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Edgar, J.R. (1990). Psychoanalytic Inquiry. VIII, 1988: The Intrapsychic and the Interpersonal: Different Theories, Different Domains, or Historical Artifact? Stephen A. Mitchell. Pp. 472-496.. Psychoanal Q., 59:328-329.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psychoanalytic Inquiry. VIII, 1988: The Intrapsychic and the Interpersonal: Different Theories, Different Domains, or Historical Artifact? Stephen A. Mitchell. Pp. 472-496.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:328-329

Psychoanalytic Inquiry. VIII, 1988: The Intrapsychic and the Interpersonal: Different Theories, Different Domains, or Historical Artifact? Stephen A. Mitchell. Pp. 472-496.

James R. Edgar

The author discusses the relationship between "intrapsychic" and "interpersonal" from a Sullivanian perspective. He feels we have moved beyond the early polarization. The issue now is not a choice between intrapsychic and interpersonal, but the relationship between them. Mitchell traces some of the early history of the conflict, beginning with Freud's shift from a theory of infantile seduction (interpersonal) to a theory of infantile sexuality (intrapsychic). Sullivan's introduction of the term "interpersonal" in 1927 was not in opposition to Freud's theory but to Kraepelin's theory of dementia praecox, and was important because of his interest in treating schizophrenics. Sullivan's continued development of his theory was inspired by "operationalism," which dominated the natural and social sciences of his day. In this methodology meaningful scientific concepts had to be closely tied to concrete "operations." The more abstract a concept became, the more suspect it was. Operationalism caused Sullivan to become unhappy with Freud's theory after it changed. Sullivan felt it had moved away from actual experience to more abstract, invisible psychodynamic forces. He rejected Freud's concept of the individual mind as basic

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unit of study. He felt that many intrapsychic concepts such as "internalization" are actually reifications of metaphors for early bodily experiences. Mitchell points to more contemporary theorists, such as Schafer, Loewald, Kohut, and Modell, whose ideas he feels are congenial to Sullivan's statement that "the human mind is part of a field, not a self-limited phenomenon in its own right." Although rejecting the motivational theory of drive, Sullivan felt that the intrapsychic realm has certain influence in how external reality is perceived and elaborated. He granted an internal fantasy world that is dynamic in the sense that it is an active force when faced with new experiences. However, this internal fantasy world consists solely of "residues of earlier interpersonal integrations." Sullivan felt there were other parts of the unconscious besides these internal fantasies. These he referred to as "immutably private" and felt they were unknowable to us. Mitchell asserts that the intrapsychic and interpersonal theories have become complementary.

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Article Citation

Edgar, J.R. (1990). Psychoanalytic Inquiry. VIII, 1988. Psychoanal. Q., 59:328-329

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