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Herzog, B. (2015). Compliance, Defiance, and the Development of Relational Templates: What a Ballerina Taught Me About Myself and the Supervisory Process. Psychoanal. Inq., 35(3):298-311.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 35(3):298-311

Compliance, Defiance, and the Development of Relational Templates: What a Ballerina Taught Me About Myself and the Supervisory Process

Bruce Herzog, M.D.

Children who have had their independent strivings subverted by their parents may opt to sacrifice their autonomy to achieve a form of conditional love or, alternatively, rebel and lose the loving connection to protect their integrity. For them, the love of the other and self-interest cannot coexist. This constitutes an area of conflict, because they are forced to choose between either having love (via compliance), or having their true selves (via defiance). In childhood, the repetition of compliant or defiant reactions to parental disinterest eventually becomes encoded as a relational template (a constellation of enduring interactive habits or reflexes). The treatment of an adolescent ballet student brought this issue into focus, as she would vacillate between the two positions when dealing with her teachers. In fact, both therapist and patient had defiant relational templates that were activated by supervision. Both shared the relational premise that closeness to an authority and the expression of an authentic independent self could not exist together. This limited the ability of the ballerina to have fully functional access to her teachers and therapy, and similarly limited the therapist from making effective use of his supervision.

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