Self Psychology Psychoanalysis

Heinz Kohut in America

Kohut departed from Vienna a few months later. He settled in England for a time and then emigrated to America in 1940. He took his specialty training in neurology at the University of Chicago and was widely recognized as one who would have an impact on his field. However, he soon shifted interests and professional pursuits from neurology to psychoanalysis. He received his analytic training at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, and upon graduation was appointed faculty member and training analyst. This was indeed an honour for one so relatively inexperienced. He was trained in the classical tradition of psychoanalysis, modified by the clinical and theoretical advances of the American ego psychology school of Hartmann, Kris, and Lowenstein. This tradition was grounded in the two basic Freudian principles of

  1. Transference: a displacement upon the analyst by the analysand of unconscious incestuous longings that play out the unresolved oedipal drama of childhood and
  2. Resistance: the unconscious process impeding the recognition of these desires.

Kohut became an advocate of these theories in his teaching, lecturing, and writing, and soon developed the reputation of being a conservative Freudian theorist. His views brought him the public admiration of such psychoanalytic luminaries as Anna Freud, Kurt Eissler, and Heinz Hartmann. In 1964 he was elected President of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Following this he was elected Vice President of the International Psychoanalytic Association and retained the position for nine years. This period earned him among his colleagues the affectionate title of "Mr. Psychoanalysis." It was, therefore, surprising when Kohut shifted his clinical views. Many of his colleagues, who had given him so much recognition just a short time before, now rejected him. His writing of the mid to late sixties questioned many of the psychoanalytic principles he had previously defended. But what had occurred to turn him around? What made him question the previously unquestioned? What made him reconsider the very theories of psychoanalysis that had so long guided his thinking and his clinical practice?

Kohut's clinical and theoretical perspective was considerably broadened by the case of Miss F. (Kohut 1968, 1971), which opened his eyes to significantly different psychic perceptions. Briefly, Miss F., a 25-year-old woman, had insisted that Kohut be nearly perfectly attuned to what she was saying.

If, for example, he made any intervention that went beyond what she had said or learned in the therapy, she would become enraged.

Kohut was initially firm in his theoretical belief that her protests were defensive and hid the underlying issues.

Miss F. persisted in her complaints that he was "not listening," that he was "undermining her," that his remarks "had destroyed everything she had built up," and that he was "wrecking her analysis."

Kohut realised that she would become calm only when he summarized or repeated what she had already said. Miss F.'s persistence in her complaints, together with Kohut's awareness of what calmed her, helped him to suspend his theoretical assumption that she was being defensive and to understand the importance of her need for confirming and mirroring responses.

Furthermore, he realized that his interventions had not only not been helpful but, in fact, were adding to her problems.

Through his work with Miss F., Kohut began to formulate his ideas about the developmental need for md for mirroring, as well as the mirroring selfobject transference.

>>>Kohut's Analysis of Self