Refinding the Object and Reclaiming the Self

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Refinding the Object and Reclaiming the Self is a groundbreaking study of the growth of the self out of the mutuality that lies at the heart of the therapeutic encounter. Applying an object relations perspective to individual psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, Dr. David Scharff constructs a rich theory of the self derived from individual, family, and marital therapy, groups, and mother-infant research. He applies this vision of a self composed of a network of internal and external object relations to a therapy based on the shared subjective experiences of patient and therapist.

At the heart of Scharff’s approach is a way of working in the area that is paradoxically both between therapist and patient and within each of them. He explores the ways in which patient and therapist communicate through complementary, resonating object relations systems, which each also remains firmly distinct in role and purpose.

Beginning with sessions from the opening phases of a psychoanalytic treatment, Scharff illustrates the interdependence of self and object, of patient and therapist, from the beginning. He spells out a major theoretical contribution of the book: that while both self and internal object are functions of an overarching self, the self alone is not the comprehensive unite of therapeutic consideration. Rather it is a self constructed out of a graduated and interlocking series of relationships. Placed between mirrors that face each other, we cannot conceive of ourselves without invoking the reflection of others’ gaze, body gestures, echoing sounds, and responsive expressions, even while we also reflect their selves.

The second section of the book develops these themes clinically, illustrating the use of projective and introspective identification in an extended couple assessment, the transformation of early memories and internal objects during individual psychotherapy, and the birth of a patient’s refund self in the analytic encounter. A third section develops a startling, original view of the dream as a communication between self and other in individual psychotherapy, and the birth of the patient’s refund self in the analytic encounter. A fourth and equally original section explores self and object relations from the vantage of family and mother-infant studies. The final section on clinical technique examines the role of the object relations of the therapist in individual therapy and psychoanalysis, ending with illustrations of therapeutic growth between patient and therapist during termination.

A master clinician and writer, David Scharff has given us a pathfinding study of the inexplicable relationship of self and object in development and in therapy.

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