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Rosenthal, R. (2003). From Loewald to the Twenty-First Century: Review Essay: Relationality: From Attachment to Intersubjectivity, by Stephen A. Mitchell (2000). Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 173 pages.. Psychoanal. Perspect., 1(1):95-109.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 1(1):95-109

Book Review

From Loewald to the Twenty-First Century: Review Essay: Relationality: From Attachment to Intersubjectivity, by Stephen A. Mitchell (2000). Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 173 pages.

Review by:
Roger Rosenthal, M.A., M.S.W.

Relationality emerged from Mitchell's desire to write a book on the work of Hans Loewald and his influence on Mitchell's own thought. It extends across a broad range of interests: a reevaluation of Loewald, the fashioning of an interactional hierarchy of relationality, a review of attachment theory, the question of how to interpret the work of Ronald Fairbairn, and, finally, a discussion of love/hate and expressiveness/restraint in the analytic encounter. This array of topics gives Relationality the appearance of being a loosely associated amalgamation of essays. The end result is that attempting to define the subject matter is a somewhat challenging task. Three interrelated themes, however, provide a surprisingly solid conceptual unity to the book: 1) the interpenetrability/fluidity of affective experience and self-other boundaries; 2) multiple levels or dimensions of the psyche and the corresponding multiple levels or dimensions of theory; and 3) relationality as a conceptual framework for understanding the psychological development and functioning of the mind as inexorably intertwined with relations to significant others.

The first theme arises from Mitchell's ongoing efforts to conceptualize the self from a relational perspective. His earlier work on multiple self-states (1993) highlighted the way in which the structure of selfhood was contingent upon its wider relational context. In Relationality, Mitchell draws upon Loewald's writings on the experience of undifferentiation in the mother-infant dyad to explore the transpersonal dimensions of affective response. Building upon the observation that moments of intense affective experience facilitate a sense of union and boundary lessness, Mitchell goes on to explore how affective experience is something that occurs between people and not just in a bounded, discrete self.

Mitchell also draws upon Loewald's theory of early undifferentiation to rework the psychoanalytic notion of internalization: a concept that Mitchell considers to be saturated with non-relational assumptions.

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