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Lax, R.F. (1983). Discussion: Critical Comments on Object Relations Theory. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(3):423-433.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(3):423-433

Discussion: Critical Comments on Object Relations Theory

Ruth F. Lax

In the space allotted to me I shall not, unfortunately, be able to consider all the fascinating problems raised by Dr. Sternbach (1983) or even do justice to a few. I shall, therefore, restrict my discussion to comments regarding the formulations of the American object relation theorists, and Kernberg in particular. These, in contradistinction to the British school, are within the framework of Freud's structural model. I shall briefly outline the shifts in emphasis that occurred in psychoanalytic thought and that led to the formulation of an object relations theory. I shall also attempt to indicate the heuristic value of this position.

As is well known, psychoanalytic theory is not a monolithic or ab initio thought-out system. Rather, psychoanalytic theory evolved as a consequence of Freud's discoveries, his deepening understanding of these findings, which enabled him to make ever new discoveries, and his genius for developing hypothetical constructs to explain and conceptualize what he had learned. Hypothetical constructs are not facts; they help us understand facts. Psychoanalytic theory, therefore, as Hartman, Kris, and Loewenstein (1946) have pointed out, underwent far-reaching modifications in Freud's own work and continued to do so with the development of ego psychology and, more recently, object relations theory. Both these theoretical developments are firmly rooted in Freud's findings and are based on his formulations and propositions.

The history of psychoanalysis is also the history of Freud's genius. This genius manifested itself not only in Freud's capacity to

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