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Guntrip, H. (1996). My Experience Of Analysis With Fairbairn And Winnicott: (How Complete A Result Does Psychoanalytic Therapy Achieve?). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:739-754.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:739-754

My Experience Of Analysis With Fairbairn And Winnicott: (How Complete A Result Does Psychoanalytic Therapy Achieve?)

Harry Guntrip

[Editorial introduction: The writings of Harry Guntrip have an importance in the history of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, especially for the Independent Group in the years 1961-1975. (Before 1962 the Independents had been known as ‘the middle group’.) To understand this it is essential to know the outlines of that history and the part played in it by John Sutherland, who for many years was the Director of the Tavistock Clinic and of the Institute of Human Relations, and Editor of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, of the International Library of Psychoanalysis, and of the British Journal of Medical Psychology. Before his training analysis Sutherland had been analysed by Ronald Fairbairn. Later, from 1949 to 1960, Guntrip too went to Fairbairn for intensive psychotherapy, which he called ‘a training analysis’.

In the 1940s Fairbairn had written an important series of theoretical papers, and in 1952 he republished them as a book, ‘Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality’ (Tavistock Publications) (entitled ‘An Object Relations Theory of the Personality’, 1954, in the USA). This might well have become (after Freud) a prime theory-book of the middle group in the 1950s, if Winnicott and Khan had not reviewed it unfavourably in the IJPA in 1953. The middle group was the main one in the British Psycho-Analytical Society after the Controversial Discussions of 1943-44 and for many years it outnumbered the combined numbers of the two wings, the ‘B Group’ and the ‘Kleinians’; in the resolution of those discussions these had politically separated themselves from it by forming and naming themselves as groups. Although the middle-group members did not officially style themselves ‘a group’ until 1962, when Paula Heimann supported the adoption of their present title, ‘Independents’, they had in fact been functioning as a group since 1945 and it was their continuity within the main British Society that enabled the two wings to remain ‘together’ as groups in it. For fifteen years the most important officers of the Society had had to be chosen from the ‘Middle Group’.

In students' training all three groups always used Freud's writings, but the Kleinians had Klein's ‘The Psychoanalysis of Children’ (1932) and her subsequent papers and books as their other chief source of theory, while the B Group had for similar use Anna Freud's ‘The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence’, 1937) and, from 1945, ‘The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child’. The ‘middle group’ had no such ‘new testament’ (apart from Ella Freeman Sharpe's ‘Dream Analysis’, 1937 and ‘Collected Papers on Psycho-Analysis’, 1950).

Although in the International Library and the International Journal there was a steady stream of books and papers publishing opinions independent of the two wings, there was no central figure-head who had published a book presenting a unified, coherent theory to which

the middle-school members could subscribe. Ernest Jones, the founder of the British Society, had been a member of the middle group; so also was James Strachey, and his editing of the Standard Edition of Freud's works gave its members a sense of unity. Jones's, Balint's, Fairbairn's, Brierley's and then Winnicott's books of collected papers were extremely useful but were not always reconciled with each other; they sometimes used idiosyncratic terms and language to express similar ideas reached independently. It was therefore a welcome revelation when Guntrip, using Fairbairn's ideas and terminology, published his book, ‘Personality Structure and Human Interaction’ in the International Library of Psychoanalysis (1961). Like a clinical philosopher concerned with reconciling divergent theories, Guntrip presented the points of view of important psychoanalytic writers from Freud onwards in a clear historical perspective. Fairbairn began to be more used; and in 1965, when Sutherland gave a review of Fairbairn's life and thought at a memorial meeting a few months after his death, Winnicott, who chaired the meeting, and Khan each openly acknowledged the lack of understanding that had underlain their joint critical review of his book.

Guntrip was never accepted into membership of the British Society, but several of his papers and his later book ‘Schizoid Phenomena, Object Relations and the Self’ (1968), were also published under the Society's aegis, thanks to Sutherland's support and editorship.

Established at the University Medical School in Leeds, a city roughly midway between London and Edinburgh, Guntrip, with his great talent for teaching, had had scope among doctors and medical students of that city but reached psychoanalysts, almost all of whom lived in or near London, only through his writings. His sessions of psychoanalysis with Winnicott in 1962-67 made him intent upon reconciling Fairbairn's and Winnicott's ideas. This he did by using Fairbairn to explain schizoid processes of the two-person relationship and Winnicott to deal with depressive processes consequent on experiences of loss. His paper here republished from the second volume of the International Review of Psycho-Analysis (1975) had been presented personally both at the Tavistock and to a group of students in training at the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, but he did not live to see it in print. It gives an account of some of his experiences of psychoanalysis with Fairbairn and rather more of his psychotherapy with Winnicott, but, based as it was upon his personal conviction of his mother's failures in mothering him and upon his self-recovery through a series of dreams just after getting news of Winnicott's death early in 1971, it did not promote discussion on those occasions.

The authors of the following pieces wrote them unaware of each other's writing. One, Markillie, had been prompted by notice of a meeting to be held at the Tavistock Centre in early spring 1995, which he would not be attending; the other, Padel, was responding to an invitation by the Italian Society to talk on the work of Fairbairn and Winnicott in April of that year. When they discovered one another's pieces, they were surprised to find that their different approaches agreed so well and could be presented together.]

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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