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Klein, G.S. (1969/1970). The Emergence of Ego Psychology the Ego in Psychoanalysis: A Concept in Search of Identity. Psychoanal. Rev., 56D(4):511-525.

(1969/1970). Psychoanalytic Review, 56D(4):511-525

The Emergence of Ego Psychology the Ego in Psychoanalysis: A Concept in Search of Identity

George S. Klein, Ph.D.

I.

Having emerged as a distinctive field of inquiry, ego psychology bears witness to the radical changes of orientation that have occurred in psychoanalysis. These changes are perhaps best described as the development of psychoanalysis from a theory of psychopathology and illness—from a theory, that is, of the miscarriage of functions—to one that tries to encompass all psychological “disequilibria,” whether specifically psychopathological or not. These basic changes of emphasis in the parent theory deserve a brief review because they are the background of a crisis in contemporary ego psychology, which is the main topic of this paper.

1.   From a narrow concern with conflict to a concern with dilemma and crisis: Psychoanalysis from the first dealt with the dialectics of opposition of incompatible intrapsychic tendencies. Its propositions, distinguishing it from other theories, have mainly to do with how behavior reflects efforts to resolve and synthesize such oppositions. Deriving from this view was Freud's conception of symptoms as solutions, a central proposition in his theory of neurosis.

For a long time it was the resolution of a particular type of opposition, namely, a conflict between defense and drive, that occupied stage center in the theory. However, a major change has come about in the conception of what polarities are at play in the organism.

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