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Ringstrom, P. (2016). A review of The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity. Contemp. Psychoanal., 52(2):324-335.

(2016). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 52(2):324-335

A review of The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity

Philip Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D.

A review of The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity by Irwin Hirsch. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. 222 pp.

It has been quite some time since I read a book as thought-provoking as Irwin Hirsch's The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity. Among its many significant contributions is its insistence that the interpersonal tradition is vastly underrecognized as foundational to the two-person psychology now in evidence in most contemporary psychoanalysis. Indeed, it serves as a textbook worthy of any psychoanalytic curriculum. I learned so much from it, I feel compelled to summarize some of its key points to encourage its readership.

Hirsch's book involves a compendium of chapters derived from over two decades of publications, each updated with a useful prologue. His volume not only provides a cogent history of interpersonal psychoanalysis, it also engages many other theories that are located within what is commonly called the “Big Tent of Relational Psychoanalysis,” capturing many key similarities as well as critically important differences between them. Using this background, he challenges our thinking about an array of topics such as analyzability, enactments, dissociation versus repression, the inescapable influence of the analyst's character in the treatment, the nature of human imperfection, and the assets and liabilities of taking up opposing positions in life.

To appreciate the origins of interpersonal psychoanalysis one needs to consider the historical context in which its originator, Harry Stack Sullivan, was writing.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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