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Treurniet, N. (1980). On the Relation Between the Concepts of Self and Ego in Kohut's Psychology of the Self. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 61:325-333.

(1980). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 61:325-333

On the Relation Between the Concepts of Self and Ego in Kohut's Psychology of the Self

N. Treurniet


The concept of self is connected with its counterpart in the concepts of objective, subjective and transitional reality. The potential space of the Self is shown to be restricted rather than enhanced by an overemphasis on the role of empathy. This overemphasis is then related to narcissistic problems in the analyst himself.

Self-psychology turns back the clock as it splits instead of integrates its relation with psychoanalysis, reducing so-called 'classical analysis' to rigid conflict psychology as opposed to self-psychology, which claims the most central functions of the ego thereby confiscating the third episode in the development of the ego concept in Freud's work.

Kohut's description of the transitional process in the psychoanalytic situation predominantly in terms of only one of its constituents, the empathic immersion, is considered to be related to his position vis-à-vis the drives. Using only experiential, as opposed to observational, categories he cannot but arrive at the conclusion that drive

intensity is not the cause of central pathology but its result. This creates an imbalance in the clinical view that not only narcissistic mortification indeed produces drive manifestations but on the other hand intensive drive impulses also may produce a severe narcissistic mortification.

An attempt is made to find theoretical conceptualizations preserving drive psychology as well as self-psychology by differentiating between a function and its content, i.e. the product of that function, the representation. The interdependence in the 'working relation' of self and ego, of subjective experiencing and objective functioning, of our sense of freedom and our conviction of determinism is clarified. The seeming contradictions and conceptual confusion might also be related to an insufficient distinction between our two basic modes of perceiving the world, diacritic and coenaesthetic perception.

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