Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Contemporary Look at Conflict

I am always delighted when I read how contemporary relational thinkers reconfigure century old tenets in psychoanalysis. Adrienne Harris does just that with conflict in her 2005 paper Conflict in Relational Treatments (PsaQ 74:267-293). Though finding her paper somewhat confounding, the TBIPS Relational Study Group delightedly discussed the elaborations of conflicts in human experience which Harris considers. She elaborates on conflicts between the needs of self and others (interpersonal conflicts), between two unconsciouses (intersubjective conflicts), and conflicts between self states, in addition to the traditionally understood conflicts between wishes and between wishes and their prohibitions. Along with conflicts between ego-id-superego, additional intrapsychic conflicts exist between the multiple selves of one person and the multiple unconsciouses found within these multiple selves. Disavowed or dissociated parts of self may then never come into the treatment with the selves states of a particular analyst. Conflicts for the analyst, too, include the conflict between sticking to the rules of training and being spontaneous; the conflict of desiring the imposition on the patient of the normative and the hope for the patient to have freedom from these constraints. Speech, too, provides for conflict, for example, between what is said and how it is said, between content and tone/prosody, or content and intention. For both participants there is the pull between the wish to change and the wish to stay the same. There are the interpersonal and intersubjective conflicts between analyst’s and analysand’s agendas, both overt and covert, and also those between the unconscious(es) of the analysand and the analyst. Consider then the multiplicity of the analyst’s selves and those of the analysand in their innumerable combinations! I often think that the analyst must juggle a huge number of balls in the air-- while walking a tightrope. Harris made me consider adding to that number.

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