Freedom to Chose: Two Systems of Self Regulation For over fifty years we have studied destructive and self-destructive sadomasochistic behavior in individuals, from failure-to-thrive infants to uncontrolled violence in children, to murder and suicide in adolescents and adults. In ordinary clinical work, all the patients we see present with some degree of sadomasochistic functioning, no matter what the diagnosis. Repetitive, resistant, self-defeating functioning, stalling or impasse in the clinical relationship - these form the arena for most analytic endeavors. In our writings on these topics, we have particularly highlighted traumatic origins, helplessness, overwhelming rage, the impact of preoedipal, oedipal, and post-oedipal pathology, terror of affects and excitement, tyrannical superego, and the constant danger of self-destruction. In this book we hope to present in summary form the basic ideas that have emerged from this work. Rather than detail the arguments, rationales, and underpinnings here, we will direct the reader to those in various other, more extensive discussions. Here we will bring into one place statements and descriptions of how our model of two systems of self-regulation has worked for us to generate a fruitful perspective on development and clinical technique. Part I of the book will take us through developmental phases from pregnancy to old age. In Part II we will turn to descriptions of how our two-systems model can inform and enhance clinical technique in therapies of various kinds.
In this slim volume Jack and Kerry Novick distill their combined century of psychoanalytic experience and thought into a clearly-written, practical guide that will help therapists and patients to reduce their dependence upon repetitive, dead-end patterns of feeling, behavior, and thought. Their description of closed-system patterns of selfregulation strikes chords that go back to Wilhelm Reich’s “character armor” – patterns of
defense which, while initially adaptive, become constricting and costly. Their technical handling of the constant oscillation between open- and closed-system functioning hat is characteristic of psychoanalytic work recalls Siegfried Bernfeld’s comparison of psychoanalysis to a conversation that is begun, then interrupted but later (with effort) renewed and deepened . . . until it is interrupted once again (and so on). Into this old wine
the Novicks blend and integrate current findings from the biological, neurological, and social sciences; they then illustrate their theoretical perspective with clinical examples that provide useful guidance to therapists both new and experienced.
The Novicks bring an Eriksonian approach to the way they frame both (1) development across the life span and (2) the phases of treatment. They describe how each developmental phase is characterized by a specific challenge and how that challenge can be met with open-system or closed-system responses (or, as is usual, both). Their schematic approach to the tasks encountered by patient, therapist, and significant others
as they traverse the therapeutic landscape from evaluation to post-termination will be particularly helpful to trainees; but it also will be of value to experienced therapists who wish to re-view their clinical work through a new lens.
This book has implications not just for clinical work but also for the psychoanalytic profession itself, a profession which sometimes has mired itself in closedsystem functioning. The Novicks’ approach expands the domain of psychoanalysis; it also broadens the tools available to those analysts and therapists who venture into new territories. It stands in stark contrast to the many currently popular approaches which focus on the description and elimination of symptoms, ignoring the human meanings which lie beneath them.
A careful reading of the Novicks’ book will sensitize readers to the presence of closed-system patterns in themselves, their patients, and the world around them. The result? An enhanced freedom to choose.
— Paul M. Brinich, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Faculty member, Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas, Past President, Association for Child Psychoanalysis
This outstanding book presents in a remarkably comprehensive and insightful manner the model conceptualized by Kerry and Jack Novick over the past fifty years. This model provides both a profoundly psychoanalytical understanding of the human development and an innovative methodology for the treatment of children, adolescents and adults.
The Novicks offer a major and extremely useful contribute for the analysts and the therapists ,who will appreciate their theoretical coherence and the clarity and richness of the case illustrations. Every chapter reflects a most sensitive approach, founded on a continuous collaboration and on the vital importance of maintaining or reestablishing the “freedom to choose”.
— Enrico de Vito,M.D.,Psychoanalyst, Associazione per lo Studio dell'Adolescenza, Milano.
The Novicks’ innovative two-system model of development and treatment represents a major advance in psychoanalytic theory and technique. Although their model has been extremely helpful to me both clinically and theoretically for a number of years, I found reading Freedom to Choose a most enriching experience which offered fresh insights and understanding of both my child and adult patients. Time and again I found
myself immediately able to usefully apply what I had just read to my clinical work. Reading the Novicks’ latest contribution has the potential to expand one's understanding of development and technique in significant ways. Thereby, one’s clinical work can become more effective, and analytic therapy can be helpful to a broader range of patients, both children and adults. In addition, this model holds the promise of providing an integrative basis for a number of major analytic theories usually considered to be conflicting and for integrating psychoanalytic theory and technique with contemporary biological science including evolutionary theory and neurobiology.
— William M. Singletary, MD, child and adult psychiatrist and psychoanalyst on the faculty of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia.
This book represents the culmination of fifty years of experience by two of the most creative thinkers in American psychoanalysis. In this exposition and expansion of their two systems model, the Novicks bring together their groundbreaking work on sadomasochism with their creative approach to the integration of ego psychological and relational approaches to clinical work. Not content to prioritize the intrapsychic or the
environment, their two systems of self-regulation highlight how early and later unfortunate environmental interactions become internalized and part of intrapsychic conflict. As a result, the sado-masochistic behaviors and personality traits of the closedsystem must be analyzed with consideration of the defensive and other dynamic functions they serve. On the other hand, attention to the open-system allows the analyst to support
and encourage the healthier aspects of the patient’s mental functioning in ways that earlier generations of analysts would have dismissed as merely supportive or parameters. This book is going to become a staple for training psychoanalytic candidates and other mental health disciplines on how to think and work clinically in an integrative and clinically sensitive manner. It will move us beyond today’s pluralism toward a model that
utilizes all that our disparate schools are learning about mental functioning, pathogenesis, and therapeutic action.
— Alan Sugarman, Ph.D., Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst, San Diego Psychoanalytic Center Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego
About the Authors:
Jack Novick, M.A., Ph.D, and Kerry Kelly Novick are child, adolescent and adult psychoanalysts. Training and Supervising Analysts of the International Psychoanalytic Association, they serve on the faculties of numerous training centers in the United States.They first trained with Anna Freud in London, England and, in addition to their clinical work over the past 50 years, have been active in teaching, research, professional organizations and the community. They joined with other colleagues to found the award-winning non-profit Allen Creek Preschool in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the international Alliance For Psychoanalytic Schools.
Both Jack and Kerry have served as Chairs of the Child and Adolescent Analysis Committee at the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, and were instrumental in starting the first integrated child and adult training curriculum.
Kerry has been elected a Councilor-at-Large on the Board of the American Psychoanalytic Association, is a past President of the Association for Child Psychoanalysis, and is Chair of the Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis Committee of the International Psychoanalytic Association.
Jack served two terms as North American Representative on the Board of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and is President-Elect of the Association for Child Psychoanalysis.
Jack and Kerry Novick have written extensively since the 1960s, with many book chapters and over 100 articles published in major professional journals. Their book « Fearful Symmetry : The Development and Treatment of Sadomasochism » appeared in 1996 and was re-issued in paperback in 2007. « Working With Parents Makes Therapy Work » appeared in 2005, and « Good Goodbyes : Knowing How To End In Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis » was published in 2006. « Emotional Muscle : Strong Parents, Strong Children » appeared in 2010. All their books have been translated into several other languages and are used in training mental health professionals around the world.
They have both held academic and research positions and are currently in private practice.
Praise for their earlier books ---
On Fearful Symmetry :
« They give us a landmark work. This book will prove indispensable to mental health professionals. » Leonard Shengold, M.D.
« Their clarity of thought and clinical focus makes their book a joy to read. » Robert L. Tyson,
M.D., F.R.C. Psych.
« The book offers an illuminating, rich, and rewarding study of the enigmatic attachment or
addiction to pain, and to pleasure in pain. » Harold P. Blum, M.D.
On Working With Parents Makes Therapy Work:
« This is an extraordinarily important contribution. Their work underscores the inevitable
ongoing interaction between parent functioning and child development. » Leon Hoffman, M.D.
« This book offers further elaboration and new applications of the Novicks’ earlier research on the two-systems model. It is so well-written ... it represents a bold new vision of the role of parents in the psychoanalytic treatment of child and adolescent patients. » Jerrold R. Brandell, MSSW, Ph.D.
On Good Goodbyes :
« Through vivid and compelling vignettes ... they demonstrate that ... a patient’s system of selfregulation
can be transformed from one that is joyless, constricted and closed to one that is healthy, alive and open. » William B. Meyer, MSW, BCD
On Emotional Muscle :
« The authors’ expertise with living, breathing children comes through on every page. » Diane
« A must-read for anyone committed to understanding how values are conveyed and how the development of character can be supported. » Michelle Graves, M.A.
« Emotional Muscle is a book that is needed, relevant, and should be required reading for all parents and educators. » Kathleen Kryza, M.A.
« In this book ... they do for these early years what Erik Erikson did on the broader canvas of the human life cycle in his classic Childhood and Society...Their book will be a valuable resource to generations of parents, daycare workers, preschool teachers and others caring for young children. » Paul Brinich, Ph.D.