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Wolff, P.H. (1998). Response by Peter H. Wolff. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(1):274-278.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(1):274-278

Response by Peter H. Wolff

Peter H. Wolff

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the commentaries by Doris Silverman and Jeremy Nahum. Rather than engage in clever repartee with Nahum, I would like to use the occasion to clarify three points, which may be put as questions, that were unclear in my earlier discussions: (1) How might the goals of psychoanalysis as a developmental theory differ from those of other developmental theories? (2) What exactly is psychoanalysis, that attempts to define it can lead to such fundamental disagreements? (3) Is psychoanalysis in fact “a natural science like any other natural science,” as the standard view holds? And what would be so damaging if it were not?

Psychoanalysis as developmental theory. Silverman regards evidence on the long-term outcomes of early attachment behavior as evidence that childhood experiences do have a “shaping influence on mature psychic mentation” and that psychological development is both continuous and discontinuous. I am not aware of having claimed that childhood experiences have no influence on the psychological function of adults, and would certainly retract such claims had I made them. We can never prove the point, but it is inconceivable to me how any rational individual could deny that antecedent conditions, including childhood experience, have a profound effect on developmental outcomes, including current subjective states.


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