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Mitchell, S.A. (1990). Discussion: A Relational View. Psychoanal. Inq., 10(4):523-540.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 10(4):523-540

Discussion: A Relational View

Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

I am designating my perspective “relational” because it is grounded in the traditions of interpersonal psychoanalysis and British school object relations theories. Purists in either of these two schools of thought tend to regard the other as quite foreign. “Classical” interpersonalists, following Sullivan, tend to focus on what people do and largely eschew intrapsychic concepts concerning what is taken to be the latent structure of experience. This approach is at considerable odds with the language and sensibility of the British school and its Kleinian-derived emphasis on phantasy and “primitive” mental processes. On the other hand, various advocates of “object relations theory” tend to value explanations having to do with the earliest relationship between the infant and the mother, a far cry from the “here-and-now,” interactional focus of much interpersonal theory. Nevertheless, I discovered a number of years ago that my own clinical and theoretical perspective had taken shape in the interaction of these influences, along with certain strains from both existential psychoanalysis and revisionist versions of “Freudian” theory (particularly those of Loewald and Schafer). Since such an approach seems to fit into no preexisting category, I am using relational to encompass this mixture of influences (see Mitchell, 1988).


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