A critical appraisal of relational approaches to psychoanalysis
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In the last twenty years, relational psychoanalysis has emerged as an important voice in psychoanalytic theory and practice. Relational approaches operate within the tension between intrapsychic and interpersonal levels of explanation. On the one hand, intrapsychic explanations assume the existence of a private inner life focusing on internal processes such as fantasy, desires, repression, and unconscious motivations. On the other hand, interpersonal explanations focus on transactions with others, the daily give and take of our relationships, and our inextricable participation in the social realm. Schools in the relational movement often struggle to integrate these two poles, but the risk seems to be collapsing one explanatory pole into the other. This work argues that framing this discussion within a wider philosophical horizon can suggest a compelling new way of thinking about these matters. The theoretical psychology of Jack Martin and Jeff Sugarman (1999, 2000), the philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer (1977, 1994), and Martin Heidegger (1993, 1996), offer a view of selfhood that transcends the problematic internal-external dichotomy pervasive in relational approaches.