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Harris, A. (1992). Introduction. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(1):1-3.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(1):1-3


Adrienne Harris, Ph.D.

With this series of papers, Psychoanalytic Dialogues launches a contribution to one of the crucial debates within psychoanalysis. The conduct of this debate often has the eerie quality of shadowboxing. Sometimes it is a debate about the relative contributions of fantasy and reality, sometimes a discussion of technique, and sometimes a struggle over the writing and rewriting of our history, in particular, the reality and fantasy constructions of the conflicts between Freud and Ferenczi. But, always, beneath and beside these preoccupations sits a fundamental question, the heart of darkness: sexual abuse of a vulnerable child by a more powerful and often beloved adult. These quite different, and often contesting, papers on child abuse and its sequelae share one abiding concern: a passionate determination to take the measure of the immediate and enduring impact of violent trauma on the mind, body, and character of a young person and to offer principled and enlightened help.

This set of papers covers an extraordinary range of issues and ideas and thus offers a unique opportunity for readers to expand both their theoretical knowledge and their clinical tools. Think of this as an extended conversation in which difference is both respected and mutative.

This conversation begins with a contribution by Jody Messler Davies and Mary Gail Frawley and proceeds to the antiphonal and strikingly different voices of three respondents: Shengold, Grotstein, and Gabbard. Davies and Frawley make an absorbing counterresponse, and, unexpectedly, we have an intriguing coda in the interview with Joyce McDougall.

These papers work least well when a theoretical or ideological “other” is polarized or reified.

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