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Sandler, J. (1983). Reflections on Some Relations Between Psychoanalytic Concepts and Psychoanalytic Practice. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 64:35-45.

(1983). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 64:35-45

Reflections on Some Relations Between Psychoanalytic Concepts and Psychoanalytic Practice

Joseph Sandler


This paper adopts the standpoint that psychoanalytic theory has been in a state of continuous organic development from the beginning, with states of theoretical strain being generated with each new advance in theory. The meaning of concepts becomes stretched, and psychoanalysts develop implicit theories, concepts and definitions that differ from the 'official' or 'public' formulations.

While flexible concepts play an important part in psychoanalytic theory, it should be accepted that each may have a number of dimensions of meaning, and that these dimensions may differ from one psychoanalyst to another. Research should be directed towards making explicit the implicit concepts of practising psychoanalysts, and it is suggested that this process will result in the accelerated development of psychoanalytic theory. The essentials of that theory must be those aspects which relate to the work the psychoanalyst has to do, and therefore its main emphasis needs to be clinical.

In the second part of the paper, the expansion

of the concept of transference with the introduction of defence analysis is discussed, with particular reference to the class of object-related defences, which involve some combination of identification and projection. It is argued that major changes in technical emphasis brought about the extension of the transference concept, which now has dimensions of meaning which differ from the official definition of the term.

Finally, three areas among many in which there is a significant distance between theory and practice are discussed. The public and official theories relating to drives, conflict, and internal object-relationships and transference are discussed, and suggestions made in regard to possible developments which might lessen the gap between the public theories and the implicit private clinical formulations of the practising psychoanalyst.

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