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Smith, H.F. (2005). Editor's Introduction. Psychoanal Q., 74(1):1-4.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 74(1):1-4

Editor's Introduction

Henry F. Smith, M.D.

In focusing on the contemporary uses of the concept of conflict, we can begin to discern various layers in the clinical history of psychoanalysis, like sediment in the banks of a river. To be sure, some psychoanalysts no longer consider conflict to be the defining feature of analysis and rarely speak of it. Others are silent on the subject but more because, like the air we breathe, they consider it implicit in the work. Even those who consider themselves conflict theorists analyze different forms of conflict, in different locations—not only in the mind of the patient, but also in the material of the hour.

Thus, some analysts focus on conflict as reflected in the structural theory, others on topographic conceptions of conflict. Some attend to more conscious manifestations of conflict, others to the deeper reaches of unconscious conflict. Some stay firmly rooted in the intrapsychic; others include more of the interpersonal or intersubjective. Each of these theoretical differences entails a different inferential process and a different mixture of conscious and descriptively unconscious components. In current psychoanalytic discourse, all these various uses of the concept of conflict tend to be mixed together, as if we were all speaking the same language, when in fact the meaning of the term is often unclear and inconsistent.

As a result of these confusions, it seemed an opportune time to ask thirteen leading analysts to spell out how they see the role of conflict in the lives of their patients and in the work of analysis.

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