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Spezzano, C. (1996). The Three Faces of Two-Person Psychology: Development, Ontology, and Epistemology. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(5):599-622.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(5):599-622

The Three Faces of Two-Person Psychology: Development, Ontology, and Epistemology Related Papers

Charles Spezzano, Ph.D.

With the breakdown of the hegemonic hold of ego psychology on American psychoanalysis, we have been groping for ways to describe, explain, and label a new paradigm. A variety of terms have been offered, including participant observation, social constructivism, and intersubjectivity. In this paper, I use the phrase two-person psychology to embrace all these dimensions of the new paradigm. I suggest that both the ongoing struggle to define this paradigm and the proliferation of names for it are due to the fact that any viable psychoanalytic paradigm must address issues at least at three levels of discourse: the developmental (the origin of self and object representations), the ontological (the essentials of human nature), and the epistemological (on what basis and in what ways can we claim to know anything about anyone's unconscious psychology, including our own?).

Perhaps the most widely recognized part of the one-person versus two-person dichotomy is the developmental component. At the developmental level, the question at stake has been whether we interpret as if children make themselves up or as if they are largely created by their parents. Ontologically, what is ultimately at stake in the one-person versus two-person debate is the fate of the concept of resistance. Any two person psychoanalytic theory of therapy will be forced to abandon the notions that resistance is intrapsychic and that resistance is the ego's

primary agenda in the psychoanalytic situation. Finally, any psychology that is “two-person” at the epistemological level will assume that conscious insight, intellectual or emotional, is an event in a dialogue, not an achievement of a lone and private mind contemplating itself.

In any particular case vignette or theoretical essay we may be able to find assumptions that place the work in either the one-person or two-person “camp” at one level of discourse but in the opposite camp at another level of discourse. This makes it more difficult than it might seem to say of a particular analyst that he or she is a one-person or two-person psychologist. It also suggests that other ways of describing and labeling the emerging American paradigm of psychoanalytic theory and practice may be required and that the simple relational versus nonrelational dichotomy is a transitional phase in defining schools of thought within psychoanalysis.

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