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Pedder, J.R. (1987). Some biographical contributions to psychoanalytic theories. Free Associations, 1(10):102-116.

(1987). Free Associations, 1(10):102-116

Some biographical contributions to psychoanalytic theories

Jonathan R. Pedder

A previous paper on the supervision of psychotherapy (Pedder, 1986) outlined something about the tradition that Balint contributed from the Hungarian psychoanalytic training situation, where there were so few analysts that there was no one else to be the supervisor of the therapy other than the analyst. So the analysand talked about themselves on four days of the week, as Balint (1957) put it, and then talked about their patient on the fifth day of the week. This evolved into a whole system of psychotherapy supervision vai the countertranference which has now spread so widely. Following a talk based on that paper, I was asked to speak about other biographical contributions to psychoanalytic theory, and that prompted me to read all the original ‘Controversial Discussions’ held within the British Psycho-Analytical Society from 1943 to 1944. These are summarized, in a brief and condensed form, in a chapter from Segal's (1979) biography of Melanie Klein. The background to them is dealt with at much greater length by Steiner (1985) and most recently by Grosskurth (1986).

There is a narrow borderline between talking about personal biographical contributions to theory on the one hand, and gossip and character assassination on the other. However, I think that there is an inevitability of destiny, of our personal background and history, which must contribute to and partly dictate our thoughts, and this is a legitimate subject for discussion. Freud's concept of the Oedipus complex and Melanie Klein's concept of the depressive position are enormously important contributions, and the fact that they may relate to their authors' personal backgrounds is to my mind inevitable and in no way detracts from them.

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