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Wachtel, P. (2017). The Relationality of Everyday Life: The Unfinished Journey of Relational Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Dial., 27(5):503-521.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 27(5):503-521

The Relationality of Everyday Life: The Unfinished Journey of Relational Psychoanalysis

Paul L. Wachtel, Ph.D.

Building on the insights embodied in Stephen Mitchell’s critiques of the developmental tilt and the metaphor of the baby, this paper aims to further illuminate the limitations of theoretical models rooted in infantile prototypes and to point relational theory toward a more thoroughgoing understanding of the contextuality and relationality of every facet of our lives. In its examinations of both the mother–infant interaction and the intricacies of the analytic relationship, the relational turn has yielded deep insights into the reciprocal, two-person causal sequences that characterize the development and dynamics of personality. But in the massive zone of living that occurs outside the nursery or the consulting room—the countless interactions and experiences of everyday life—relational theory has made less of a contribution, implicitly relying on an older psychoanalytic model in which these events of daily life reflect or express inner dynamics, rather than highlighting how daily life experiences continue to shape the inner world even as the inner world gives meaning and shape to those ongoing experiences. Drawing on both parallels and differences between Mitchell’s seminal contributions and the theoretical perspective known as cyclical psychodynamics, the paper aims to extend relational advances in understanding the mother–infant matrix and the dynamic structure of the analytic relationship to the everyday events that constitute the vast majority of our waking hours. In doing so, it points to a consequentiality to everyday life that, when appreciated and taken seriously, opens new pathways for therapeutic advance and provides a more solid and comprehensive foundation for relational theory.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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