Donnel B. SternRelational Freedom: Emergent Properties of the Interpersonal Field

Routledge, 2015

by Michael Mungiello on August 1, 2015

Donnel B. Stern

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We are mostly familiar with the hermeneutics of suspicion. But what about a hermeneutics of curiosity? In his latest book Relational Freedom: Emergent Properties of the Interpersonal Field (Routledge, 2015), Dr. Donnel Stern discusses the ways in which a spirit of mutual curiosity between analyst and analysand can transform the field between them and alter their relationships to each other and themselves. Continuing the groundbreaking work of Unformulated Experience and the more recent Partners in Thought, Relational Freedom showcases Dr. Stern's ability to arrange clinical case studies, a rich history of psychoanalytic thought, and contemporary theoretical critique in such a way as opens the reader's mind to new conceptions of the priority of feeling in the interpersonal/relational field. Along the way, he paints a picture of enactment (the interpersonalisation of dissociation) and how the analytic dyad can handle enactments in a fashion that frees up the analyst and analysand to see their relationship in a new light.

Meditating on the influence of interpersonal and relational thinkers, such as Erich Fromm and Harry Stack Sullivan, Dr. Stern highlights the tension between the evidence-based, scientific idea of psychoanalysis and the broader, less empirical takes on this protean practice. Incorporating the thought of Hans-Georg Gadamer, he proposes that we "recognize that the hermeneutic position about the study and evaluation of psychoanalytic treatment is a valid way of thinking about these problems, and one that contradicts the objectivist agenda of systematic empirical research." Aware of the challenges this recognition may entail, Dr. Stern spends a portion of this interview discussing an issue many humanistic analysts may face: namely, that of insurance providers requesting objective measures of improvement of health.

While illuminating his theory of the mind as it exists within the field, Dr. Stern also discusses the personal aspect of his career. We learn about his educational journey to psychoanalysis, as well as his love for literature. Dr. Stern emphasizes the creative aspect of psychoanalysis in a fashion appropriately creative, and consequently engaging.​

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