Relational Wisdom

It was Freud who first suggested the idea of something called the unconscious. A century later, neuroscience affirms the deep interdependence of conscious thought, unconscious motivations, and nonconscious habits; that is, between deliberate attention and those unworded automatic habits of mind and brain that we just “know” to do.

“Human beings are fundamentally social, developing within, internalizing, and shaped by their relationships with important others in their lives”

Margaret Black, relational psychoanalyst

Neuroscience joins studies in psychology, childhood attachment, early development, post-traumatic stress, and a host of other disciplines, to tell a story of how we become who we are, why we do what we do, and what can help us in moments of difficulty and over the long term.

Contemporary (non-classical) psychoanalytic psychology sits at the hub of these present understandings. With its strong ties to attachment theory, child development, and affective neuroscience, it has a great deal to offer in helping us teach in ways cognizant of cognition, emotions, and behaviour as inseparable elements of being. 

Importantly, in early development as in school learning, as it turns out, relationships matter more than we ever could have imagined. Relationships are what give meaning, enable trust, and support capacity to learn.

Teachers, no matter how hard they try, can never be neutral. As influencers and shapers of classroom relationships – at once, between learners, each other, the world, and the objects of learning – teachers have an extraordinary role in shaping a society.

It was to bring forward and together these powerful understandings that I wrote my book:

Select the book cover to learn more.


Sophisticatedly simple, this book is a ‘sanctuary for the mutual meeting of minds’ (quoted in this volume), one wherein apparent antinomies – progressivism v. traditionalism, theory v. practice, scientific biology v. humanist philosophy – provoke not bifurcation but stunning synthesis in Lissa D’Amour’s theory of teaching and learning. Panoramic yet detailed, playful while earnest, joyful and discerning and attuned (despite past trauma, despite the dire present in which we are embedded), this book (itself a transitional object, see within) rides relational psychoanalysis to destinations solitary and shared, sublime and strategic, a sustained – and sustaining – ‘a-ha’ educational experience of authenticity and presence.”
– William F. Pinar, Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

“Lissa D’Amour has reached a brilliant and unexpected conclusion: Relational Psychoanalysis provides ideas and values that can be used to structure a humanistically-informed way of thinking about what it means to educate people, and how to do it. D’Amour encourages people, in learning, to become ever more familiar and accepting of what they find in themselves, and between themselves and others. She argues against imposing faddish values and techniques from outside. I don’t know enough about education to comment on Curriculum Theory; I am a psychoanalyst, one of the relational psychoanalysts that D’Amour cites. But with that proviso, I believe I can see that D’amour’s book is a tour de force, a brave and creative contribution to Curriculum Theory, and to all of education.”
– Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D., William Alanson White Institute of Psychoanalysis, New York

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