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Bacal, H.A. (1988). Chapter 9 Reflections on “Optimum Frustration”. Progress in Self Psychology, 4:127-131.

(1988). Progress in Self Psychology, 4:127-131

Chapter 9 Reflections on “Optimum Frustration”

Howard A. Bacal

My discussion of Terman's chapter can be brief, since he has amply affirmed my view that the concept of optimal frustration is not relevant to a self-psychological perspective on theory or practice in psychoanalysis (Bacal, 1985). My conceptualization of what is therapeutic, or curative, includes elements similar to his, and I will review this shortly.

Terman has in particular drawn attention to developmental studies by Vygotsky, Kaye, and Stern, which lend weight to the view that it is repeated participation by significant adult figures in constructive cognitive activity and affective attunement with the child that shapes, molds, and structures his internal states. These studies, in effect, call into question the notion of optimal frustration as a positive factor in psychological growth. I shall not comment further on them except to recognize that they support my contention that it is the optimal responsiveness to the needs and unique characteristics of the child by his caretakers that will determine healthy self-development.

Terman offers an interesting hypothesis about the creation of structure, which he bases on the repeated demonstration by these developmentalists that “the creation of pattern occurs in significant transactions” (this volume, p. 118).

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