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Fosshage, J.L. (1995). Self Psychology and Its Contributions to Psychoanalysis. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 4(4):238-245.

(1995). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 4(4):238-245

Self Psychology and Its Contributions to Psychoanalysis

James L. Fosshage, Ph.D.

A schematic overview of the theory and practice of self psychology is presented with a particular focus on what the author believes to be the most important contributions to psychoanalysis. It is recognized that self psychology, as with all psychoanalytic approaches, is an evolving and non-unitary theory. Fundamental features of self psychology are: 1. the consistent use of the empathic mode of observation, that is, to listen and understand from within the vantage point of the patient; 2. the primary motivation which involves strivings to develop and maintain a positive cohesive sense of self; 3. that each person has unique pre-wired “givens” included in the concept of the nuclear self; 4. that each person has selfobject needs which refer to the use of the object for the development and regulation of a positive sense of self; 5. that selfobject needs include mirroring (acknowledgement and affirmation), idealizing (protection, safety, and admired qualities), and twinship (a feeling of essential likeness, of sharing) needs; 6. that development and maintenance of a positive cohesive sense of self requires a sufficient responsiveness to selfobject needs; 7. that insufficient responsiveness arrests normal development, creates pathological organizing patterns of self, others, and self with others, and causes unresolvable conflict; and 8. that psychoanalytic treatment involves the analysis of the selfobject and repetitive dimensions of the transference in order to facilitate expansion of awareness, symbolic reorganization and self-righting.

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