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Stark, M.I. (1989). Work Inhibition—A Self-Psychological Perspective. Contemp. Psychoanal., 25:135-157.

(1989). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 25:135-157

Work Inhibition—A Self-Psychological Perspective

Michael I. Stark, Ph.D.

THE CAPACITIES TO WORK AND to love, Freud's famous twin ideals, have often been cited as the promised rewards of an analysis. While object relations theory, theories of narcissism, and the interpersonal tradition have all focused heavily on the capacity for pleasurable and stable relations with others, work and productivity have received far less attention. Fenichel (1945) argued that "occupational inhibition" was not a distinct psychological category, although he noted several recurring themes: conflicts over authority, conflicts over independence, an upsurge of instincts, and "neurotic disturbances of concentration." In creative, scholarly, and other pursuits, lapses in concentration and bouts of procrastination are familiar enough that we run the risk, I believe, of regarding such work blocks not only as determined by a hopelessly heterogeneous range of factors, but also as well-known, hence understandable or self-explanatory, and so not in need of further particular description and explanation.

There may well be many sources of work difficulty, just as there must be many motives for the myriad forms of work and productive activity people undertake. Nonetheless, one of the most interesting reasons for looking into specific dynamics and underlying themes of work difficulties—and for expecting to find some—comes from the important fact that work problems do not covary simply with overall degree of emotional disturbance or illness. Productive work can be performed by certain otherwise deeply disturbed, stressed, or unhappy people.

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