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Michels, R. (1988). Commentary. Psychoanal. Inq., 8(4):568-577.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 8(4):568-577

Commentary

Robert Michels, M.D.

The title of the conference, “The Intrapsychic and Interpersonal Dimensions: An Unresolved Dilemma,” leads me to observe that, in fact, true intellectual dilemmas are never resolved; they just fade away, replaced by new and more interesting dilemmas. We have seen that this earlier dilemma no longer has much heat attached to it, although there are still residual loyalties to the leaders who bore the banners in the former disputes. More important, a series of new dilemmas have moved to center stage and now occupy our attention.

One theme of the panel offers an illustration. Mitchell, in his brilliant summary of the historical background of the dilemma, warns us to be careful not to read too casually. He points out two important things about Sullivan's interpersonal model. First, that Sullivan was fighting not with Freud but rather with Kraepelin. The “interpersonal” paradigm was designed as an antidote to the brain-constitutional diathesis that was the popular alternative. Second, that Sullivan did modify one element of Freud. In shifting from the centrality of an “inner drive program” of psychic development to an “environmental experience and secondary internalization” model of psychic development, Sullivan was bothered by Freud's preoccupation with the drive origin of mental life and modified this aspect of Freud's theory in his psychology.

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