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Bollas, C. (1986). Who Does Self Psychology Cure?. Psychoanal. Inq., 6(3):429-435.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 6(3):429-435

Who Does Self Psychology Cure? Related Papers

Christopher Bollas, Ph.D.

Sometime in the early 1960s Heinz Kohut lost his belief in the rhetoric of psychoanalysis. “I put theory on one side and practice on the other and, in my teaching, strained to talk about ego psychology as if it were in harmony with what I did in practice.” He knew that “psychoanalysis needed a decisive shift in emphasis, in both theory and practice” (1984p. 87) but for several years he avoided this insight by devoting himself to “administrative work.”

His discontent with the theory of ego psychology was shared by many analysts during this period, who reconsidered the theory of drives and the nature of the ego. Within the American tradition, Roy Schafer, for example, emerged with a new philosophy of psychoanalytic rhetoric.

But Kohut was troubled by something else, and this becomes strikingly clear in How Does Analysis Cure? Psychoanalysts have become “stepped in a morality-tinged theory about the therapeutic centrality of truth-facing that is interwoven with a comparably morality-tinged scientific model about the need to make the unconscious conscious. In terms of this model, anything that opposes ‘making conscious’ or ‘becoming conscious’ is a resistance” (p. 141). He reflects on how he would now handle a specific clinical encounter differently: the patient who tells a lie. While now he would allow


Christopher Bollas, Ph.D., is a Member of the British Psycho-Analytic Society; Member, British Association of Psychotherapists; Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis, University of Rome; Visiting Professor of English, University of Massachusetts; and Director of Education, Austen Riggs Center.

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