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Kerr, J. (2014). Is There a Self, and Do We Care? Reflections on Kohut and Sullivan. Contemp. Psychoanal., 50(4):627-658.

(2014). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 50(4):627-658

Is There a Self, and Do We Care? Reflections on Kohut and Sullivan

John Kerr

Although Kohut pointedly differentiated his nascent ideas on narcissistic self-object transferences from Sullivan's participant observation, a close examination shows that their approaches to therapeutic listening are essentially identical. Further, their views on the centrality of the self or self-system in development and psychopathology are also remarkably similar even down to details and nuances. Nonetheless, the two theorists have notably disparate, if potentially complementary, views on anxiety, empathy, and how the self grows. In addition, their respective stances vis-à-vis the role of the self in treatment are surprisingly dissimilar. As background for these comparisons, Sullivan's debts to Cooley, Mead, Meyer, and Bridgman are noted as is Kohut's evolution as a theorist whose essentially relational reinterpretation of narcissism ultimately led him to initiate self psychology.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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