“Why have we not considered that lateral relations
in love and sexuality or in hate and war have needed
a theoretical paradigm with which
we might analyse, consider, or seek to influence them?”
Juliet Mitchell, Siblings (2003)
“Missing: Siblings in Psychoanalysis,” the 2008 biannual international symposium sponsored by the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine, the Academic Society of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, will offer a unique opportunity to hear numerous psychoanalysts and psychoanalytically-informed experts from allied fields express their thoughts and concerns about the determining role of sibling relations in individual, group, and social life. The symposium is entitled “Missing” because, to our dismay, the important determining influence of sibling relations in our emotional lives has been marginalized if not repressed by our field. Part of our mission, in the perpetual hope of keeping the unconscious conscious, is to analyze the possible reasons and meanings for this marginalization.
Freud considered cooperative and loving feelings between siblings as defensive reaction formations to the rivalrous feelings experienced for one’s parents’ love, a displacement from the oedipal conflict. In contrast, the Yale Study Group in a landmark edition of the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child (Solnit et al., 1983) argued that sibling effects on emotional development were the result of and should be conceptualized as a separate developmental sequence. These were not mere second editions of the original oedipal complex, but relations promoting their own creative ego developments and adaptations of a nature and quality quite different from those promoted by parental oedipal conflict.
Since then, a small number of psychoanalytic thinkers have persisted in their attempts to highlight the crucial contribution of sibling relations to psychic development and social life. Prominent among these is Juliet Mitchell, author of two books on psychoanalysis and siblings (Siblings  and Mad Men and Medusas ), who has argued for greater balance between the concerns of vertical relationsbetween parents and childrenand the concerns of lateral relations, between siblings and between peers.
For Mitchell, to understand sibling relations is to understand their determining psychic and social impact, and their unique contributions to making sense of team loyalties and betrayals, intense sensual and sexual feelings, and the control of violent impulses. She highlights the constant dynamic and reciprocal relationship between vertical and lateral relations and how our area of interest should not privilege one or the other but rather the points where these intersect. Lateral relations are crucial in the structuring of a person’s burgeoning awareness of his or her similarities and differences with others, most notably in the areas of gender and sexual differences. These differences are structured both along lateral lines (namely, gender and sexuality) and vertical lines (namely, reproduction), coming together most momentously in adolescence when fertility becomes an actuality.
Fortunately for us, Mitchellwho will be a speaker and a discussant at the symposiumis not alone in her willingness to invite our field to pay greater attention to siblings, their relations, and their crucial determining influence on our psychic and social development. It is for this reason that we have the pleasure to present a two day symposium filled with renown clinicians and academics, presenting their views on siblings from a variety of perspectives and locations, whether the consultation room, the social group, myths, the Bible, or the cinema. We look forward to welcoming you to what we expect will be a highly stimulating event.