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Ahumada, J.L. (2005). Contemporary controversies in psychoanalytic theory, techniques and their applications by Otto Kernberg New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2004. 342 pp. Aggressivity, narcissism and self-destructiveness in the psychotherapeutic relationship: New developments in the psychopathology and psychotherapy of severe personality disorders by Otto Kernberg New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2004. 271 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(6):1725-1733.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(6):1725-1733

Contemporary controversies in psychoanalytic theory, techniques and their applications by Otto Kernberg New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2004. 342 pp. Aggressivity, narcissism and self-destructiveness in the psychotherapeutic relationship: New developments in the psychopathology and psychotherapy of severe personality disorders by Otto Kernberg New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2004. 271 pp.

Review by:
Jorge L. Ahumada

Otto Kernberg is a man of many places and many fields of endeavour: born in Germany during the Weimar Republic, he grew up and trained as a physician and psychoanalyst in Chile, where Kleinian thinking had the day; from the 1960s onwards, he pursued a dazzling career as clinician, researcher, writer, teacher and administrator in the USA, initially at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, and then at Cornell University. He shouldered mighty tasks for organized psychoanalysis, not the least being IPA president from 1997 to 2001. Such backgrounds permeate these books, which put together revised versions of nearly 30 papers published since 1992.

Contemporary controversies in psychoanalytic theory, techniques and their applications

The first book comprises two parts: theory and applications; and technique. The first two chapters, ‘Freud's theories and their contemporary variations’ and ‘Psychoanalytic object relations theories’, are apt summaries addressed to a wide public. Chapter 3, ‘The concept of drive in the light of contemporary psychoanalytic theorizing’, links drive theory and object-relations theory, pursuing the idea that accent on intersubjectivity at the expense of the drives neglects unconscious mental structures and minimizes or ignores primitive hatred and early erotic and sadomasochistic unconscious phantasy. Kernberg draws on Mahler's Ferenczian idea of symbiotic merger, with an important difference: for him, symbiotic states correspond to moments of peak affects, so that symbiotic states and states of differentiation alternate from the start. While he also draws on Laplanche's notion of ‘enigmatic messages’, it must be noted that for Kernberg language as communication is superimposed upon a pre-existent affective communication, to the point that, reversing the Lacanian formula, he maintains that aspects of language are structured like unconscious affects.

Chapter

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