The Critique of Regression: A Psychoanalytic Model of Irreversible Lifespan Development, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Critique of Regression

A Psychoanalytic Model of Irreversible Lifespan Development, 1st Edition

By Gregory S. Rizzolo


220 pages

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The Critique of Regression presents the most in-depth critique of regression available in the psychoanalytic literature, whilst presenting the first psychoanalytic theory of irreversible lifespan development. The clinical implications are amply demonstrated in three chapter-length psychoanalytic cases. The most important implication is that when we revisit the past, in a private memory or in an analytic session, we remake it afresh in light of the present. The analysis of the past is always, in this sense, an exploration of the present.

Gregory S. Rizzolo demonstrates that where we think we see returns, or regressions, to past stages of the lifespan, we in fact find the emergence of novel structures in subjective experience. Rizzolo considers the work of human development to be a work of mourning in which we lose, internalize and keep re-working the residue of a past to which we never return. The traditional notion of regression, which supports the fantasy of a literal return, operates as an intellectual defense against the mourning process. To critique the concept is to address the defense and to confront the loss of past relationships and of past versions of selfhood inherent in development. From the work of mourning emerge ever-new configurations of desire, defense and subjective meaning. The task of analysis is to cultivate, amidst the repetition of familiar patterns, the potential for novelty at play in each moment.

This thought-provoking work will interest new and experienced psychoanalytic clinicians alike, who want to go beyond traditional theories of development to a contemporary look at how we develop inexorably across the lifespan.


"This is an exceptionally scholarly and thoughtful piece of work, with a highly sophisticated, logical, empirically incontestable frame. Rizzolo provides a helpful methodological guide for psychoanalytic conceptual research alongside an exciting innovative exploration of an area of significant controversy."-Peter Fonagy, Professor of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Developmental Science, UCL, UK

"This book is a thorough examination of the concept of regression and a persuasive critique. The case Rizzolo makes for a move to lateral shifts and the subtle transformations of lifelong development, rather than regression, is a well-worked and mature one, enhanced by the clinical material. I can see this being an influential and important book for some time to come."-Lewis Aron, Ph.D., Director, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis, USA

"Gregory Rizzolo is an exciting voice from the next generation of psychoanalysts who are reexamining change over time, in our lives and through psychodynamic treatments. He challenges earlier views that conflate temporal and causal sequences of development, exposing biases inherent to those views of what is normal or pathological. Rizzolo examines key concepts through scholarly deconstruction of their assumptions, clearing away what is no longer useful and may in fact distort current practices---a critical step to ensure the evolution of our field."-Bonnie E. Litowitz, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association

Table of Contents

Introduction 1 The Defensive and Restorative Traditions 2 The Conservative and Radical Critiques 3 The Person as Agent 4 The Field of Deferred Action 5 The Life Cycle (without Regression) 6 The Specter of the Primitive 7 The Depth of the Present 8 The Case of John 9 The Case of Kyle 10 The Case of Travis Conclusion

About the Author

Gregory S. Rizzolo, is a faculty member at the Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago and an advanced candidate at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. His work has appeared in Psychoanalytic Psychology, the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child and the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. He maintains a private practice in Chicago, USA.

About the Series

Psychoanalysis in a New Key Book Series

When music is played in a new key, the melody does not change, but the notes that make up the composition do: change in the context of continuity, continuity that perseveres through change. Psychoanalysis in a New Key publishes books that share the aims psychoanalysts have always had, but that approach them differently. The books in the series are not expected to advance any particular theoretical agenda, although to this date most have been written by analysts from the Interpersonal and Relational orientations.

The most important contribution of a psychoanalytic book is the communication of something that nudges the reader’s grasp of clinical theory and practice in an unexpected direction. Psychoanalysis in a New Key creates a deliberate focus on innovative and unsettling clinical thinking. Because that kind of thinking is encouraged by exploration of the sometimes surprising contributions to psychoanalysis of ideas and findings from other fields, Psychoanalysis in a New Key particularly encourages interdisciplinary studies. Books in the series have married psychoanalysis with dissociation, trauma theory, sociology, and criminology. The series is open to the consideration of studies examining the relationship between psychoanalysis and any other field – for instance, biology, literary and art criticism, philosophy, systems theory, anthropology, and political theory.

But innovation also takes place within the boundaries of psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalysis in a New Key therefore also presents work that reformulates thought and practice without leaving the precincts of the field. Books in the series focus, for example, on the significance of personal values in psychoanalytic practice, on the complex interrelationship between the analyst’s clinical work and personal life, on the consequences for the clinical situation when patient and analyst are from different cultures, and on the need for psychoanalysts to accept the degree to which they knowingly satisfy their own wishes during treatment hours, often to the patient’s detriment.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis