Autonomy, Relatedness and Oedipus: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

‘A must-read for analysts, analysts in training, and students of the mind at all levels.’ *)

Autonomy, Relatedness, and Oedipus is an innovative and inspiring work from Thijs de Wolf that takes a critical look at the field of psychoanalysis. He takes the view that psychoanalysis is about both the inner and outer world and presents a compelling case. Using the works of Freud and other leading writers, such as Ferenczi, Faimberg, Laplanche, Lacan, Fonagy, Target, and Blatt, de Wolf investigates the central concepts of psychoanalysis and its place in the world.

The wide-ranging chapters include a detailed examination of Freud’s book on Leonardo da Vinci; discussions of the personality, the unconscious, and sexuality; the development of the psychoanalytic frame, not just in terms of the individual but also the object relational, group, and systemic aspects; the issue of descriptive and structural diagnostics and how to find a balance between the two; the analysis of dreams; the concept of change; the difficulties surrounding termination of treatment; and end with a novel explication of the oedipal constellation that brings many new insights to a key foundation stone of psychoanalytic theory.

This book is written for trainees and professionals looking to find their own “path” in psychoanalysis; those open to findings from other scientific areas, such as developmental psychopathology, the neurosciences, attachment theories, and human infant research. De Wolf’s theoretical pluralism and breadth of scholarship bestows a stimulating range of ideas to take psychoanalysis back to its place as a leader in the field.


Alessandra Lemma, Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society and Visiting Professor at the Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London – 03/06/2021

In this book, Thijs de Wolf generously shares the valuable and unique perspective that can only come from a lifetime of experience as a psychoanalyst and researcher. Revisiting the variegations of the Oedipus myth, he examines what is surely a central question for psychoanalysis: how to understand what it means to be autonomous. A consummate psychoanalytic educator, de Wolf deftly examines both theory and practice as he explores the themes of autonomy and relatedness in the psychotherapeutic process. This text will satisfy clinicians at all levels of experience.

Frank Yeomans, M.D., Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Training at the Personality Disorders Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College – 03/06/2021

‘Thijs de Wolf provides us with a much-needed book. At a time when the field of psychoanalysis is increasingly splintering, de Wolf has written a work that communicates, in highly accessible language, the continuing relevance of analytic thought and practice. De Wolf manages to link trends in analysis while still respecting diversity. His position is that there is not one correct reading but readings that speak to each other and enrich each other. In making his arguments, de Wolf’s text remains very experience-near rather than abstract and intellectualized. The book ends with a fascinating and long overdue revisiting and expansion of our appreciation of the Oedipus story, weaving in the strong narcissistic trends and ultimately emphasizing the heart of the analytic project – to find a balance not only between internal forces but also between those forces and external reality. The emphasis on dynamism continues in his reflection on the oedipal story, with the important message that development and psychological structure are intertwined and that development does not so much leave behind prior structures but creates layers that interact with the potential to either enrich our experience or lead to pathology.’

*) Ira Brenner, M.D., Training and Supervising Analyst and Emeritus Director of the Psychotherapy Training Program, Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia – 03/06/2021

‘This book is actually an amazing masterclass in psychoanalysis. Writing in a most accessible and scholarly way, Dr. de Wolf has provided us with a synthesis of contemporary ideas, which is firmly rooted in classical thinking. From Freud, Ferenczi, and Klein to Fonagy, Faimberg, and Kernberg – and more – the theory and practice of psychoanalysis is presented in a lucid, thoughtful way. This gem of a text then culminates in a reinterpretation of our “creation myth”, giving us fresh insights into the fundamental oedipal constellation. It is a must-read for analysts, analysts in training, and students of the mind at all levels.’


About the author

‘Thijs de Wolf is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and psychoanalyst. He is a training and supervising psychoanalyst. His PhD project was about the process in short-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy. He was chairman of the board of the Dutch Psychoanalytical Institute. In addition, he has been the head of the postgraduate psychotherapeutic training of both universities in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) for many years. He has taught a lot, both in Eastern and Western Europe, and has several books to his name about the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. In 2018 he was knighted in the Netherlands for his achievements.’


About the author


1. Psychoanalysis: a matter of trust


2. The basics

3. Attachment and development

4. Separateness and intimacy

5. The return of the unconscious and sexuality


6. Development of the psychoanalytic frame

7. A second road

8. Diagnostics

9. Various psychoanalytical forms of individual treatment

10. Working with dreams

11. Treatment and change


12. Oedipus: dyadic and triadic functioning


*) Source Phoenix Publishing House – Firing the Mind (September 2021)