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Kohut, H. (1977). Reflections on the Occasion of Jean Piaget's Eightieth Birthday. Ann. Psychoanal., 5:373-375.

(1977). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 5:373-375

VII A Tribute

Reflections on the Occasion of Jean Piaget's Eightieth Birthday

Heinz Kohut, M.D.

The noise and the horror of the historical events of the century have covered over a quiet and reassuring process of great significance: the beginnings of a gradual shift in the major focus of man's attention —including his investigative interests—from his surroundings to himself. We cannot be certain yet whether the signs of this shift that can indeed be observed are reliable indicators of a long—term development, as I believe they are. But the supposition, to be spelled out below, that man's situation in the world is changing, is clearly in harmony with our initial assertion that man's major preoccupations are also undergoing a change.

Until comparatively recent times man's opportunities were, in concrete and symbolic terms, the opportunities afforded by open living spaces. And the major threat to man's survival came from his surroundings; it came from hostile powers that lay in the external world. Both aspects of this situation appear now to be changing. The empty living spaces on earth are shrinking; man's opportunities lie increasingly with the cultivation of his inner life. And the major threat to his survival comes also now from within himself. In the absence of external action he has to learn to overcome death—promoting lethargy in order to survive; and, in response to the attacks on his sensibilities to which he is increasingly exposed by the overly close, yet more and more indifferent human environment in which he finds himself, he has to learn to overcome his tendency to respond with life—destroying rage.

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