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J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2008 Mar;56(1):11-36. doi: 10.1177/0003065107313025.

A genuinely developmental theory of sexual enjoyment and its implications for psychoanalytic technique.

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University College London.


A small computer-assisted word frequency analysis, indicating the extent of explicit concern with sexuality in the psychoanalytic literature, has revealed an apparent decline of psychoanalytic interest in psychosexuality. The apparent decline may be related to the limitations of drive theory and object relations approaches in offering persuasive and comprehensive accounts of the psychosexual. A new model of human sexual experience is proposed, rooted in an integration of French psychoanalytic ideas with recent developmental observational research, that once again places sexuality at the center of psychoanalytic clinical inquiry. Because emotion regulation arises out of the mirroring of affect by a primary caregiver and sexual feelings are unique in that they are systematically ignored and left unmirrored by caregivers, sexual feelings remain fundamentally dysregulated in all of us. Adult sexual experience serves as a way of coming to organize the psychosexual. The model accounts for some aspects of the phenomenology of sexual arousal and suggests ways of understanding pathological distortions of sexual behavior. The nature of the psychosexual is explored in the analytic treatment of an adolescent boy.

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