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Sandler, J. (1974). Psychological Conflict and the Structural Model: Some Clinical and Theoretical Implications. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 55:53-62.

(1974). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 55:53-62

Psychological Conflict and the Structural Model: Some Clinical and Theoretical Implications Related Papers

Joseph Sandler


The concept of conflict is one which has been central to theory and technique from the beginning of psychoanalysis. The present paper examines certain aspects of the theory of conflict with special reference to the relationship between psychological theory and clinical practice. It will be suggested in what follows that with the formulation of the structural theory (Freud, 1923), (1926) a divergence between clinical psychoanalytic practice and psychoanalytic theory has appeared.

Following a short review of the history of the idea of conflict in Freud's writings the view will be put forward in the latter part of the paper that the by now traditional 'structural' view of conflict between the various psychic agencies is insufficient to conceptualize conflict as we infer it clinically. This is not in itself a new idea (cf. Nemiah, 1963); (Rangell, 1963a), (1963b), but a conceptualization of an aspect of conflict will be considered here which may help to make our theoretical formulations more congruent with psychoanalytic observations, practice and technique. The view will be put forward that an essential element in intrapsychic conflict is what can be called the unconscious peremptory urge. By 'peremptory' in this context I mean that quality of compellingness and urgency, of being 'automatic', of being driven by a force, which we usually associate with instinctual wishes or their more direct derivatives. However, this so-called peremptory tendency is not confined to the id, but may be regarded as a function of various aspects of the apparatus.

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