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Bornstein, M. (1981). Epilogue. Psychoanal. Inq., 1(1):155-156.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 1(1):155-156


Melvin Bornstein, M.D.

The papers in this issue indicate that the concept of regression has many applications for psychoanalytic practice and theory. The number and variety of psychological occurrences to which the concept of regression is relevant confirm Freud's genius for developing explanatory concepts of far-reaching significance. Originally, Freud used the concept of regression to explain observations he had made about psychopathology. Later, Freud and others expanded its application to explain other facets of psychological functioning. This issue of Psychoanalytic Inquiry has demonstrated that regression helps to explain new findings about normal development, pathology, and how man adaptively overcomes his pathology.

Despite the long history of study of the process of regression, a reading of our authors reveals residual ambiguities in our understanding of its dynamics. Some authors conceptualize regression as operating in conjunction with progression, forming two sides of a seesawing movement. This usage has explanatory value for many forms of pathology, for special mental states, and for the typical changes that occur in both patient and analyst in the course of the analytic process. Alternatively, with severely regressed states, we may observe not a dynamism between regression and progression, but a state of unrelieved regression. Some of our authors view this as the result of a developmental defect that prevents progression. Others trace it back to a “basic fault.” Thus, a new question emerges: How can we differentiate regression as it exists in the dynamism of progression and regression from unrelieved regression of this latter type? This problem requires further investigation.


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