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Thomson, J. (1988). Steinberg, Warren. ‘Idealisation: A Clinical Discrimination. Quadrant, 19/2, 1986.. J. Anal. Psychol., 33(3):311.

(1988). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 33(3):311

Steinberg, Warren. ‘Idealisation: A Clinical Discrimination. Quadrant, 19/2, 1986.

Review by:
Jean Thomson

The author is a training analyst in the New York C. G. Jung Institute. His major goal in this paper is to discriminate between disorders of idealisation.

He says Jung identifies idealisation as part of transpersonal phenomena and the drive to free the archetypal unconscious, whereas Kohut and other psychoanalytic clinicians have tended to associate all manifestations of idealisation with narcissistic character disorder. For the Jungian, idealisation serves a purposive religious function in arriving at an approximation of the self. Essentially taking this view, Steinberg then goes on to discriminate between depressive neurosis, borderline conditions and narcissistic character disorder, giving clinical examples. He summarises the depressive as having a perceived need to submit to the analyst, the borderline as being in fear of the analyst's implacable hostility, and the disordered narcissist as using idealisation as a defence against envy.

He discusses countertransference pressures for trainees in dealing with idealising patients, where the trainee is both inexperienced and more vulnerable because of being liable to be caught up in his or her own idealisation of the training.

The conclusion, which I found the most satisfying part of the paper, compares a Jungian with Steinberg's Kohutian psychoanalytic perspective and makes a plea for empirical substantiation of the kind he is attempting in his paper. He says: When development is inhibited either through fixation or defence, the individual ceases to evolve in relation to the Self.

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