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Sampson, H. (1994). Repeating Pathological Relationships to Disconfirm Pathogenic Beliefs: Commentary on Steven Stern's “Needed Relationships”. Psychoanal. Dial., 4(3):357-361.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 4(3):357-361

Repeating Pathological Relationships to Disconfirm Pathogenic Beliefs: Commentary on Steven Stern's “Needed Relationships” Related Papers

Harold Sampson, Ph.D.

Stern analyzes several contemporary psychoanalytic theories in terms of how they reconcile two broad understandings of transference and the mechanisms of psychoanalytic cure. The first understanding emphasizes the repetitive dimension of the transference (the repeated relationship). The second emphasizes the developmental dimension of the transference (the needed relationship). Stern positions various theories in the contexts of their emphasis on each dimension and the ways in which they integrate both. His discussion is lucid, insightful, and thought provoking. I shall limit my comments to a clarification of how Weiss's theory, and my work within it, views the “needed” relationship and the “repeated” relationship, and offers a distinctive integration of both dimensions of the analytic process. I shall rely on presentations subsequent to the one cited by Stern (Weiss, Sampson et al., 1986), especially Weiss (1990, 1992, 1993) and Sampson (1991, 1992).

Weiss's theory assumes that psychopathology is rooted in pathogenic beliefs about oneself and one's interpersonal world. A person develops pathogenic beliefs in childhood by inferring them from traumatic experiences with parents and siblings. In making inferences, a child is likely to assume that the way his parents treat him is justified, that is, is based on his own behavior, attitudes, or motives. For example, a child whose parents are uninvolved with her may infer that she is boring and unimportant and does not deserve the interest and care of others. A child


Harold Sampson, Ph.D. is on the faculty of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, is Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at UCSF, and practices in San Francisco.

© 1994 The Analytic Press

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