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Mendell, D. (1990). Theories of the Unconscious and Theories of the Self: Edited by Raphael Stern. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1987. 282 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:461-467.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:461-467

Theories of the Unconscious and Theories of the Self: Edited by Raphael Stern. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1987. 282 pp.

Review by:
Dale Mendell

This collection of invited essays derives from an attempt by the Association for the Philosophy of Science, Psychotherapy and Ethics to initiate a unified approach to the dynamics of the unconscious, the theory of the self, and the emotions. The resulting interdisciplinary effort, despite the philosopher Raphael Stern's valiant attempt at integration, is a loose collection of interesting but disparate papers. Approximately half are written by psychoanalysts or psychoanalytic psychotherapists; the others are the work of philosophers, cognitive psychologists, and social scientists from various disciplines. Unfortunately, a biographical index of the contributors is missing.

Otto Kernberg's major contribution is to formulate hypotheses about the development of consciousness, as a means of illuminating the nature of the dynamic unconscious. Unlike Freud, who conceptualized the id as a mainly unstructured cauldron of repressed drives, Kernberg maintains that it is organized and reflects vicissitudes of drive investments of internalized object relations. He states that ordinarily deeply repressed id contents are fully conscious in patients whose defensive organization relies on splitting rather than on repression. He reasons that the dynamic unconscious may not develop fully until the ego is sufficiently consolidated to form a repressive barrier, with the aid of the early superego. Kernberg reformulates Freud's hypotheses that the ego originates as a precipitate of abandoned object cathexes and that it differentiates from the id by crystalizing around the system perception-consciousness. He proposes that affective interactions with the mother, and evolving instinctual investments of her, shape consciousness by transforming archaic affective states into mental activity with symbolic functions. The bulk of the chapter is devoted to tracing the evolution of consciousness from the infant's initial state of primary affective subjectivity. Kernberg also outlines successive levels of superego pathology, emphasizing its dependence on the quality and depth of internalized object relations and the corresponding integration and structuralization of the self.

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