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Bonovitz, C. (2009). Mixed Race and the Negotiation of Racialized Selves: Developing the Capacity for Internal Conflict. Psychoanal. Dial., 19(4):426-441.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19(4):426-441

Mixed Race and the Negotiation of Racialized Selves: Developing the Capacity for Internal Conflict

Christopher Bonovitz, Psy.D.

The author uses contemporary psychoanalytic theory in further understanding the negotiation of conflict and dissociation in biracial patients who are both African-American and White. Drawing on the work of contemporary theorists who have made efforts to navigate the relationship between inner and outer worlds in our understanding of race from a psychoanalytic perspective, the author examines the relationship between race, culture, and internalized self-other relations—how they interact with each other and impact splitting and dissociative processes among self-states. The author argues for a notion of the unconscious as one that contains historical trauma related to race relations that influences the developing capacity to sustain internal conflict between opposing self-states borne out of this trauma. The author shows how society works against the integration of racialized self-states and interferes with the capacity to contain conflict. Through an extended clinical vignette from an analysis of a mixed-race patient, the author looks at the interplay of self-states between a White analyst (author) and a mixed-race patient (African-American and White) as manifested through a series of enactments and the unconscious “mating” between dissociated self-states in both patient and analyst. The author argues that the analyst's engagement of his or her own dissociated self-states and containment of internal conflict is critical to aiding the patient in moving toward greater integration.

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