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Lager, E. (1986). Autonomy and Rigid Character: By David Shapiro. New York: Basic Books. 1981. Pp. 179.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:261-263.

(1986). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67:261-263

Autonomy and Rigid Character: By David Shapiro. New York: Basic Books. 1981. Pp. 179.

Review by:
Eric Lager

Psychoanalysts vary in their approach to the treatment of character disturbance. Freud was opposed to attempting analysis with patients who did not possess a 'fairly reliable character'. Inasmuch as a less reliable character would have little motivation to view the rigid defensive attitudes of the ego, Fenichel saw the possibility of extending psychoanalytic treatment to this group, through mobilizing latent conflict. Today, there is considerable range in selection and there are difficulties in obtaining hoped-for results. In regard to technique a wide range can be seen, especially among beginners. One rushes in to attack the character attitudes, unaware that he is strengthening resistances. Another may be too cautious to be able to intervene at all. Herbert Schlesinger offered a nice guide when he suggested that, 'the analyst drops fine grains of sand in the smoothly running machinery of the character neurosis'. Whatever the analyst decides he recognizes and tests the patient's conscious attitudes.

According to David Shapiro, author of Autonomy and Rigid Character, psychoanalysts have little concern with conscious attitudes. 'How individuals characteristically think and see things, ' he states, 'is actually contrary to traditional dynamic theory …' This is because it does not take into account that the person 'chooses' his volitional behaviour. 'Psychoanalysis obscures the person's authorship of his own actions, ' he says, and this is because it explains them on the basis of a need driven model.

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