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Gabe, S. (1951). Psychiatry. XIII, 1950: The Place of Action in Personality Change. Allen Wheelis. Pp. 135–148.. Psychoanal Q., 20:651.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psychiatry. XIII, 1950: The Place of Action in Personality Change. Allen Wheelis. Pp. 135–148.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 20:651

Psychiatry. XIII, 1950: The Place of Action in Personality Change. Allen Wheelis. Pp. 135–148.

S. Gabe

Psychoanalytic theory has failed to elucidate explicitly the process whereby psychotherapy effects personality change. To understand what happens in therapy it is necessary to know how personality change in general occurs. By reasoning from the basic function of the psychic apparatus to discharge tension, Wheelis arrives at the conclusion that it is action which leads to personality change. The kind of action initiated to discharge tension is usually determined by the customary mode of behavior of the personality as currently constituted. However, because not all problems can be solved within the framework of the already established modes of behavior, the individual is impelled to initiate new modes of behavior. One action by itself is usually insufficient to establish the new mode because only when sufficient energy has flown through the newly employed channel does it become an established mode of behavior to which the rest of the personality adjusts itself. The new mode of behavior produces alterations in emotional attitudes and in thought processes. Thinking or fantasying by themselves cannot produce a personality change since not enough psychic energy is discharged to effect a rechanneling of energy. Therapy effects personality change only in so far as it leads a patient to adopt a new mode of behavior. An alteration merely in thinking or feeling will not produce a personality change, which explains why insight alone is insufficient to produce a therapeutic result. Between the therapist's interpretation and the personality change in the patient, action must intervene. The initiation of a new mode of behavior usually first occurs in therapy with the therapist the object of the released impulse. However, unless the larger part of a mutative experience is acted out outside of therapy, a lasting personality change is not effected.

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Article Citation

Gabe, S. (1951). Psychiatry. XIII, 1950. Psychoanal. Q., 20:651

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