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The Symbiotic Character (Stephen M. Johnson, Ph.D.)
Dr Johnson's contribution is a most impressive and unusual work. It represents a "post-modernist" attempt to organize and unify some of the disparate theoretical and clinical trends in current psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, infant development research, and family therapy. As the cursor of attention has begun to fall of late on the narcissistic and 'borderline' personality disorders, the whole field of personality and character seems to be overdue for reconsideration. This is exactly what Dr. Johnson has innovatively accomplished in this work
By his systematic refining of the characteristics of personality development and derailment from the standpoint of object-relations theory and from a wealth of input from infant development research, he has been able, first of all, to question the validity of the term 'borderline' as a personality disorder per se and, beyond that, to select out the 'symbiotic personality' as a significant entity in its own right, one that is discontinuous with 'oral character' and 'narcissistic personality disorder.' In unraveling the nature of the symbiotic personality he illuminates the complex object relations of these patients from many interesting perspectives. Of special interest in his rediscovery of the work of W.R.D. Fairbairn, the father of object relations. Johnson's explication of the latter's workshop help us to see the complexity, the nature of the negative therapeutic reaction, the adhesiveness of addictive object relationships with primal objects, etc.
This work is on the forefront of today's psychotherapeutic trends and is of value to students and practitioners alike.
- James S. Grotstein, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry,
University of California - Los Angeles School of Medicine
Training and Supervising Analyst,
Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Institute