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Horowitz, M.H. (1995). How Character Shapes Transference. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 4(1):45-52.

(1995). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 4(1):45-52

How Character Shapes Transference Related Papers

Milton H. Horowitz, M.D.


Thomas Carlyle is said to have dubbed history the essence of innumerable biographies. So too, the body of psychoanalytic propositions about character and transference is the essence of innumerable psychoanalytic biographies. As the data from these analyses have accumulated over the past century many of our explanatory hypotheses have been thrown into question and our questions have taken on increasing complexity.

Martin Stein, whom we honor here, has long recognized the complexity of the task, and his many papers on character and on transference have served to shake theoretical complacency and reductionism by focusing on unanswered questions.

The depth of the problem of character theory was first addressed by Freud in an unpublished discussion with his students later reported by Herman Nunberg (1955):

Character is a combination, or rather a synthesis of many traits, habits and attitudes of the ego. Sometimes one trait prevails, sometimes, another. One may be tempted by this fact to evaluate a man's character on the basis of a single trait. Of course, this would not yield a true picture. In order to obtain a more accurate idea of an individual's character, we must consider it from several points of view—from the descriptive, genetic, structural, dynamic, economic and libidinal angles. Consideration from each of these angles will lead to different results. The ideal picture of a character would be gained if it were possible to view all these aspects simultaneously. Then we would have a metapsychological conception of character [pp. 303-304].

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