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Slochower, J. (1996). Reply to Commentaries. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(3):379-390.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(3):379-390

Reply to Commentaries Related Papers

Joyce Slochower, Ph.D.

Neville symington and i come at psychoanalytic process from rather clearly divergent perspectives that offer a welcome opportunity for dialogue. Symington defines the goal of psychoanalysis as “to acquire insight into mental life with the aim of fostering its development.” He contrasts his view with my own statement that the goal of treatment is to deepen self-experience within an intersubjective context. He feels that I focus on the evolution of the patient's experience of self and object at the expense of developing an understanding of the dynamic (intrapsychic) origins of the patient's experience.

Symington has highlighted an important aspect of psychoanalytic work that raises interesting questions regarding the interface of theory and technique. From his point of view, issues of “knowing” are primary within the treatment context, and he feels that the relational positions tend to reify experience at the expense of deepened internal understanding.

Is this so? Do we pay a price—in terms of deepened understanding of individual dynamics—for our focus on the intersubjective aspects of personal experience? I certainly have struggled with this issue at times and have wondered about the relative benefits to be accrued from a more pointed focus on internal dynamics versus intersubjective process.

In the end, however, I come to a different conclusion from that of Symington. I ultimately am not convinced that the patient or I can “know” about his or her subjective process unless we begin within the intersubjective field. In this sense, whether I am working around issues related to holding, or during what I would call “ordinary” analytic moments, I find myself repeatedly rediscovering how embedded the patient's dynamic process is within her experience of the dyad. In these “ordinary” moments, I work interpretively around both themes, in ways that I read to be not so very different from Symington's.

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