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Levin, F.M. (1995). The Private Self. By Arnold H. Modell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993, 250 pp., $27.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:232-235.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:232-235

The Private Self. By Arnold H. Modell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993, 250 pp., $27.95.

Review by:
Fred M. Levin, M.D.

With The Private Self Arnold Modell continues the task, begun with Object Love and Reality, of trying to fathom the paradoxical needs of man for dependency and autonomy, while defining “the clinical and conceptual limitations of object relations(Gedo, 1991p. 2). At the core of this serious contribution is a reevaluation of self psychology, viewed by Modell as essentially an object relations theory. Modell finds much to value in the work of Kohut and Winnicott; he builds upon their ideas, making a number of revisions along the way that the reader will find quite interesting. As Modell himself has said, quoting Winnicott, “It is not possible to be original except on the basis of tradition(Modell, 1985p. 129).

What bothers Modell is that self psychology comes down almost exclusively on the side of the social self. Modell most objects to Kohut's dictum that we cannot live without affirming selfobjects, any more than we can survive without oxygen. Modell counters that while humans do at times need such affirmation (e.g., at certain developmental stages), there are—as he notes Winnicott also observed—times and elements the self never communicates; the private self, Modell argues, fuels us from within and becomes a major source of authenticity, vital personal interests, and genuine autonomy. For Modell this private self is coterminous with Winnicott's conception of the true self and stands in contrast to (and as a necessary supplement of) Kohut's social self.

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