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Jacobs, T.J. (2008). Hans Loewald: An Appreciation. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 56(4):1097-1104.

(2008). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 56(4):1097-1104

Hans Loewald: An Appreciation

Theodore J. Jacobs

What I have to say about Hans Loewald will be very personal. I will not try to assess his historical place in our field or review the seminal contributions he has made to it. I will simply attempt to describe how my own thinking has been affected by his writings and, by means of a case example, illustrate how, clinically, some of his ideas have proven useful to me. Time does not permit me to do more than select just a few of the many original ideas of Loewald's that have enhanced my work.

Let me begin by turning the clock back. It is the mid-1960s and I am a student at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. The approach we are taught is, basically, an ego psychological model with emphasis on infantile sexuality, the power of instinctual forces, conflict between the agencies of the mind, and the importance of unconscious fantasy and compromise formations. The aim of treatment is the gaining of insight, provided primarily by the analyst, who, as a relatively objective observer, is able to bring to light the unconscious conflicts and fantasies that underlie the patient's difficulties.

As a student I have no question as to the correctness of this perspective. It has proven its worth over many years and I find it valuable as a way of understanding my patients' problems. I cannot help feeling, though, that this theory is incomplete. It does not deal adequately, I believe, with the interactive dimension in treatment, and especially with the undoubted impact that the person of the analyst has on the internal world of the patient. To a lesser extent, the same could be said about the patient's impact on the analyst and the way that the analyst's experience of the patient affects the analytic work.

Of course, traditional theory puts much emphasis on transference and countertransference and, basically, makes use of these phenomena to explain the effects that the interactions of patient and analyst have on both parties.

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