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Attachment and PsychoanalysisReview - Attachment and Psychoanalysis
Theory, Research, and Clinical Implications
by Morris N. Eagle
Guilford Press, 2013
Review by Rudy Oldeschulte
Sep 17th 2013 (Volume 17, Issue 38)

In the final sentence of Attachment and Psychoanalysis, the author Morris Eagle states that "...the history of attachment theory can also serve as a model for openness to formulations and findings from other disciplines."  Earlier in his text, Eagle asserts that he is attempting to find the specifics of convergence and divergence between attachment theory and psychoanalytic theory, focusing on the 'empirical' and 'research' issues that are given rise to in both theoretical and clinical psychoanalysis -- and that may be given substance through more attention to attachment theory and research. 

 I return to the writings of Lou Andreas-Salome, whom I have quoted before, reminding us that Freud's theoretical formulations were not rigidly fixed, but rather formulations that changed as his experience in practicing psychoanalysis grew - with Freud demonstrating what might be seen as a researcher's model.  Freud's position allowed more emphasis on 'not knowing,' contrasting this with the 'mastery of knowledge.'  In reading Eagle's Attachment and Psychoanalysis, the author's attention seemed to get so focused on using attachment theory for potential research in psychoanalytic theory and therapy, that he lost perspective on how psychoanalysis is, as Stepansky (2009) argues, a 'plurality of theories,' not 'theoretical pluralism' -- the latter often being the way that our communities (or 'schools') of psychoanalytic clinicians, and the theories that these clinicians use in their work are characterized.

 It struck me that Eagle wants to continue the move to integrate the theories, bringing specificity to the convergences and the divergences of each. Yet, one must wonder why Eagle persists in this attempt -- what is to be achieved in this search for 'common ground'?  I would argue instead that having been educated as a developmentalist (in psychoanalysis), I and fellow trainees were well schooled in the use of many of the basic tenets of attachment theory. We came to know this viewpoint -- this theory -- despite the seeming contradictions with basic psychoanalytic theory, ego psychology, infant development studies, and the like.

  In the past decade and a half, Peter Fonagy has written extensively about his and colleagues' research and work utilizing attachment theory specifically. Though he emphasized many of the perspectives that psychoanalytic education offered several decades ago, he structured his work -- and new ways of looking at 'mentalization', theory of mind, and reflective functioning - which made more sense in a research paradigm -- and consequently aiding in looking more precisely at therapeutic research.  My point here is that the focus of psychoanalytic developmental theory -- and its therapeutic components taught in our educational settings -- was specifically on the points that are detailed in the book -- namely, "...the importance of early caregiving; the role of mentalization; the conception of representation of self and other as determinants of interpersonal behavior; the relationship context of cognitive development; and the fundamental motivations for forming relationships."  (p. 182) Eagle characterizes his focus as 'different' -- yet his concentration is essentially on the same core issues, with a different perspective taken.

Attachment and Psychoanalysis makes good on offering the psychoanalytic investigator a clear summary of the historical issues in the relationship between attachment theory and psychoanalysis, lays out the fundamental tenets of attachment theory -- and its relevance for research, and points out in detail the areas of convergence and divergence between psychoanalysis and attachment theory.  Eagle also takes up how attachment theory has been integrated into the more recent psychoanalytic schools of thought, and yet he remains critical of the continuing difficulties in aligning the values and attitudes of the different schools of thought in their application to clinical practice.  For those interested in understanding the basics -- and the nuances -- of attachment theory and its application to research, as well as its emphasis on etiological factors, Attachment and Psychoanalysis will be a good tool.

 

© 2013 Rudy Oldeschulte

 

Rudy Oldeschulte was educated in psychoanalysis with Anna Freud and her colleagues in London, and in law at DePaul University. Now is private practice in Texas -- psychoanalytic psychotherapy, supervision, and teaching.  roldeschulte@gmail.com

 


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