The Interpersonal Tradition: The origins of psychoanalytic subjectivity, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Interpersonal Tradition

The origins of psychoanalytic subjectivity, 1st Edition

By Irwin Hirsch


222 pages

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Paperback: 9780415749527
pub: 2014-09-24
Hardback: 9780415749510
pub: 2014-09-18
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pub: 2014-09-19
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In The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity, Irwin Hirsch offers an overview of psychoanalytic history and in particular the evolution of Interpersonal thinking, which has become central to much contemporary psychoanalytic theory and practice. This book of Hirsch’s selected papers provides an overview of his work on the topic over a thirty year period (1984-2014), with a new introductory chapter and a brief updating prologue to each subsequent chapter.                  

Hirsch offers an original perspective on clinical psychoanalytic process, comparative psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory, particularly explicating the many ways in which Interpersonal thinking is absolutely central to contemporary theory and practice. Each chapter is filled with theoretical explication and clinical examples that illustrate the degree to which the idiosyncratic person of each psychoanalyst inevitably plays a significant role in both analytic praxis and analytic theorizing.  Key to this perspective is the recognition that each unique individual analyst is an inherently subjective co-participant in all aspects of analytic process, underscoring the importance that analysts maintain an acute sensitivity to the participation of both parties in the transference-countertransference matrix. Overall, the book argues that the Interpersonal psychoanalytic tradition, more than any other, is responsible for the post-modern and Relational turn in contemporary psychoanalysis.

Based on a range of seminal papers that outline how the Interpersonal psychoanalytic tradition is integral to understanding much of contemporary psychoanalytic thought, this book will be essential reading for practitioners and students of psychoanalysis.


‘In this, his second book, Dr. Hirsch, like Diogenes, continues his tradition of holding up a light to psychoanalysis, therapeutic interaction, and unflinchingly himself as part of the process. Some of this is not very comfortable, but an unsparing authenticity, in Dr. Hirsch’s view, is the essence of analytic inquiry. He presents an excellent overview—to which I can personally attest—of the development and relevance of the interpersonal tradition; and then, in a series of focused chapters, limns out his personal emphases. I highly recommend this book that, above all, reminds us that psychoanalysis is and always was a radical outsider activity and that complacency is our greatest enemy.’ - Edgar Levenson MD, William Alanson White Institute, USA

The contribution of Interpersonal psychoanalysis to many therapeutically crucial ideas – enactment, field, dissociation, countertransference - has long been underplayed. The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity takes an important step in remedying this omission. Of particular note is its emphasis on Interpersonalism’s most revolutionary move: to take the analyst’s subjectivity into clinical account, to represent and theorize it, and to bring it to professional consciousness.’ - Muriel Dimen, Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychology, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, USA

‘In this book Irwin Hirsch offers a sweeping but still personal vision of the recent evolution of the Relational and Interpersonal traditions; it is a story crafted by an analyst who has both carefully observed and importantly contributed to these developments. Hirsch is a sensitive and unusually honest thinker, and he uses the history of his own journey through four turbulent decades to capture the ways in which interpersonal thinking has come to be part of the North American mainstream.’ - Jay Greenberg, Ph.D, Editor, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly.

'In his superb new book, Irwin Hirsch makes the… argument that Sullivan both anticipated and made possible much of what is most creative in contemporary psychoanalysis… [The] papers work together as a series of related chapters forming a coherent whole. Hirsch writes with a plain spoken clarity, handling complex clinical and theoretical issues succinctly but never simplistically. His freedom from either obsessive technical jargon or potentially mystifying poetic obscurity is refreshing. The prose reflects a deep commitment to cnandor and directness that reminds this reader of no one less than George Orwell. Hirsch seems to have read everything with genuine respect… Hirsch demonstrates this view repeatedly in his clinical examples, which are models of candor and modesty… Both new and experienced practitioners alike will feel validated by his accounts." -Mark Finn Ph.D., American Journal of Psychoanalysis

Table of Contents

Introduction, The Interpersonal Tradition: The origins of psychoanalytic subjectivity. 1. Toward a More Subjective View of Analyzability. 2. Varying Modes of Analytic Participation. 3. Countertransference Enactments and Some Issues Related to Factors in the Analyst's Life. 4. Countertransference Love and Theoretical Model.5. Dissociation and the Interpersonal Self. 6. The Concept of Enactment and Theoretical Convergence. 7. Further Thoughts about Interpersonal and Relational Perspectives. 8. Reflections on Clinical Issues in the Context of the National Trauma of September 11th. 9. Analysts' Observing-Participation with Theory. 10. The Interpersonal Roots of Relational Thinking. 11. Imperfect Love, Imperfect Lives: Making love, making sex, making moral judgements. 12. Emerging from the Oppositional and the Negative.

About the Author

Irwin Hirsch is a practicing psychoanalyst and teacher of psychoanalysis in New York City. He is the author of over 75 journal articles and book chapters and the Goethe Award-winning book, Coasting in the Countertransference: Conflicts of Self-Interest between Analyst and Patient (Routledge, 2008).

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
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health