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Grey, A.L. (1988). Work Role and Private Self. Contemp. Psychoanal., 24:484-497.

(1988). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 24:484-497

Work Role and Private Self

Alan L. Grey, Ph.D.

THERE IS A STORY ABOUT A MAN who reluctantly made love to his dying wife, to fulfill her last request. He was astonished to see her revive in his arms. She even rose from their bed and whirled joyously around the room. When the recovered woman looked again at her husband, it was her turn to be amazed. "Why are you crying?" she asked. "Oh, " he moaned, "had I only known, I might have saved mother." That inclination to rescue marks him as harboring a wish to become an analyst, in the opinion of writers on the subject. And how psychoanalysts come to be what they are—the relationship between the occupation and the personality—is the topic to be considered here.

The illustrative anecdote is not intended to offer the Oedipus Complex as the key to the analyst's character. The hypothesis is, rather, that the analyst-to-be starts as a child who develops special sensitivity to the needs of others out of efforts to sustain the relationship with a depressed mother, by putting her first. As Anthony Storr explains this theory (1980p. 175) "… anxiety to please and sensitivity to what may be upsetting to others are useful traits which help the psychotherapist to make an initial contact with patients who begin by being hostile or suspicious."

Many who have attempted to explain the analyst's motivations arrive at approximately similar conclusions. The theme is stated in several variations. From the Kleinian perspective, for example is Racker's interpretation, when he says (1968p.

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