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113 Relational Psychoanalysis: From Freud to Relational Analysis – 3 seminars

Seminar Leaders: D. Carveth, J. Kohl and R. Ruskin

Course Description

This three-seminar series offers a review of the basic concepts of relational psychoanalysis and its application to the psychoanalytic process. These seminars focus on the role of the analyst, encompassing awareness of the patient’s dynamic conflicts and the complex relational aspects of the analyst’s subjectivity and intersubjectivity between analyst and patient. From its outset, despite theoretical differences, psychoanalysis was never non-relational. Psychoanalytic terms such as transference, counter-transference, resistance, can be seen both as a one-body psychology and as a two-body inter-psychic process. In the introductory seminar, Seminar 1: Freud’s drive theory is compared and contrasted with historic developments from Klein, Fairbairn, Mahler, Winnicott, and Kohut pertaining to conceptual and technical changes in how the analyst listens and responds to the patient. In the second seminar, Seminar 2, intersubjectivity and Ogden’s concept of the Third is reviewed and discussed. In the third seminar, Seminar 3, dissociation and self-states are reviewed with particular reference to the patient’s organization of self and experience and the analyst’s capacity to relate to these phenomena and promote an analytic process.

Course Objectives

Candidates will be able to:

  1. Describe and integrate basic aspects of modern Freudian psychoanalysis with relational psychoanalysis (1.2a)
  2. Have knowledge of key technical concepts of relational psychoanalysis as applied to impact of the therapist’s self on the therapeutic relationship (1.4a)
  3. Recognize how oppression, power, and social injustice may affect the client’s organization of self and the therapeutic relationship (1.5b)
  4. Integrate knowledge of dissociation and knowledge of the impact of trauma on the relationship of the patient to the therapist and the patient’s psychological functioning (1.2g)

Seminar 1

In Stephen Mitchell’s Introduction to his text “Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis” [1988] the author argues that “there is a fundamental distinction between Freud’s drive theory and the major trends within contemporary psychoanalytic thinking…Freud views mind as fundamentally monadic; something inherent, wired in, prestructured, is pushing from within. Relational-model theories view mind as fundamentally dyadic and interactive, above all else, mind seeks contact, engagement with other minds.” [p3] Yet Mitchell goes on to say that: “These two theoretical models are not discretely dichotomous—they overlap considerably.” [p4]

Mitchell sees a paradigm shift from Freud’s brilliant descriptions of the individual mind to a view of the mind as developed in a social interactive matrix. Citing developmental work by Bowlby, clinical work by Fairbairn, [who argued the ego is not pleasure-seeking, but object seeking] using Klein’s concept of reparation, Mahler’s developmental approach, Winnicott’s facilitating environment and good-enough mother, and Kohut’s concept of human suffering not only because of conflict but because of deficiency [deficits produced by faulty self object functioning], Mitchell argues for a multiplicity of voices and perspectives in contemporary psychoanalysis.

At the end of Seminar One, candidates should be able to describe the basic similarities and differences between modern Freudian psychoanalysis and Relational Psychoanalysis. Candidates should be able to critically address the question: is the mind, and its psychic apparatus primarily an individual unit, rather than an interactional field or is the mind primarily a product of a social-relational matrix?

Required Reading

Mitchell, S.“ The Relational Matrix” Cpt. One p17-40 in: Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis: An Integration.

Seminar 2

Working with Intersubjectivity.

In this paper, Ogden describes “the interplay between subjectivity and intersubjectivity influence the practice of psychoanalysis and the way clinical theory is generated.” [p3] Ogden directs us to consider that the analyst and the analysand participate in a form of interdependence and exist not as wholly separate objects, but are interdependent as subject and object, and unlike the model of the blank screen onto which projections of the other are received, may instead be involved in a model of a dialectical process, much like Winnicott’s expression “There is no such thing as an infant.” Ogden states that the struggles of being within and outside of the intersubjectivity of the analyst-analysand, is “the analytic third.” Ogden relates in his two clinical anecdotes how awareness of the analyst’s complex state of mind is influenced by environmental/relational factors yet at the same time how the analyst’s mind is concurrently influencing environmental/relational factors. How does the analyst keep track of the multiplicity of such data?

Bromberg uses the metaphor of disruptions, “potholes”, “bumps” on our joint journeys, patient and analyst, to explore the spontaneous, at times dissociated aspects of the analysand, and finding voice for these unsymbolized affects. At the end of Seminar 2 the candidates should be able to define the interplay between subjectivity and intersubjectivity and define what is meant by Ogden’s use of the analytic third.

Required Reading

Ogden, T. “The analytic third: Working with intersubjective clinical facts. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 76, 3-19.

Required Reading

Bromberg, P. (2000). Potholes on the royal road or is it an abyss. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 36(1), 5-28.

Seminar 3

Exploring Dissociation in Psychoanalysis

Davies and Frawley comment on the relevance of dissociative phenomena in psychoanalytic work, with particular reference to dissociation initially being viewed in classical psychoanalysis as a regressive defense against aggressive and libidinal instinctual forces, rather than a process that preserves and splits off aspects of the internal world of the abused child-adult. As the authors state: “We believe that in making contact with the split-off, dissociated, child persona within the abused adult, we free these archaic objects to work their way into the transference-countertransference paradigms through projective-introjective mechanisms and, in so doing, enable patients to work through each possible configuration within the therapeutic relationship.” [p8] Historically, the elucidation of dissociative experience has been only recently elaborated within a traumatic framework and requires the analyst to be aware of how trauma organizes self-experience. Relational perspectives may offer the analyst through their observation of the patient and their subjective experience of their self, access to dissociated aspects of the patient.

Bromberg reviews an essay by Peter Goldberg, who offers a “timely and compelling view of dissociation as a fundamental organizer of personality structure—a view that is relational in every sense of the term; between individuals, between the individual and society, and within the individual’s representational world.” At the end of Seminar 3, candidates should be able to describe the nature of dissociation and self-states from a relational perspective. This series of seminars will explore relationality as a developmental process in psychoanalytic clinical practice and theory.

Required Reading

Davies, J.M. & Frawley, M.G. (1992). “Dissociative processes and transference-counter-transference paradigms in psychoanalytically oriented treatment of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Psychoanalytic Dialogues 2(1), 5-36.

Recommended Readings

Benjamin, J. (2004). “Beyond does and done to: an intersubjective view of thirdness”. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 73(1), 5-41.

Bromberg, P.M. (1995). “Psychoanalysis, dissociation and personality organization: reflections on Peter Goldberg’s essay. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 5(3), 511-528. (Benjamin’s paper offers an alternate view of the Third, compared to Ogden, which she refers to as the “one in the third” keeping a reflective sense of self without being overly coerced by the demands of the other).

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