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Mitchell, S.A. (1994). Something Old, Something New: Commentary on Steven Stern's “Needed Relationships”. Psychoanal. Dial., 4(3):363-369.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 4(3):363-369

Something Old, Something New: Commentary on Steven Stern's “Needed Relationships” Related Papers

Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Steven Stern's paper provides a rich overview, critique, and integration of major currents within recent psychoanalytic theorizing. I appreciate the incisiveness, breadth, and complex texturing of his synthesis, and I also agree with most of it. The dialectic between the old and the new in the analytic relationship, the central problem around which the paper revolves, has been one of the major wellsprings of creative analytic imagination, and Stern returns from this well with much that is thought provoking, fresh, and challenging.

Stern correctly locates my work in the same general ballpark as his own integrative efforts but finds my perspective a bit imbalanced. He sees me as having overcorrected for the overcorrections of the developmental theorists and not giving enough weight to the importance of thwarted developmental needs as they emerge in the analytic relationship. Therefore my work is tilted toward what he terms Model I, emphasizing repetition in the transference and not as truly integrative as the perspective he offers.

The issues here are so complex it is not at all clear to me where the real differences are between Stern and me. His balanced integration is based on his particular way of defining the two lines of theorizing. I


Dr. Mitchell, Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues, is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the William Alanson White Institute and is on the faculty of the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

1 Stern's point about the active nature of Winnicott's view of the baby (and the healthy self in the adult) in pursuing needed relational responses is well taken. I never suggested that developmental arrest theorists see babies as globally passive creatures. Both Winnicott and Kohut do portray the baby and the adult patient as actively seeking growth-enhancing experiences. As Stern goes on to note, the passivity I have pointed out concerns the perpetuation of the patient's pathology, as underrepresenting the patient's active commitment to, and satisfactions derived from, pathological forms of relatedness.

© 1994 The Analytic Press

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