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Tyson, P. (1994). Bedrock and Beyond: An Examination of the Clinical Utility of Contemporary Theories of Female Psychology. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:447-467.

(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:447-467

Bedrock and Beyond: An Examination of the Clinical Utility of Contemporary Theories of Female Psychology

Phyllis Tyson, Ph.D.


Libido theory and the idea of an innate matrix of bisexuality are an inadequate basis on which to understand female psychology. Rather, it is the mutual influence of sexuality, aggression, object relations, and a superego that inherits the object-related conflicts of early childhood, intertwined as these are with gender issues, that determine the way a woman experiences herself. A woman can have a basically confident, narcissistically valued sense of femaleness and at the same time be troubled by intense feelings of inadequacy and deprivation. Instead of arbitrarily attributing these feelings to penis envy and a sense of castration, based on the idea of bisexuality as bedrock, this paper suggests that we consider primary femininity as bedrock, but that the superego, as heir to unresolved preoedipal and oedipal object-related conflicts, functions to maintain these painful emotions. Clinical material illustrates the utility of these ideas.

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