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Horowitz, M.J. (1977). Hysterical Personality: Cognitive Structure and the Processes of Change. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 4:23-49.

(1977). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 4:23-49

Hysterical Personality: Cognitive Structure and the Processes of Change

Mardi J. Horowitz

The goal of this paper is to describe a method for writing psychoanalytic case histories in a manner that mediates between simple description of the analytic process and the abstract generalizations of metapsychology. This intermediate level involves the development of inferences that define cognitive process and cognitive structure. In particular, there is definition of the principal ways that defences operate to distort information-processing of the main self and object schemata that organize information and guide behaviour. With such definition it is possible to describe modification during the course of analysis of those cognitive operations of a defensive and resistive nature, and of basic self and object schemata that colour the transference.

To achieve these ends, a typical case of hysterical character is described. The history of the analysis is given and followed by formulations from the six metapsychological points of view. The cognitive point of view is then discussed in detail with a focus on learning during the analysis. The cognitive point of view is not seen as a seventh point of view, nor is it seen as a replacement for metapsychology. Instead, it is a subsection of the structural point of view and deals with a detailed examination of ego functions.


Psychoanalysis provides profound data about psychological dynamics and the processes of change during treatment. The perennial problem has been the systematization of this data (Wallerstein & Sampson, 1971) ; (Knapp, 1974).

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