Engaging With the Schizoid Compromise: A Response to Erskine’s “Relational Withdrawal, Attunement to Silence: Psychotherapy of the Schizoid Process”

Ray Little


This article presents a response to the paper “Relational Withdrawal, Attunement to Silence: Psychotherapy of the Schizoid Process” by Richard Erskine in which he described his treatment of a client who made use of schizoid processes and defenses to manage her experience. The current author responds by focusing on the self-protective defenses of schizoid compromise and withdrawal that individuals with a schizoid presentation employ. Their struggle with attachments is also examined, and various theoretical perspectives on developmental processes and the structure of the mind are discussed. The spectrum of schizoid processes is examined from the more extreme introverted schizoid personalities who exhibit severe withdrawn presentations to those who seek some form of attachment. The nature of the internal world and the difficulty of managing relationships is explored. Therapeutic action in response to the schizoid compromise and withdrawn individual is considered. The article includes a number of clinical descriptions and concludes by exploring the processes involved when the therapist themselves occupies a schizoid compromise position.


Schizoid personalities; schizoid dilemma; schizoid compromise; withdrawal; relationships; transference-countertransference; therapeutic action

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