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Steiner, J. (2020). Response to the letter to the editor from Dr Sapisochin. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(4):813.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(4):813

Response to the letter to the editor from Dr Sapisochin

John Steiner

I can see from Dr Sapisochin's letter that by failing to clarify my disagreement with some of his ideas, I did not give them sufficient respect.

As he recognizes, I outlined how I would understand and respond to his clinical material and did not discuss the details of his model. This arose from a sense of discomfort that I experience with an analytic approach that seems to be widely in fashion in which the separate existence of two people, the analyst and his patient or the infant and his mother, is complicated by the idea of a shared joint experience. An intersubjective psyche is postulated so that the analyst's introspections and gestures can provide information not just about the functions of the analyst's mind, but also about the joint experience.

My personal discomfort with this approach is a reaction to the blurring of boundaries that results. It is understandable that the patient will have phantasies of merging as a result of defences against separateness, but it is important in my view that the analyst does not do likewise. I contend that the analyst's dreams, phantasies and responses are always his own and that it is misleading to think of these as joint, no matter how provoked they are by the projections of his patient.

I do not think it is necessary to expand our model of the mind in the direction of intersubjective spaces as I find that the contemporary Kleinian approach has sufficient potential to enable us to explore patient–analyst interactions at a deep level. It is not simply “internal and drive-related” as Dr Sapisochin claims but is powerfully interactive. The patient's phantasies lead to actions that directly affect the analyst and stimulate a parallel set of phantasies in him or her that commonly lead to enactments that are important to explore.

The disadvantage of my approach is that I have not properly explored or even properly read the literature on these merged intersubjective states of mind. It means that I am rather ignorant and prejudiced against views that are held by many. I accept that this is a shortcoming, and I hope that Dr Sapisochin will not feel too betrayed and will accept my apology.

I suppose time will tell whether it is more creative to invoke a joint intersubjective life between people or if it is sufficient to explore the details of the interactions between two separate individuals.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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