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Smith, H.F. (1999). Arnold Goldberg: Two Heads are Better than one. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(2):343-349.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(2):343-349

Arnold Goldberg: Two Heads are Better than one

Henry F. Smith

I first spotted Arnold Goldberg in the early seventies. I was a resident at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, and he had come to give grand rounds. His paper “On the Incapacity to Love” (1972) had just been published and had caught our attention, but he was not well known to us. My recollection, perhaps totally false and unfair, is that Kohut himself was supposed to have come but had been detained by one of those weather conditions Chicagoans are always complaining about, and that Arnold was filling in—although why he should have made it when Kohut could not (they were both from Chicago) belies the veracity of the memory. But what I thought I heard that day was the gospel according to Kohut.

I learned later, of course, that others had cast Goldberg as a Kohut disciple, and some of them have read this plenary address as his liberation or his reentry into the mainstream. As I think back over the details of that day, however, I am not so sure.

One moment stands out. Goldberg had been discussing the clinical difficulties that narcissistic and borderline patients can present and the value of the ruptures that ensue. I remember asking him from the audience whether, if such a patient were to give a history of repeated difficulties with therapists, it would be useful, as I had been taught by a more classical analyst, to speak to the patient's ego, as yet supposedly unencumbered by transference, and say, “No doubt you will feel that way about me too.” It was something to which we clung in an effort to forestall the regressive onslaught to follow.

Arnold thought for a moment and then said, in that intrusive way he has of making a didactic point and slipping in an interpretation of one's character at the same time, “I think you are trying to be too good.” It made me anxious and a little annoyed, not least of all because, apart from his being too smart, he was taking away my clinical magic. It was also my first lesson in the difference between one psychoanalytic culture and another.

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