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Rosenbloom, S. (1992). The Development of the Work Ego in the Beginning Analyst: Thoughts on Identity Formation of the Psychoanalyst. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 73:117-126.

(1992). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 73:117-126

The Development of the Work Ego in the Beginning Analyst: Thoughts on Identity Formation of the Psychoanalyst

S. Rosenbloom

Psychoanalytic literature contains numerous references to the optimal functioning of the experienced analyst in the performance of his everyday duties. For example, Fliess (1942), in a classic paper, describes the mental functioning of the veteran psychoanalyst in terms of his developing a 'work ego', which allows him to endure severe demands and deprivations inflicted on him by the therapeutic situation. He describes the analyst as experiencing a state of reverie in which he is capable of suspending disbelief around the associations presented, thereby forming trial identifications with the patient which result in empathic understanding. More recent contributors have viewed the reverie state as something akin to Kris's 'regression in the service of the ego', used in describing creative processes (Olinick, 1980). From an information theory perspective, work ego activities are seen as the rapid scanning of material, by the experienced clinician, who tests and rejects numerous hypotheses before arriving at an intervention (Peterfreund, 1983).

Suffice it to say that the newly graduated analyst is nowhere near performing many of the complex operations described by these authors. Indeed, there has been comparatively little written about how he acquires the skills which help in the moulding of a secure professional identity. It is the aim of this paper to examine the developmental process involved in psychoanalytic identity formation, paying specific attention to some of the obstacles inherent in psychoanalytic life, and focusing on the skills necessary to the formation of a mature work ego.

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