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Sander, F.M. (2004). Psychoanalytic Couple Therapy: Classical Style. Psychoanal. Inq., 24(3):373-386.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 24(3):373-386

Psychoanalytic Couple Therapy: Classical Style

Fred M. Sander, M.D.

In this essay, the core concepts of psychoanalysis are set forth as the context for the application of classical psychoanalytic theory to the practice of couple therapy. Infantile sexuality and aggression are shown to have a powerful role in the interpersonal lives of family members. The repetition compulsion structures marital interaction and intergenerational dynamics. The intrapsychic emphasis of classical ego-psychology is viewed in the interpersonal arena, and the author suggests adding to the Oedipus and Narcissus myths a myth that resonates with this shift in emphasis. In introducing the “Pygmalion-Galatea process,” the author captures the universal attempt to change the psychic dynamics of the other or others. This ultimately mutual process begins with the infant's mirroring of its caretakers—which includes language acquisition. Much of human interaction is fueled by subsequent attempts to create others in our own images of them and by their reactive compliance or resistance to that dynamic. Three case illustrations are presented to show how these phenomena manifest themselves in marital interaction and in dreams.

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