Award Year: 2015
In his own words:
Since the beginning of my career as a psychoanalyst my interest has been focused on creating conversations among analysts working within different conceptual, institutional, and geographic traditions, and in participating in those conversations. My first book, Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory (written with Stephen Mitchell and published in 1983) was an exercise in comparative psychoanalysis; we aimed at bringing the ideas of theorists who were either little known or had been marginalized in the United States into dialogue with the classical Freudian/ego psychological tradition that dominated the North American mainstream at the time.
The “relational model” that Mitchell and I constructed was intended as a kind of heuristic. We made no assumption that the model was internally consistent, comprehensive, or even coherent; we used the common themes that we were able to discern in the work of very different thinkers to demonstrate that a legitimately psychoanalytic approach could be developed on the basis of an alternative set of assumptions to those that Freud (as interpreted by his first and second generation followers in North America) had built upon. Thus, the premises of the relational model could be used to interrogate those of what we termed the “drive model,” and vice versa. My second book, Oedipus and Beyond: A Clinical Theory (1991) further developed this process of mutual interrogation.
My work as a journal editor reflects similar interests. I have served as Editor of Contemporary Psychoanalysis (1994-2001), as Editor for North American of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (2007-2010), and as Editor of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly (2011-present). In each position I have worked not only to give representation to authors from different traditions but, more importantly, to encourage communication among them. This sort communication is essential to the vitality of psychoanalysis as an intellectual discipline.
Equally important, I believe that the awareness of difference (and of course awareness of similarities that include shades of difference) is essential to each of us as working clinicians. As theories work best when they are allowed to interrogate each other, so it is my hope that awareness of alternative perspectives will lead each of us in our consulting rooms to question our own assumptions and so to wonder about what might be inattended at any moment. I do not advocate ecumenicism, which can represent a retreat from rigor, but I do believe that there is a liveliness that comes from wondering and even from a bit of uncertainty about what we are doing with our analysands. This emphasis runs through my teaching and is reflected in a series of papers that I have written over the past decade.
My approach to psychoanalysis has certainly been influenced by the circumstances of my life. I was born in Brooklyn, New York which is both a part of and in many ways different from the city (and perhaps the country) as a whole. I attended the University of Chicago, which at the time was simultaneously committed to and outside the academic mainstream. And finally my analytic training was at the William Alanson White Institute, where I am a Training and Supervising Analyst; the White Institute is deeply immersed in psychoanalytic sensibilities but until the last year has not been affiliated with any larger psychoanalytic organizations. All of these experiences have led me to appreciate dialectics of similarity and difference, and to grapple with the convergences and contradictions that characterize different ways of seeing the worlds in which we live.
Finally, I have been able to pursue these interests because of the support of my partner and my four children. From them I have learned that our work as psychoanalysts begins and ends with the mingling of love and creativity that is essential to life that is fully lived.