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Terman, D.M. (1988). Chapter 8 Optimum Frustration: Structuralization and the Therapeutic Process. Progress in Self Psychology, 4:113-125.

(1988). Progress in Self Psychology, 4:113-125

IV Clinical Papers

Chapter 8 Optimum Frustration: Structuralization and the Therapeutic Process

David M. Terman, M.D.

This chapter reconsiders the psychoanalytic theory of structuralization—especially the centrality of frustration. I shall argue that the theoretical emphasis on frustration has neglected the importance and variety of pattern that is generated in transaction, in which a variety of responses and fulfillments play central roles in the construction of self experience, meaning and expectation.

In his last work, How Does Analysis Cure? (1984), Kohut again enshrined the concept of optimal frustration as central to the process of transmuting internalization. He asked the question, Can abiding functions be acquired by the self without a preceding frustration, however tiny and/or fractionated from the side of the selfobject? (p. 100). And he answered no. He detailed a three-step sequence: 1) need-activation and optimal frustration via 2) nonfulfillment of the need (abstinence) and 3) substitution of direct need fulfillment with the establishment of a bond of empathy between self and selfobject (p. 103). With the emphasis on frustration, Kohut put his concepts directly in line with classical theory and carefully divorced his theories and techniques from the onus of providing gratification.

I do not think I need to review the long and weighty reasons for the opprobrium in which the idea of gratification has been held.

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