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Unequal Relationships Between Adults Are Inherently Pathological

November 7, 2010

“This [an unequal relationship] may be natural dependence in the case of child and parent, but it is pathological as between adults….mature relationships are two-way relations between emotional  equals, characterized by mutuality, spontaneity, cooperation, appreciation, and the preservation of individuality in partnership.”     –Harry Guntrip


Useful to remember when you find certain  supposedly adult relationships chronically frustrating–and something many other people (e.g., your boss) don’t want you to remember.

Harry Guntrip wrote this in his landmark book Schizoid Phenomena, Object Relations, and the Self (International Universities Press: New York, 1969)

Guntrip (1901-1975) was a prominent British psychologist, psychotherapist, university lecturer,  author, and a Methodist minister, to boot.  He was part of the British object relations school of psychology pioneered  by Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, and W.R.D. Fairbairn.

“Behavioral science i s not psychology,” he wrote. He would be horrified to see something called “Behavioral Medicine”  attempting to replace psychotherapy.  He knew psychology and psychotherapy have as their ‘subject matter’ living people’s subjective experiences,  aims, purposes, and meanings.  Behavioral science, he wrote,  is “not about the psyche but only about the outward expression of some aspect of it as behavior, a most  incomplete guide to the full nature of a person and the whole  range of his subjective experience.”


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