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Goldberg, C. (1996). Freud's Case Studies—Self-Psychological Perspectives: Barry Magid. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1993, 216 pp. $29.95. Psychoanal. Psychol., 13(3):449-451.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 13(3):449-451

Freud's Case Studies—Self-Psychological Perspectives: Barry Magid. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1993, 216 pp. $29.95

Review by:
Constance Goldberg, LCSW

Although one might first respond to the title of this book by asking, “Is this book necessary?”, the answer, on several grounds, is a resounding “Yes!” Certainly there is a sense of exhaustion with the thought of yet another book or article that tackles one or several of the cases that have come to be thought of as composing Freud's clinical evidence; however, this rich book delivers on its promise—to rethink Freud's cases in self-psychological terms—in such a successful way that one is left with a more profound understanding of the genius of Freud and the profound contributions of the work of Heinz Kohut.

Although all of the authors who are contributors to the book make distinctive and valuable contributions, it is the editor himself via his own participation who emerges with the most cogent assessment of Freud's six cases and their current reassessment in terms of self psychology. It is Magid who makes the point that is, in essence, the central thesis of the book:

These case studies thus serve an important reminder of how theory bound all clinical observations necessarily are. And if Freud's impositions of his own theory on his data now seem crude and forced in the light of our current knowledge, we must not smugly imagine ourselves to be immune to the same process. … A focus on the patient's subjective experience does not preclude the imparting of our theoretical organizing principles to the patient as part of the groundwork of our interpretations. (p. 6)

The authors of the chapters demonstrate varying capacities to understand that all understanding is theory bound. The result is that some lean toward the position that self psychology offers us the true perspective through which we can understand a patient, whereas Freud was woefully lacking in any interest in immersing himself in the subjective experience of the patient. Empathy is seen by some authors as the exclusive domain of the self psychologists.

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