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Friedman, L. Samberg, E. (1994). Richard Sterba's (1934) "The Fate of the Ego in Analytic Therapy". J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:863-873.

(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:863-873

Richard Sterba's (1934) "The Fate of the Ego in Analytic Therapy"

Lawrence Friedman, M.D. and Eslee Samberg, M.D.

FRIEDMAN DESCRIBED THE SIGNIFICANCE of Sterba's (1934) paper and prepared the audience for the ideas that would follow. In his view, Sterba's concept of a therapeutic dissociation within the ego is one of three central paradigms in psychoanalytic treatment which distinguish themselves by linking clinical observation to an abstract theory of structural change. The other two paradigms are Freud's concept of making the unconscious conscious, and Strachey's concept of superego transference as mutative. Friedman reminded us that the fate of Sterba's paper is inextricably tied to a major albeit controversial issue in psychoanalysis, the therapeutic alliance. He posed a series of questions concerning Sterba's paper, including whether the patient's self-observing capacity can be seen as distinct from the analyst's influence, and the validity of distinguishing an objective (and ego-autonomous) perspective from a perspective shaped by instinctual motivation.

Each of the panelists provided a different viewpoint from which to consider Sterba's ideas, and these were then reviewed and critiqued by the discussant.

Mitchell outlined the discontinuity between Sterba's ideas and contemporary psychoanalysis, focusing on how the concept of reality has changed from Freud's day to the present. Steeped in nineteen-thcentury philosophy of science, both Freud and Sterba saw reality as an objective truth to be discovered, which had important implications for the assumptions underlying the methods and goals of psychoanalysis. Sterba, according to Mitchell, saw the analyst's task as promoting and facilitating the patient's insight into the objective view of reality apparent to the analyst. This view of reality was highly complex but knowable, finite, unambiguous, and separable from its affective context.

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