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Stanton, M. (2001). Revisiting the Basic Fault: A Reply to Jackie Gerrard. Brit. J. Psychother., 17(4):545-549.

(2001). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 17(4):545-549


Revisiting the Basic Fault: A Reply to Jackie Gerrard

Martin Stanton

Jackie Gerrard's critique of Balintian terminology in relation to transference interpretations (Gerrard 2000) is troubling for two reasons: firstly, she substantially distorts Balint's theories to support her own argument about the nature, timing and appropriateness of transference interpretation, and consequently fails to consider the basic grounds on which he makes his case; and, secondly, she entirely misses the political and polemical force of Balint's views of power relations in the therapeutic relationship - and indeed of power relations between the different ‘schools’ of British psychoanalysis (as substantial parts of The Basic Fault (Balint 1968) constitute a vital and trenchant critique of the ‘poverty’ of Freudian, Kleinian and Independent currents in British psychoanalysis). It seems particularly inappropriate in this context to suggest that ‘we’ have progressed substantially beyond Balint in ‘our’ conception of object relationships, without actually examining either his general critique of object relations theory, or his specific critique of the main contemporary formulations of this theory (Gerrard 2000, pp. 401, 404).

First of all, Gerrard's presentation of Balint's theories in this article totally obscures his central notion of the ‘basic fault’, and foregrounds instead the ‘harmonious, interpenetrating mix-up’, a primal preverbal state to which all regression aspires to return. For Balint, the basic fault was a structural ‘defect’ in the human psyche, which cannot be accessed through interpretation, and is only observable through its dislocating effects on consciousness.

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