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Modell, A.H. (1995). Discussion of Articles on Relational Theory in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 12(1):109-114.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 12(1):109-114

Discussion of Articles on Relational Theory in Psychoanalysis

Arnold H. Modell, M.D.

Darwin noted that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service. This dictum can be applied to theories as well as to observations. If a theory is to have any value, it must express a difference; it must stand in opposition to an earlier theory. But in doing so, the author may deem it necessary to exaggerate the difference between the new and the old. There is widespread agreement among the discussants that Greenberg and Mitchell (1983), to stake out the territory of a “new” theory, dichotomized the differences between relational theory and what they characterized as Freud's “drive-structure” model; in order to buttress the “revolutionary” nature of relational theory, they exaggerated their differences with Freud. As Bachant, Lynch, and Richards (this issue) note, Greenberg and Mitchell set Freud up as a straw man in Object Relations and Psychoanalytic Theory by focusing on early Freud instead of Freud's later theories that emphasized the significance of identification and object loss in structure formation. Further, Freud posited that what was internalized represented a relationship between persons. For example, in “An Outline of Psychoanalysis,” Freud (1940) described the superego's function in relation to the ego as carrying on the functions performed by people in the outside world. Fairbairn essentially extended Freud's concept of internalized object relations. Although Freud never developed a relational theory as such, for he never embraced the concept of a self, in my 1968 monograph Object Love and Reality, I noted a that there is in fact a latent Freudian theory of object relations.

Freud was not a dichotomous thinker, and he never contrasted a psychology of the individual with a social model of the personality.

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