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Stern, D.N. (2007). Commentary on Paper by Philip A. Ringstrom. Psychoanal. Dial., 17(1):101-103.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 17(1):101-103

Commentary on Paper by Philip A. Ringstrom Related Papers

Daniel N. Stern, M.D.

Philip Ringstrom's Paper Sneaks up on the Reader. It is Only toward the end that one realizes the scope of what he is attempting to do. His aim, it seems to me, is to begin a systematic structuring of an improvisational form of relational psychoanalysis, one that carries a major current of the relational view further. It is a beginning, not a finished product. But a good beginning.

An improvisational view is a logical next step in the field. In the last decades we have seen the application of chaos and complexity theory, along with dynamic systems theory open up our clinical eyes to various features of the therapeutic situation, such as the emphasis on process; the approximate equality of the contribution of patient and therapist, that is, the notion of cocreativity; the unpredictability of what happens in a session from moment to moment, including the expectance of emergent properties; a focus on the present moment of interaction; and the need for spontaneity and authenticity in such a process.

One possible next step leads to an improvisational view, and Ringstrom follows that line of evolution. He well positions this exploration in the current context and literature of relational psychoanalysis.

Because improvisational technique is potentially dangerous, he distinguishes improvisation from (possibly wild) spontaneity. And he proposes a “relational ethic” to guide the improvisational process (opening vs. closing, vitalizing vs. deadening, etc.) This is a most interesting and necessary grounding. The list he gives for this ethic is good, and it is, indeed, the improvisational counterpart of Freud's abstinence, neutrality, and anonymity. However, I would like to have seen it developed more.

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