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Saul, L.J. Warner, S.L. (1967). Identity and a Point of Technique. Psychoanal Q., 36:532-545.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:532-545

Identity and a Point of Technique

Leon J. Saul, M.D. and Silas L. Warner, M.D.


Every person's sense of identity stems from its nucleus in the relationships to the parents and siblings (or substitutes) in the earliest years, especially prior to age six. This occurs by object relations with the parents, e.g., feeling loved or unloved, and by identification with them, taking over their attitudes, feelings, reactions. Both processes involve very largely introjection of the parents to form the superego, which continues the images and authority of the parents. Both processes determine in large degree a person's image of himself, his self-esteem and his ego-identity. This develops without problems where relationships with the parents are basically good; when they are not, the sense of identity is vague, insecure, unacceptable, or otherwise disordered in a variety of ways.

The importance of this in analytic technique is great, for the analyst comes into the position of the parents as a significant part of the patient's superego, with some of the power the parents exercised over the child. Inevitably, therefore, the analyst influences the patient powerfully. Part of this influence is on the patient's view of himself. If the analyst implies, wittingly or unwittingly, through his interpretations that the totality of the patient's personality consists of the disordered infantile patterns which the analyst interprets, then the patient comes to see himself as only this—a depreciated, infantile, inadequate, hostile, shameful, guilty creature. Hence, it is essential that the analyst give the patient a realistic view of himself, enabling him to see clearly and in perspective his mature qualities and capacities, and to discriminate the disordered infantile patterns, i.e., the psychopathology, from the mature. The mature is used as a base for dealing with the disordered infantile, the pathodynamics. In this way, the patient achieves a

sound, realistic ego identity, building up and being conscious of the mature healthy part of his personality; and his identity gives self-respect and confidence in dealing with the infantile parts in the analysis and in life. The transference and countertransference can thus correct faults in the object relations and identifications of childhood with the parents, moving these toward a more adult-to-adult relation of the patient with the analyst, with persons in life, with his parents, and with himself.

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