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Holmes, J. (1996). Bowlby, Fairbairn, and Sutherland: the Scottish connection in psychotherapy. Free Associations, 6(3):351-378.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(3):351-378

Bowlby, Fairbairn, and Sutherland: the Scottish connection in psychotherapy

Jeremy Holmes


The scene: the canteen at the Tavistock Clinic. The time: the late 1980s. The characters: John Bowlby and Jock Sutherland, close friends for half a century, now in their late seventies and early eighties respectively (silver-haired, vigorous, one on the small side, the other very tall) distinguished, successful, balanced, clever men; sitting face to face, deep in conversation. John, the more serious, meets Jock's eye with its eternal twinkle, wags his finger, says Jockyou know that is a post-Freudian statement! (Haldane, 1993).

One aim of this paper is to explore what a ‘post-Freudian statement’ might mean, and to look at Bowlby and Sutherland's contribution to a ‘post-Freudian’ state of affairs. I shall approach the subject via the theme of splitting, which can be either creative or pathological. Using Kuhn's (1962) well-known distinction between the discovery of new paradigms and what he calls ‘normal science’ I shall argue that innovative thought often requires a degree of splitting and isolation as necessary precursors of creativity and discovery. By contrast, during the phase of normal science, isolation becomes stultifying and retards progress. The contrasting and complementary personalities of Bowlby and Sutherland epitomise the two aspects of innovation and the consolidation.


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