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Harris, A. (2004). The Relational Unconscious: Commentary on Papers by Michael Eigen and James Grotstein. Psychoanal. Dial., 14(1):131-137.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 14(1):131-137

The Relational Unconscious: Commentary on Papers by Michael Eigen and James Grotstein

Adrienne Harris, Ph.D.

This discussion addresses key points of contact and difference in the work of Eigen and Grotstein, each of whom holds unique and highly dramatic and enigmatic views of unconscious life. Their views can be framed as relational. They each cite Bion as an important influence but develop distinct sensibilities. In conceptualizing the unconscious, each author must tangle with difficulties with language and representation. Using a clinical example, I point out four aspects of my work on the unconscious: that unusual links of body and mind are posited; that the unconscious is historical; that the unconscious also contains transhistorical forces and processes; and, finally, that unconscious life handles time in unusual and nonrational ways. Eigen's interest in process and Grotstein's interest in mental structures are contrasted. The ethical implications of work on the unconscious are suggested.

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