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Stein, R. (1998). Passion's Friends, Passion's Enemies: Commentary on Paper by Stephen A. Mitchell. Psychoanal. Dial., 8(4):547-560.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 8(4):547-560

Passion's Friends, Passion's Enemies: Commentary on Paper by Stephen A. Mitchell Related Papers

Ruth Stein, Ph.D.

Stephen Mitchell's (1997) remarkable paper is a well-argued appeal to revive love and romance, which, in his view, had been degraded both in psychoanalysis and in the lives of many people, and to bring them to a more central place in psychoanalysis through a call to heal the “splitting between love and desire, the longing for inaccessible objects, the numbing of passion” (p. 27). The essay focuses in particular on the fading of romance and passion in long-standing relationships, marital or other, that are apparently stable and safe. Mitchell suggests that such relationships are in truth in a state of pending, above an abyss formed by the unpredictability and irrecuperability of the other, an abyss that as a rule is being collusively denied by both partners. It is in the nature of such relationships to turn romantic passion into a risky enterprise, a danger to be avoided if exposure to the menace of painful betrayal, abandonment, or withdrawal by a most important other is to be warded off. Mitchell offers us this unusual and unexpected hypothesis as a correction to and replacement for the old view that familiarity breeds passionlessness. In this, Mitchell touches on the issue of the complex relation between attachment and desire, safety and the erotic. He admits that reconciling safety and passion is difficult because “there is a fundamental contrast between the familiar and the transcendent that runs throughout human experience” (p. 27).

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