's vision, including his attunement to surprise, irony, and paradox, can encourage the radical theoretical openness—indeed theoretical multiplicity—needed to facilitate this challenging, highly personal, reciprocal process.

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