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Zee, H.J. (1989). Richard Sterba. The Collected Papers: Edited by Herman Daldin, Ph.D. Croton-on-Hudson, NY: North River Press, Inc., 1987. 205 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 58:461-463.
(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:461-463
Richard Sterba. The Collected Papers: Edited by Herman Daldin, Ph.D. Croton-on-Hudson, NY: North River Press, Inc., 1987. 205 pp.
Review by: Hugo J. Zee
This book is a selection of twenty-eight of the more than sixty clinical and theoretical papers Richard Sterba wrote between 1928 and 1957. Sterba is known as one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis. During the 1920's he became interested in psychoanalysis while he was in medical training. He was one of the first students of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. Later, he became part of Freud's inner circle. In 1938, after the Anschluss, although not Jewish, he and his family wisely decided to move abroad, eventually settling in Detroit.
The papers are a pleasure to read. As a good teacher, he explains his topics well. A number of them also have historical merit. The articles range from brief clinical observations to enlightening and insightful discourses on major theoretical or technical issues. They contain discussions of various aspects of transference and commentaries on various treatment techniques. I shall focus on just a few of them.
One of the more influential papers, "The Fate of the Ego in Analytic Therapy" (1934), expands on ideas published as early as 1929 on the formation of the therapeutic alliance. It explains how the analyst, via interpretation, brings about a "therapeutic dissociation" within the patient's ego, i.e., a conscious, reasonable ego which forms an alliance/identification with the analyst's insight-producing efforts, and which contemplates the experiencing ego as it deals with impulses and defenses. This paper, like others, is still refreshing to read as Sterba details the analytic technique in this process.
Not surprisingly, this paper is something of a classic, considering how Sterba's ideas are reflected in subsequent major works, e.g., those of Strachey and Fenichel. He describes, for example, how the prototype of this therapeutic dissociation of the ego is found in the process of superego formation, in which "by means of identification—of analysand and analyst—judgments and valuations from the outside world are admitted into the ego and become operative within it" (p. 66).
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