Exploring Dimensions of Human Relationships


The book under evaluation is Exploring Dimensions of Human Relationships that is written by R. Josselson. The author examines different aspects of personal relationships’ foundation, the mechanisms of interaction in interpersonal relationships, the main types of relationships, sex differences and etc.

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A thesis statement 1: "I" of a woman is more specific "in a relationship" rather than "I" in a man.

A thesis statement 2: primitive idealization creates some unrealistic, good and powerful images of objects that have a negative impact on the development of the superego and ego-ideal.


“People create their lives within a web of connections to others” (Josselson, 1995). Interpersonal relationships are a set of objective relations and interactions between persons that belong to a particular group. A characteristic feature of interpersonal relationships is their emotional aspect. They can be defined as people’s relationships that formed during a direct interaction in the group and that are informal. Also, they are those that contain the emotionally colored and mutually meaningful communication of the partner assessment. According to Josselson (1995), interpersonal relations cover a wide range of phenomena. However, the main of them are the regulators of stability and depth. Originality of interpersonal relations is the attraction of one person to another. Therefore, the state of satisfaction-dissatisfaction is a main criterion of evaluating such relationships.

The appeal consists of feelings of sympathy and attraction. If sympathy-antipathy is the experience of pleasure and dissatisfaction from contacting with other people, then attraction-repulsion is a practical component of these experiences. Interpersonal attractiveness-unattractiveness may acquire the character sustainable relationships among people and go into a mutual affection or reluctance. The desire to be together may be needed. As a result, some types of interpersonal relationships appear. In the regulation of relations, three motivational aspects are being involved: "I want", "I" and "necessary". The personal desire ("I want") is not sufficient for the emergence of relationships. It draws a connection between the business and interpersonal relationships. The offset of close interpersonal relationships and business activity is obvious, according to it. It claims that during any interactions the component of attractiveness-unattractiveness is always present. The question is only where the presence of this component is being justified. In the production results of some joint activities, the economic efficiency is a main criterion for assessing the benefit or harm in interpersonal relationships. It rises up to the point that it is necessary to determine the degree of closeness of interpersonal relationships and eligibility to certain circumstances.

On the one hand, they can be complied with the industrial and economic norms, close and intimate relationships interfering. On the other hand, the transformation of interpersonal relationships in function may lead to the destruction or loss of pleasure. According to the author, the inadequate desire in relationships, as manifested in behavior, may cause tension and conflicts. The assessment of interpersonal relationships provides their classification. According to Josselson, interpersonal relationships can be defined as a mutual commitment to the particular type of partner feelings such as aspirations, expectations and behavior. The classification of interpersonal relationships is love, goodwill, companionship, friendship, love, marriage and a family. It is based on several criteria: the depth relationship selectivity of a partner function relationship. The main criterion for distinguishing the level of interpersonal relationships is the inclusion of an individual into relations. The structure of the individual is isolated by the following level: socio-cultural, psychological and individual. The second criterion is the selective one of partners. It can be defined as a set of features that are relevant for the installation of playback relationships. The most important of them exhibit selectivity relationships of friendship, matrimony, and love; and the least essential may be considered such as dating. The functions of relationships are distinguished by their content and psychology. An additional criterion for determining interpersonal relationships is a distance between partners, the duration and number of contacts of norm relations as the requirements for the contact. The total dependence here is that with making relations deeper, the distance increases with the frequency of contacts. Interpersonal relationships are the most significant ones for the individual’s informality, personal importance and emotional intensity as a basis for the impact of interpersonal relationships on the personality.


The author is an expert in psychology. The evidences used by the author were accurate. She has analyzed the situations of life of patients. In general, the book is very accurate and, most importantly, concise with comments. The points observed by the author are very relevant in the today`s society. The author was quite successful in making her points. The article deals with a sex-role identity space, which has a complex multilevel organization. The empirical data on functioning of nutrient levels for specified symptoms and problem compensation, retardation as well as sex-formations of the personality. The correlation of "sex" and "gender" has been carefully analyzed. The book is remarkable in many senses. It can be known as the most modern basic textbook on a psychoanalytic diagnosis of personality, an excellent written language. The work also contains a slender synthetic exposition of an existing psychoanalytic approach to the personality structure and specifically practical recommendations for the psychoanalytic treatment of patients of each type. Perhaps, for the reader out of the country, where the psychoanalytic culture and traditions are developed enough, such a representation will be sufficient.

Josselson has analyzed this topic on the example of teenagers. Teens are those children being in the process of the economic growth between childhood and adulthood or middle age due to the author. During the period of adolescence, some biological, emotional or psychological conflicts are obvious. Teenagers learn how to cope with the changes related to self-awareness, self-esteem, social expectations and achievements. Teens also face a choice of profession, romantic entanglements and responsibilities, which are the new experience. There they can make decisions and adjustments to achieve their own success. They have to make their choice in order to be successful at school and in life, to achieve a healthy personality in their late adolescence. Identity, according to Josselson, means self-consistency or uniqueness for a certain period of time. Additional responsibilities and social expectations of a young person can cause some conflicts. According to Josselson (1995), the object in relations, in the theory, may be possible to understand the development of women, rather than with the “object” or people used only for a male pleasure drive. Josselson (1995) believes that the traditional male personality’s development does not apply to women in their social role or names for girls can be more complex. She argues that women usually have more problems with the release. She claims that the boys struggle with relationships while trying to install a “link”. Josselson (1995) has shown that not only females need to develop the relational competence, but men as well. Josselson (1995), a prominent theorist, has emphasized that women and men are different. She says that the girls are with difficulty  separated from a mother as they relate or identify with her. She claims that some boys have fewer difficulties with this. They combat with the relational needs easier than girls do. In her view, the “I” of a teenage girl can be more specific “in the relationship” rather than “I” in a teenage boy. She argues that men develop their ego boundaries and social expectations for their career development. They are clearer, as in the marriage with children, and not as a contested or as the devaluation (Josselson, 1995). As women grow, they have to cope with the emotional choice to have children or choose the career; while men do not have any choice as they can have both.

As Josselson (1995) has observed the metamorphosis of identities of young girls, she says she could never understand each person in the entirety. These girls were extremely complex and diverse. It asserts that every person is a complex story, i.e. of ‘becoming’ and then ‘revising’ themselves. In considering the definition of the “self-concept”, it is obvious that this issue is not simple. It can be seen as a number of different points of view. In addition, it is obvious that the environment and social expectations can affect self-esteem.


Therefore, no one was looking seriously at how the person has been held for women. The women’s theory of evolution should be more flexible in order to cover a lot of female roles and the complexity of their lives. The classical psychoanalytic theory is based on the sexual inferiority of women in literature. In recent years, the latest results show that women are inferior to question and unfounded.

The thesis statement 2: the primitive idealization creates some unrealistic, good and powerful images of objects that have a negative impact on the development of the superego and ego-ideal. In general, she says that for a projective identification in this situation this is typical to have the incomplete separation between a person and an object. The patient continues to suffer under the projection of moment and at the same time has some fear. The patient feels the need to control an external object. At the higher levels of the ego development, the projections without this feature appear; for example, a patient suffering from hysteria has the projection of sexual impulses strengthening the repression. A woman, prone to hysteria, despises men in front of them or experiences fear because of the sexual interest in her. . Therefore, she is not “showing empathy” to the “enemy” because of fear in front of him. This aggressive violation of images of objects has a pathological effect on the development of the superego.

In patients with a borderline personality organization, this mechanism can be seen very often, especially the common primitive signs of rejection being not top of its form. The denial appears in the form of the “mutual negation” of some two emotionally independent areas of consciousness (we can say that in this case the denial strengthens splitting). The patient knows that at this time his perception, thoughts and feelings about himself or other people are completely opposite to what he has done before. However, the memories of this lack of the emotional support and can not affect the fact that he experiences in moment. In the future, he can return to the previous state of denying the ego and the present. He is still experiencing the effects of memories, but not able to provide the emotional connection between these two states. The denial of a patient under examination here may appear in the form of a simple lack of attention to any part of his subjective experience or the outside world. Under the pressure, the patient recognizes that he knows about this denying a part. However, he still cannot integrate it into the emotional experience.

It should be noted that to deny the patient at the moment, it is known in other areas of his mind being denied by the emotions that he has (and he remembers) and the knowledge about the emotional relevance of the particular situation. This is done in terms of the reality of which the patient has already received or got the re-conscious performance. This is different from the higher forms of denial, such as the mechanism of rejection, according to Josselson. With the rejection, the mental content is present as “negative”, i.e. the patient claims that he knows him, his doctor or others that might think of something. However, he rejects this possibility as a purely intellectual speculation. In this case, the emotional relevance of negated. He is not formed in mind and remains displaced. The rejection is the highest form of denial that is associated with repression and being close enough to the term “isolation”. The intermediate levels of denial are also common among patients with a borderline personality organization, i.e. the denial of emotions experienced in contrary to strong emotions, particularly the depression and a manic denial. It is important to note that, despite the fact that we are talking only about denying one emotion, while rejecting the depression, as being manic and depressive at the disposition, the activation of specific pathogenic object relations is important. Such negative position of the ego threatens the part of the subjective experience of using an extreme opposite effect. The misidentification can influence on the partners when it becomes reactive. If to be precise, it occurs when the unresolved issues of the past appear in the current relationship. The unconscious identification is not stored in a stable fashion throughout the development and change, and even if turned into its opposite. Josselson has described how a child can choose among the rejection of the incorporation of an object asa basis for its identification, but instead keeps interject as a despised object from which to recant. In this case, the child rejects his own similarities and considers them as ego-diatonic. Josselson (1995) has written about misidentification, i.e.  the desire not to like the loved object. However, she has noted that, “We are closely related to people who cannot make their discovery in itself” (Josselson, 1995).

In a close relationship, partners can come to the excitement and become emotionally reactive when exposed to the charges of the partner being “exactly the same” as the object they deny. The similar suffering occurs when they react in the way that is ego-diatonic because of the similarity felt with a terrible rejection of the object. The desire “not to be like” can manage the unconscious defenses and lead to a reactive state, which gives a rise to the irrational behavior.

In the analytically oriented therapy for couples, the therapist’s role is to contain and investigate the strong emotional reactions that are rather often repeated, but, nevertheless, so rarely understood. The painful interactions must be carefully worked out when the therapist throws a ray of light on the card. This could be so far been too dark to make out before. When the meaning of the actual reactions becomes clear due to an earlier close relationship, partners start  distinguishing the past from the present better. The aspects of the past that are on the way to their solving require their re-enactment. It can be for a couple of challenges to overcome together. The aspects of self that have been cast aside aggressively can be safely explored so that it could be a new level of tolerance and acceptance. The ability of the therapist to determine, investigate and contain the powerful themes while underlying the projective identification and misidentification may create the opportunity for a change.


The term the “primitive idealization” refers to the tendency to see external objects as exceptionally good that would convince themselves that they can provide the protection from the “bad” sites. The primitive idealization creates unrealistic, good and powerful images of objects that have a negative impact on the development of the superego and the ego-ideal. This term is proposed to contrast the later forms of idealization, such as those present among patients suffering from depression. They idealize the object of the sense of guilt for their aggression against the object. The primitive idealization is not a conscious or unconscious recognition of aggressiveness towards the object. Thus, it is not a reactive formation, but rather a direct manifestation of the primitive imagination for the protective structure, in which there is no real consideration of the ideal object. There is only a simple need for it as a means of protection from the world consisting of dangerous objects. In addition, the ideal object plays the role of a recipient for the omnipotent identification to share the greatness of an idealized object and find the protection from aggression as a direct source to meet their narcissistic needs. Consequently, the idealization reflects the underlying omnipotence and another kind of the border protection. The primitive idealization can be considered a precursor of later forms of idealization.

The early forms of projections are the projective identification. The patients with a borderline personality organization are pronounced as projective tendencies. The projection prevails not only in quantity but in quality. The main purpose of projection is to externalize the bad and violent images of the object. The main consequence of this need is the emergence of dangerous punishing objects, from which the patient is seeking the protection. This projection of aggression was rather unsuccessful in nature. Among these patients, in general, there have been some quite distinct ego boundaries formed. In most situations, they can be separated from the objects of identity, but the projection of aggression. This clearly weakens the intensity of the need for the projection and the general weakness of the ego, which is characteristic for these patients. As a result, they feel that they still identify with the object  that projects its aggressiveness. Their continued “empathy” to a threatening objects that it supports and enhances the sense of fear of our own projected aggression. Thus, they have to control the object in order to prevent it from attacking them under the influence (projected) aggressive impulses. They are forced to attack and control the object until  they do not destroy them (this is their concern).


The author has revealed up the unique thoughts about human relationships. Judging from the main points of the author, according to gender relationships, it should be noted that the concept of gender does not solve the problem of sex. However, rather complicate the assimilation of the category of gender in psychology, especially medical, is. The major thing that Josselson has defined was the culture of the female community, of their contacts, associations, co-operatives and remaining together. This is due to the feature of the relationship of a mother - a daughter. The mother as a primary object of love is the same sex as her daughter. So she does not require the identification of the strong separation, as in the case with a son. For the boy's development, it is important to have the separation from the mother. It was very knowledgeable to know that this is essential for men to have power, self-determination and separation. Accordingly, the self-concept of men and women is based on different grounds for women characterized by a gap between an initial situation and the masculine socialization patterns of success in the culture. Therefore, the gaps in the symptom masculinity/femininity are more general, particularly for women. The author was very successful making the concept of gender as important, especially in a socio-cultural discourse and the focuses on the new aspects of the analysis of a social, in the broadest sense,  behavior. This includes the language, politics, education, sexuality, literature, practices, representations of corporeality, and etc. For the medical psychology and general one, the more adequate psychology of sex and gender  allow to stay away from the political values exercised by engagement. Gender has become a separate entity. Where once it has been possible to talk about the gender psychology, today it is called as psychological genderology.

Therefore, this book is remarkable in many respects. It was written by a brilliant professional of the highest level. It has already entered the golden fund of the analytical classics and become the best-sold text in the countries issued. This is one of the most modern basic textbooks on a psychoanalytic diagnosis of personality, having the excellent written language and containing the slender synthetic exposition of the current psychoanalytic approaches to the structure of personality and specific practical recommendations for a psychoanalytic therapy with different types of patients. The book is interesting and useful to therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, students, educators and for everybody interested in the psychology. This book will be useful only to an extent allowing a psychology reader. The compassionate and respectful acceptance of others may, to some extent,  have an open access to the understanding and acceptance of  dynamics of the self. The textbook can replace the depth of the personal insight. He also cannot provide a deep and contagious conviction greater efficiency after the personal therapy. Some analytical concepts to form the structure allowing a therapist to experience responsive to the patient suffering from the complex emotional, intuitive, sensual and mental reaction have been outlined.

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