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Stern, D.N. (1988). The Dialectic Between the “Interpersonal” and the “Intrapsychic”: With Particular Emphasis on the Role of Memory and Representation. Psychoanal. Inq., 8(4):505-512.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 8(4):505-512

The Dialectic Between the “Interpersonal” and the “Intrapsychic”: With Particular Emphasis on the Role of Memory and Representation

Daniel N. Stern, M.D.

I will talk from the point of view of the developmental aspects of this problem. I am grateful to Stephen Mitchell for introducing some of the important distinctions between what we call intrapsychic and interpersonal, between fantasy and perception, between psychic reality and actuality, and between inner and outer worlds. The position that I take as a developmentalist is different from that taken by Abend, who posed the confrontation between interpersonal and intrapsychic as a dilemma. If we have to call it a dilemma, it seems to me that it is the right dilemma. Or rather, it is precisely the dialogue or dialectic that is crucial for understanding development. In fact, no other dialectic is of any interest from the clinical point of view of development than the difference and interaction between the intrapsychic and the interpersonal as broadly defined; this is especially so in conceptualizing how it is possible for us to create a world of representations.

We are not talking about the dialectic between nature and nurture. We all agree that the subjective world is a mental construction that emerges from the interaction between “actuality” and the mental processes that encounter that actuality and fashion it into a subjective psychic reality.

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