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Smith, H.F. (2005). Dialogues on Conflict: Toward an Integration of Methods. Psychoanal Q., 74(1):327-363.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 74(1):327-363


Dialogues on Conflict: Toward an Integration of Methods

Henry F. Smith, M.D.

If anyone needed verification of the disparate ways in which the concept of conflict is used in contemporary psychoanalysis, this set of thirteen exceptionally clear papers should settle the question. While some of the authors in this issue dispute the centrality of the concept itself (although no one is willing to dispense with it entirely), those who agree on its utility, and who even share aspects of a common theory, present divergent views on (1) the location of conflict in the patient's mind, (2) its location in the clinical hour, (3) the inferential processes used to determine its presence, (4) its units—that is, what is in conflict with what, (5) its historical and developmental timetable, (6) the methods by which analysts should address it, and (7) how closely those methods are tied to the theories with which they are associated.

In short, while conflict as an analytic focus appears to be alive and well, it is discussed on so many different levels of abstraction that one might wonder if any of these authors is truly talking to any other, whether any of their views can be integrated, and whether there is any benefit in attempting to do so. In order to develop these themes more fully, I will emphasize certain papers over others. Reading through the issue as a whole, a series of dialogues begins to emerge between one author and another, some of them surprising.


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