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Laplanche, J. Kohut, H. (1970). Discussion of 'The Self: A Contribution to its Place in Theory and Technique'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 51:175-181.

(1970). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 51:175-181

Discussion of 'The Self: A Contribution to its Place in Theory and Technique'

J. Laplanche and Heinz Kohut


For his opening remarks the speaker took a briefer approach to the subject than that in the prepublished paper. He said that for him there were discrepancies and gaps in our knowledge and understanding. There were gaps between libido theory and ego psychology; between theory itself and technique; between, for example, the technical requirement for opacity in the analyst and our knowledge that, for the unconscious, there are no secrets at all. These discrepancies and disjunctions had led him towards a consideration of the self.

In 1940 in the Outline, Freud had said that the ego (or the id) was the great reservoir of libido—something like an amoeba putting out and withdrawing libidinal pseudopodia. But by this date Freud's ego was no longer the 'poor thing' of his earlier formulation. It was the ego, big and strong, the commanding, autonomous master in its own house. We could have asked ourselves how can this ego also be the amoeba? Hartmann (1949) clarified the problem for us. The self is the great reservoir of libido, of narcissism. The ego remains the great system of functions and of central control. Kohut (1966), (1968) has worked out for us the developmental paths of the self.

We can now say that the ego is a quite anonymous system of functions, the relatively fixed boundaries of which are limited by the tools man has available to his hand. As technology expands, so do the limits of ego function expand.

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