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Rotenberg, C.T. (1988). Chapter 13 Selfobject Theory and the Artistic Process. Progress in Self Psychology, 4:193-213.

(1988). Progress in Self Psychology, 4:193-213

Chapter 13 Selfobject Theory and the Artistic Process

Carl T. Rotenberg, M.D.

In preparing this chapter, I reflected on what had caused me to examine the interrelationship between psychoanalysis and artistic expression. My thoughts drifted back to my psychiatric residency, when, for reasons not then understood, I began to spend spare time viewing art in galleries and museums. I did not then associate this increasingly absorbing hobby with my professional goals, the acquisition of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic expertise. However, in retrospect, this connection is evident when I recall that one of my favorite paintings at that time, one that still repays my visits with sustained interest, was Picasso's 1932 work, “Girl Before a Mirror” (Fig. 1).

In retrospect, I see that there was an interplay between the needs of my evolving psychotherapeutic self and the formal properties of that Cubist work, which demonstrates the usefulness of fragmenting a unitary view of an object so that its different facets can be more fully understood when viewed simultaneously from different perspectives. The formal assumptions of Cubism invited an analytic fragmentation of an object into crystallised shapes and subsequent resynthesis through the viewer's reformulation, an activity that in retrospect I regard as similar to my apprentice activity in the clinical setting. Picasso's artistic success buttressed my uncertain professional self and aided me in the cultivation of a dissecting and analyzing professional self.

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