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Wolstein, B. (1975). Toward a Conception of Unique Individuality. Contemp. Psychoanal., 11:146-160.

(1975). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 11:146-160

Toward a Conception of Unique Individuality

Benjamin Wolstein, Ph.D.

PSYCHOANALYSIS, THROUGHOUT ITS BRIEF HISTORY, has consistently interpreted the uniqueness of the individual psyche in terms of factors and forces external to it. For that purpose, it has appealed to a wide variety of biological, social and ego-interpersonal metapsychologies, always attempting to locate the etiology of psychic problems in the blocked or failed awareness of those environing, nonpsychic factors and forces.

It, therefore, set abstract and arbitrary limits to therapeutic inquiry into psychic problems, and in support of such limits, conceived the traits of the uniquely individual psyche as being, genericly, a function of something other than itself.

During the first stage of psychoanalysis from the early 1880's to about 1915–1917, comprising the id model of therapy, the study of the psyche was, of course, considered a function of the patient's biology and instincts. And during the second stage of its history from the early 1920's to about 1950, comprising the ego–interpersonal model of therapy, that study was considered a function of the social and cultural beliefs, values and ideals transmitted to the patient via his family.

No matter how sharply these two major models differed in other respects, they came to agree on this one: Both conceived the patient's experience indirectly, treating its development externally—from its "outside" conditions—and as a result, conceived his problems and treated his potentialities in the same way.


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