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Southwood, H.M. (1974). The Communicative Relationship. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 55:417-423.

(1974). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 55:417-423

The Communicative Relationship

H. M. Southwood

This paper is directed towards a greater understanding of the psychoanalytic process: how analysis works. There are two noticeable gaps in our theories of this process. The first is the lack of a theory to explain what happens when people talk, and the second is the lack of any place in our theories for incorporation of what has been called the 'real relationship', 'benevolent neutrality', 'sincerity' and so on. Since talking, or two-way verbal symbolic communication, to speak more exactly, involves two people, a theoretical model which begins with two individuals (a 'two-body' model) is necessary. Neither instinct theory nor object-relations theory is adequate.


Starting from the basic proposition which I developed in a recent paper (1973), that the child's self-awareness and what we call his ego behaviour are not inborn capacities which manifest themselves spontaneously as the child grows, but rather are products of the mother's activity with the baby in establishing a mutual identifying (cf. Spitz, 1965), this paper further extends Winnicott's idea that our analytic work is comparable to what he called the mother's 'mirror' activity (Winnicott, 1967).

Stated in the barest outline, the theory is simply this: Learning to talk, to use words to represent experiences, arises through a mutual identifying between the mother and the baby, so that the use of words meaningfully derives not from language in itself, but from the identifying and consequent shared experiences for which language provides the symbols.

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