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The Wind and the Tide: On Personal Acts and Impersonal Currents

Juan Tubert-Oklander


Relational psychoanalysis tends to reject Freud’s theory of instinctual drives and its search for impersonal “causes” of psychic life. But are we not perhaps discarding something important, an obscure intuition of the unknown aspects of human nature?Human experience, thought, and action are truly personal, but we also frequently feel our acts, emotions, and opinions as something we cannot choose, a current that carries us away and does not spring from ourselves or any identifiable person.For Freud, these currents sprang from bodily existence. But there is still another form of impersonal driving forces, which comes from having been conformed by and being a part of social systems. These two kinds of impersonal driving currents act on, in, and through the person, as postulated by Foulkes and Pichon-Rivière, the pioneers of group analysis.This may be represented by the metaphor of the wind, the tide, and the vessel. The self is a sailing vessel; the wind that blows the sails corresponds to the social currents, while the tide, deep, dark, and thriving with invisible life, corresponds to the bodily existence. Life is a permanent negotiation of all these elements, in order to make the trip feasible, fruitful, and happy.


group analysis, impersonal currents, instinctual drives, personal acts, relational analysis, social unconscious

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