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Sampson, H. (1992). Reply to Greenberg. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(4):539-543.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(4):539-543

Reply to Greenberg Related Papers

Harold Sampson, Ph.D.

Jay Greenberg has referred to our warm friendship, our mutual respect for each other's work, and our open, spirited discussions of our differing versions of reality. I have enjoyed these discussions and have learned a great deal from them. I am pleased, then, to take this opportunity to continue our dialogue.

Jay argues forcefully for the subjectivity of beliefs about reality: they are constructions, not literal transcriptions of an external situation; they are shaped powerfully by inner motives and other subjective factors; they may be highly inaccurate constructions of an actual event or interpersonal situation.

None of these points is in dispute. In fact, they are central tenets of Weiss's theory, and they are each developed explicitly in my paper. Nonetheless, Jay is correct in sensing that something is awry, for we do differ about the implications of the subjectivity of beliefs, and my position is based on a novel and unfamiliar paradigm that challenges conceptions that Jay takes as self-evident. Therefore, Jay feels in his bones that there is something troubling, if not perversely wrongheaded, about my paper. Are not beliefs usually thought of as less strong and stable structures than in my usage? And yet, in treatment, are not beliefs stubbornly maintained for long periods of time in the face of contradictory evidence? Am I not underestimating motivation and overestimating the “power of reality”? Why do I not give more weight to the fact that wishes sometimes override reality? Would it not be more straightforward to talk about internalized object relations instead of beliefs? And why in the world are beliefs about reality given a central place in Weiss's theory when psychic life contains such vital forces as needs and affects and fantasies? In responding to some of these concerns, I shall try to clarify further what I take to be our actual differences.

Needs May Distort Appraisals of Reality

The touchstone to which Jay repeatedly returns throughout his discussion is that inner needs influence our appraisals of reality.

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