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Mitchell, S.A. (1999). Attachment Theory and the Psychoanalytic Tradition: Reflections on Human Relationality. Psychoanal. Dial., 9(1):85-107.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 9(1):85-107

Attachment Theory and the Psychoanalytic Tradition: Reflections on Human Relationality

Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

I take this occasion to reflect on the relation between the flourishing attachment tradition established by Bowlby's work and the psychoanalytic tradition. I want to show how Bowlby's virtual expulsion from mainstream psychoanalysis in the early 1960s makes some sense in terms of the history of psychoanalytic ideas, as he was several steps ahead of his own time. I then consider the ways in which other major psychoanalytic authors, W.R.D. Fairbairn and Hans Loewald, as well as the American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, struggled with the same problems Bowlby did. There is now a marked receptivity among psychoanalysts to the same ideas that earned Bowlby his place, along with Fairbairn and Sullivan, in the psychoanalytic Gulag. Finally, I consider the way in which an integration of these different angles on the same phenomena can be helpful both conceptually and clinically.

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