Fairbairn, Then and Now: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Fairbairn, Then and Now

1st Edition

Edited by Neil J. Skolnick, David E. Scharff


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W. R. D. Fairbairn was both a precursor and an architect of revolutionary change in psychoanalysis. Through a handful of tightly reasoned papers written in the 1940s and 1950s, Fairbairn emerged as an incisive, albeit relatively obscure, voice in the wilderness, at considerable remove from mainstream Freudian and Kleinian psychoanalysis. But in the 1970s Harry Guntrip made Fairbairn's thinking more accessible to a wide readership, and Fairbairn's object relations theory, with its innovative theoretical and clinical concepts, was at the center of the turn toward relational thinking that swept psychoanalysis in the 1980s and 1990s.

Fairbairn, Then and Now is a landmark volume, because a thorough grasp of Fairbairn's contribution is crucial to any understanding of what is taking place within psychoanalysis today. And Fairbairn's work remains a treasure trove of rich insights into the problems and issues in theory and clinical practice with which analysts and therapists are struggling today.

This is a particularly propitious time for renewed focus on Fairbairn's contribution. A wealth of previously unpublished material has recently emerged, and the implications of Fairbairn's ideas for current developments in trauma, dissociation, infant research, self theory, field theory, and couple and family therapy are becoming increasingly clear. The conference that stimulated the contributions to this volume by internationally eminent Fairbairn clinicians and scholars was a historically important event, and Fairbairn, Then and Now makes the intellectual ferment generated by this event available to all interested readers.


"Read Klein's paper on paranoid-schizoid phenomena, Winnicott's elaboration of early mental life, Kohut's account of the self struggling for unity, or even Lacan's critique of traditional ego psychology, and you find glimmerings of Fairbairnian ideas at key junctures. With the emergence of each new generations of analysts, Fairbairn receives wider recognition and greater acclaim not only for his discovery of the repressed object, but increasingly for his psychology of the split ego; this latter notion has resurfaced as perhaps the central character in contemporary accounts of the unconscious landscape. For any reader seeking to conprehend Fairbairn's contribution fully, to gain insight into their significance and structure, this thoughtfully edited volume will be invaluable. The contributors draw out hiterto unexamined and underappreciated aspects of Fairbairn's work."

- Charles Spezzano, Ph.D., Training and Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California

"Fairbairn, Then and Now is an exciting, panoramic exposition and appreciation of Fairbairn's work and ideas. It charts his nodal position in the unfolding developmental history of psychoanalysis, including the ever-widening ramifications of his work for all the contemporaneous relational currents that mark the present-day paradigmatic shift in American psychoanalysis. Several contributors offer impresive modifications and extensions of Fairbairnian thinking, while exploring its similarities to, and divergences from, the theorizing of such major British contemporaries as Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion, and D. W. Winnicott. And most important, this volume is an impressive expression of, and addition to, the current reassertion of Fairbairn's status, long neglected as a (and perhaps the) seminal innovator of the object-relational (and self) paradigm that has so altered the American psychoanalytic landscape of the past two decades."

- Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D., Former President, International Psychoanalytic Association and American Psychoanalytic Association

Table of Contents

Introduction - David Scharff and Neil Skolnick

I. Historical Connections

Scottish Connection-Suttie-Fairbairn-Sutherland, A Quiet Revolution - Alan Harrow

Fairbairn's Contribution: An Interview with Otto Kernberg - David E. Scharff

"Developing Connections: Fairbairn's Philosophic Contribution - Ellinor Fairbairn Birtles

II. Theoretical Connections: To the Past

Repression and Dissociation-Freud and Janet: Fairbairn's New Model of Unconscious Process - Jody Messler Davies

Comparison of Fairbairn's Endopsychic Structure and Klein's Internal World - James S. Grotstein

The Dialectic Between W. R. D. Fairbairn and Wilfred Bion - Jeffrey Seinfeld

III. Theoretical Connections: To the Future

Fairbairn's Object Seeking: Between Paradigms - Stephen A. Mitchell

The Good, The Bad, and the Ambivalent: Fairbairn's Difficulty Locating the Good Object in the Endopsychic Structure - Neil J. Skolnick

Fairbairn and the Self: An Extension of Fairbairn's Theory by Sutherland - Jill Savage Scharff

IV. Artistic Connections

Alter Egos: Close Encounters of the Paranoid Kind: W. R. D. Fairbairn, Salvador Dali, and Me - Steven Z. Levine

A Fairbairnian Analysis of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Hilary J. Beattie

V. Clinical Connections

Fairbairn's Theory of Depression - Richard L. Rubens

Structural Sources of Resistance in the Battered Woman: A Fairbairnian Analysis - David P. Celani

Object Construction, Object Sorting, and Object Exclusion: Implications of Family and Marital Therapy for Object Relations Theory - David E. Scharff

About the Editors

Neil J. Skolnick, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University, and a faculty member and supervisor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. He is co-editor of Relational Perspectives in Psychoanalysis (Analytic Press, 1992).

David E. Scharff, M.D., is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University and Co-Director of the International Institute of Object Relations Therapy.

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.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Applied Psychology
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health