The 39th Annual Conference of the International Psychohistorical Association

Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, NCPsyA, D. Litt

This presentation would encompass a discussion of how New York Psychoanalytic Institute (the “medical establishment”) dominated the entire practice of psychoanalysis in America in 1950s-60s, and how this led to the rejection of all the rich pioneering work done in those years by British clinicians and theorists (who were not required to be physicians, and who were treating preoedipal, character, disorders). This will be presented in terms of the failed treatments of Ann Sexton, who had a borderline level narcissistic character disorder. It is based on Ann Sexton’s biographical research done by Dianne Middlebrook and on in-depth two case studies of Ann Sexton in Susan Kavaler-Adler’s book, The Creative Mystique: From Red Shoes Frenzy to Love and Creativity(Routledge 1996, ORI Academic Press, 2014).

Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, NCPsyA, D. Litt

Psychoanalysis transformed through the writings of Melanie Klein and D. W. Winnicott, from an original instinct psychology to an internal world and transitional world object relations, and related psychology. The focus switched from random instinctual impulses to attachments to internal objects, which became addictive in the case of primal attachment to pathological external parental objects.

Melanie Klein’s thinking, which evolved a whole world of psychic fantasies that trumped any random impulse psychology, brought the human psyche into a colorful and creative place of ongoing psychic pregnancy. Klein’s thinking then spurred on the creative challenges of D. W. Winnicott to Klein’s thinking.

Practically every paper that D. W. Winnicott wrote was a covert response to Melanie Klein’s thinking, with Klein having been his supervisor and teacher, and it was also a response to other Kleinians, such as his second analyst, Joan Riviere. Klein, in turn, was subliminally influenced by Winnicott’s thinking, without any conscious or public recognition of Winnicott’s other than a footnote in one of her main journal articles. Yet, she was influenced by Winnicott, as emerges in her paper on “Envy and Gratitude,” a paper that provoked Winnicott to leave the Kleinian group, when it was first delivered in the 1930s, but which reflected Winnicott’s influence, when it was published in 1957, in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. In “Envy and Gratitude, Klein spoke to the reality of internalization of real external objects: parents, psychoanalysts, etc. (psychoanalysts only as interpreters, not as alive presences, as Winnicott wrote of in “The Capacity to be Alone”).

Although Melanie Klein’s thinking and D. W. Winnicott’s thinking became polarized in England, when Winnicott formed his own “independent” group, and even though the polarization still exists today, Kavaler-Adler’s 2014 Karnac book, The Klein-Winnicott Dialectic: New Transformative Metapsychology and Interactive Clinical Theory, illustrates how the theories of Klein and Winnicott can exist in a rich dialectic, rather than being polarized. The role-play of Klein and Winnicott will highlight the conflict and the dialogue between them, which reflects the movement back and forth between an instinct metapsychology – with its profound extension into the realm of an internal psychic fantasy world – and a metapsychology that is about attachments to external objects, and the internal objects that are internalized from external objects. The actual role-play will take place in the situation of a supervision session, in which D. W. Winnicott enters Klein’s office to be supervised, as part of his training at the British Psychoanalytic Society institute.