Building Bridges: The Negotiation of Paradox in Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Building Bridges

The Negotiation of Paradox in Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition

By Stuart A. Pizer


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In Building Bridges, Stuart A. Pizer gives much-needed recognition to the central role of negotiation in the analytic relationship and in the therapeutic process. Building on a Winnicottian perspective that comprehends paradox as the condition for preserving an intrapsychic and relational "potential space," Pizer explores how the straddling of paradox requires an ongoing process of negotiation and demonstrates how such negotiation articulates the creative potential within the potential space of analysis.

Following careful review of Winnicott's perspective on paradox-via the pairings of privacy and interrelatedness, isolation and interdependence, ruthlessness and concern, and the notion of transitional phenomena-Pizer locates these elemental paradoxes within the negotiations of an analytic process. Together, he observes, analyst and patient negotiate the boundaries, potentials, limits, tonalities, resistances, and meanings that determine the course of their clinical dialogue. Elaborating on the theme of a multiply constituted, "distributed" self, Pizer presents a model for the tolerance of paradox as a developmental achievement related to ways in which caretakers function as "transitional mirrors." He then explores the impact of trauma and dissociation on the child's ability to negotiate paradox and clarifies how negotiation of paradox differs from negotiation of conflict. Pizer also broadens the scope of his study by turning to negotiation theory and practices in the disciplines of law, diplomacy, and dispute resolution.

Enlivened by numerous clinical vignettes and a richly detailed chronicle of an analytic case from its earliest negotiations to termination, Building Bridges adds a significant dimension to theoretical understanding and clinical practice. It is altogether a psychoanalytic work of our time.


"In this deeply thoughtful, moving book, Pizer lays bare the subjectivity and reflectiveness of the analyst with rare honesty and great breadth of understanding. By elaborating his own unique understanding of paradox and recognition in the context of a generous but critical reflection on the work of his colleagues in relational psychoanalysis, Pizer offers a valuable framework for this emerging perspective. At the same time, his discussion of negotiating the 'crunches' within the analytic relationship illuminates so skillfully the daily experience of our practice - the personal agonies and empathies, the missteps as well as the successes, the love and the hate of this intimate work - that I would commend it to all as a compassionate guide to the analytic journey."

- Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D., author of Shadow of the Other

"Pizer’s highly developed view of the psychoanalytic encounter in terms of paradox has enormous value. He is radical in his uncompromising insistence that psychic life is characterized by unresolved, perhaps insoluble, contradictions. At the same time, he is exquisitely sensitive to the process of negotiation by which paradox is continuously managed intrapsychically and in interpersonal relations. No clinician can afford to overlook Pizer’s unique perspective on the way in which analytic work unfolds.”

- Owen Renik, M.D., San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute

"Building Bridges examines contemporary approaches to the understanding of the psychoanalytic process. Pizer fully acknowledges and documents the impossible dilemmas implicit in psychoanalytic treatment. In doing so he provides a theoretical framework for moving far beyond traditional ideas of conflict resolution. Readers will find this book to be a very thoughtful contribution to psychoanalytic technique."

- Arnold H. Modell, M.D., Harvard Medical School

“[Building Bridges] enriched my work and my thinking about my work. Its clinical material is offered in generous portions and with remarkable candor and feelings.”

- Donnel Stern, Ph.D., JAPA

Table of Contents


I. Paradox and Negotiation in Development and Analysis

1. The Negotiation of Paradox in the Analytic Process

2. "I Wish You Were My Father!": Negotiating Potential Space

3. Multiplicity, Paradox, and the Creative Self

4. The Capacity to Tolerate Paradox: Bridging Multiplicity Within the Self

5. Facing the Nonnegotiable

II. Paradox and Negotiation in Wider Contexts: Genders, Species, Nation

6. A Wider Context . . . and a Critique of "Tribal" Gender Categorie

7. Paradox and Negotiation in a Wider Context: Species

8. Paradox and Negotiation in a Wider Context: Nations

Epilogue: "The Scent of a Spring Day"

About the Author

Stuart A. Pizer, Ph.D., is supervising analyst and faculty member of the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis and instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School. He is a contributing editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and an editorial reader for The Psychoanalytic Quarterly. A member of the New York Freudian Society, Dr. Pizer is founding chair of the ethics committee of The Psychoanalytic Consortium.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Interpersonal Relations
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General