Good Feelings: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Positive Emotions and Attitudes

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This tightly edited volume opens a new vista in psychoanalysis by focusing upon positive and life-enhancing emotions and attitudes. The realms it covers include love, friendship, enthusiasm, courage, tact, resilience, and forgiveness, among others. Seminal papers on these topics have existed but remain scattered throughout the psychoanalytic literature. This book brings them together in a harmonious gestalt. It is more than an anthology, however. Each paper is followed by a freshly written commentary that critically evaluates the paper and brings it in consonance with up-to-date, contemporary psychoanalytic knowledge. Issues of development, adaptation, psychopathology, and analytic technique, as these pertain to the positive dimension of affective experience, are elucidated.The book also deals with the broader and overarching issue of the 'goodness' that accompanies, causes, and is enhanced by the positive emotions in consideration here. Thus the ever-elusive and puzzling issue of psychoanalytic morality finds a place in the discourse, with all its rich and complex theoretical and technical implications. The fact that the contributors to this volume come from all around the globe (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, and the United States) and represent a variety of psychoanalytic cultures adds flux and spice to the optimistic message of the text. Together the voices of these gifted psychoanalysts create an intelligent symphony of wisdom listening to which is not only instructive to the mind but a joy to the senses as well.Contributors: Salman Akhtar, George Christie, Michael Eigen, Bien Filet, Hector Juan Fiorini, Peter Fonagy, Cesar Garza-Guerrero, Ralph Greenson, Otto Kernberg, Ilany Kogan, Nicholas Kouretas, Rainer Krause, Alessandra Lemma, Sergio Lewkowicz, Mary Kay O'Neil, Henri Parens, Warren Poland, Leo Rangell, Irwin Rosen, Lisa Rosof, Rita Schulman, Beth Seelig, Sverre Varvin, Philip Weissman.

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Prologue: Psychoanalysis and human goodness: theory

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Salman Akhtar

Sigmund Freud’s (1915b) wry observation that “most of our sentimentalists, friends of humanity, and protectors of animals have been evolved from little sadists and animal tormentors” (p. 282) is but one illustration of his pessimistic view of human nature. With a stoic ethic and sceptical intellect as his chief allies, Freud suspected that instinctual and pleasure-based motives underlay most, if not all, human endeavour. Vast swathes of humanity, in his eyes, were “good for nothing in life” (1904, p. 263) besides being “lazy and unintelligent” (1927c, p. 7). Indeed, he went so far as to declare that “belief in the goodness of human nature is one of those evil illusions by which mankind expect their lives to be beautified and made easier while in reality they only cause damage” (1933a, p. 104). Freud’s (1933b) discourse on why nations go to war also underscored his view that human beings were basically destructive and violent.

From a different perspective, Freud’s (1912-1913) proposal of an actual, even if “pre-historic”, murder of the primal father saddled man with ancestral “badness” and a sort of “original sin”. His pronouncement that the “two great human crimes” (1916-1917, p. 333) were incest and parricide had a similar result. Since wishes to commit these “crimes” were integral to the childhood Oedipal experience, and since no one ever fully gave them up, all human beings remained criminal at the bottom of their hearts. Actually, Freud (1927c) did say that human beings were “antisocial and anti-cultural” (p. 7) at the core of their beings. All in all, for Freud, the essential human nature was nothing to be celebrated. In fact, it was rather dismal.

 

Chapter 1. Enthusiasm

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Ralph Greenson

Enthusiasm is a happy and joyous state of mind. It is a condiE tion of high spirits—a special form of elation. Enthusiasm has some of the buoyancy of euphoria and the activity of mania, and it is obviously different from the blissful and peaceful elations. It is my aim to differentiate enthusiasm from other varieties of elation and to distinguish several types of enthusiasm. Then I shall attempt to formulate some of the metapsychological elements which make for the phenomenon of enthusiasm.

I

Enthusiasm is a passionate state of mind. It is exciting, active, and noisy—not quiet or passive like bliss. In this regard it resembles the hypomanias, only the activities are more realistic and adaptive. The more incongruous or bizarre the activities, the more likely that we are dealing with pathological enthusiasm or a hypomanic state.

There is an air of extravagance and expansiveness about enthusiasm—a readiness to use superlatives. The enthusiastic person does not merely feel good or even very good, but great—in fact, “the greatest!” There is a sense of exuberance, richness, an abundance of good fortune; yet with it all, there is some awareness that one is exaggerating; but it is enjoyable, and one is reluctant to give it up.

 

Commentary

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Nicholas Kouretas

Ralph Greenson’s article “On enthusiasm” was published in R 1962, somewhere in the middle of his thirty-year-long creative writing activity (1944-1975). It precedes by a few years Greenson’s classic book on psychoanalytic technique, The Technique and Practice of Psychoanalysis (1967), a book which remains unsurpassed, in terms of the meaningfulness of the correspondence between clinical phenomena and theoretical understandings in psychoanalysis.

The article also represents a turning point in Greenson’s preoccupations. The first half of his writings deals with subjective affective states, such as apathy (1949), boredom (1953), fore-pleasure (1955), screen hunger (1958), phobia, anxiety and depression (1959), empathy (1960) and silence in the analytic hour (1961). After the article on enthusiasm, Greenson moves to more interactional, technical papers dealing with the psychoanalytic process such as the working alliance (1965), the childhood and adult neurosis (1966), the non-transference relationship (1969), interpretation (1972) and transference (1974, 1975). It is as though the trajectory of his thinking foreshadows the move that, years later, was to be designated as the move from the one-person to a two-person psychology.

 

Chapter 2. Courage

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Susan Levine

This paper introduces the subject of courage into the psychoanalytic discourse about masochism and also demonstrates T that ordinary ethical and axiological concerns can and should be included in our psychoanalytic language and practice. At each stage of a psychoanalysis, it may be helpful to consider whether the patient’s experience might be that taking a step deeper into the psychoanalytic relationship is both courageous and masochistic. This consideration can open the door to exploration of conscious beliefs and how they are related to unconscious fantasies and assumptions. Considering the possibility that even a sadomasochistic enactment might simultaneously represent a courageous attempt to rework conflict or trauma can enrich the way analysts listen to both manifest and latent material.

In the 1938 Howard Hawks’ comedy Bringing Up Baby, Katharine Hepburn’s character (named Susan!) finds herself in a most precarious position. In her effort to find her aunt’s escaped tame leopard (“Baby”), she has inadvertently captured the leopard that a nearby circus had deemed too dangerous to keep. Thinking it is Baby she manages to get a rope around its neck and tugs it all the way to the police station, where Cary Grant’s character, David, awaits her. We see her muttering to the leopard, “Oh, what’s the matter with you? You’ve been slapping at me the whole way.” Upon her arrival, she says to Cary Grant, “Well, did I fool you this time—you thought I was doing the wrong thing, but I’ve got him!” He responds, “No you haven’t, Susan!”

 

Commentary

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Mary Kay O’Neil

Courage involves belief and action. The courageous person acts on strongly held and intensely felt beliefs. Is couragealso a feeling? Certainly emotions underlie and evoke courage. Courage—the Latin cor is the root of the word—is traditionally connected with the heart, which was once thought to be the centre of the emotions. Courage allows a person to better manage the threatening passions of life: love, hate, and anger are prime motivators; fear in the face of danger and anxiety in the face of risk must be overcome. Courage involves conviction, determination, risk, and uncertainty. Courage expresses, often, the realization of ideals central to a person’s sense of self. Yet, whether based on a belief, an unconscious ideal or an emotion, whether expressed in thought, word, or action, courage is universally considered an admirable quality, a “good feeling”.

Courage, as Susan Levine elucidates, has yet to be integrated into psychoanalysis. This she attempts to do. She links “courage”, as positive, self-preservation, with “masochism”, as negative and self-destructive. The author tries to make this “good feeling” a psychoanalytic concept. Her observation that a patient’s experience of the psychoanalytic relationship can be both courageous and masochistic allows for exploration of both conscious beliefs and unconscious fantasies and of assumptions in the transference and countertransference. Further, she allows that even sadomachosism can be a courageous defensive attempt to resolve conflicts and trauma. Drawing on the scarce analytic contributions in this area and her clinical experience, Levine does indeed bring courage, this commonly valued human attribute, into a psychoanalytic way of thinking and working.

 

Chapter 3. Altruism

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Beth Seelig and Lisa Rosof

T he psychoanalytic literature on altruism is sparse, although much has been written on this topic from a sociobiological T perspective. Freud (1916-1917) first described the concept in “Libido theory and narcissism”. In 1946 Anna Freud coined the term “altruistic surrender” to describe the psychodynamics of altruistic behaviour in a group of inhibited individuals who were neurotically driven to do good for others. The usefulness and clinical applicability of this formulation, in conjunction with the frequent coexistence of masochism and altruism, encouraged psychoanalysts to regard all forms of altruism as having masochistic underpinnings. Since then, there has been a conflation of the two concepts in much of the analytic literature. This paper re-examines the psychoanalytic understanding of altruism and proposes an expansion of the concept to include a normal form. Five types of altruism are described: protoaltruism, generative altruism, conflicted altruism, pseudoaltruism, and psychotic altruism.

 

Commentary

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Cesar Garza-Guerrero

From a merely descriptive perspective the term altruism refers to the unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Yet, from a F psychodynamic viewpoint, which takes into consideration the ubiquitous nature of psychic determinism in all human behaviour, every action entails some sort of highly complex self interest. The question, therefore, as to the essentials of altruism, should not rest on delimiting selfless from self-satisfying acts, but rather on separating normal or sane forms and manifestations of altruism from their pathological or insane counterparts.

Although in the sociobiological field there are numerous contributions on altruism, Beth Seelig and Lisa Rosof point out the sparseness of references in the psychoanalytic literature. Departing from Freud’s first description of the term altruism in “Libido theory and narcissism” (1916-1917); and Anna Freud’s (1946) concept of “altruistic surrender”, connected to the psychodynamics of altruistic behaviour in inhibited individuals driven to sacrifice themselves for the good of others, Seelig and Rosof trace back the universal tendency among psychoanalysts to conflate the two concepts of masochism and altruism. Contrary to this position, both authors examine the psychoanalytic understanding of altruism and propose an expansion of the concept to include a normal form. They systematically explore the origin, nature, and characteristics of five distinct types of altruism: (1) protoaltruism, rooted in instinctive behaviour, includes maternal and paternal nurturing and protectiveness; (2) generative altruism alludes to the sane, non-conflictual pleasure in promoting the success and welfare of another; (3) conflicted altruism, although drawn into conflict, allows the enjoyment of helping others by proxy; (4) pseudoaltruism, derives from pathological conflicts and plays the role of a defence against sadomasochistic drives-derivatives; and, finally (5), psychotic altruism refers to the overtly delusional, self-denegrational, and bizarre behaviour of psychotic persons, doomed to sacrifice themselves for the welfare of others, or for ideological and/or religious reasons.

 

Chapter 4. Faith

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Michael Eigen

T he basic concern of this paper is what I am calling the area of faith in the work of Winnicott, Lacan, and Bion. By the area of T faith I mean to point to a way of experiencing which is undertaken with one’s whole being, all out, “with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul, and with all one’s might”. At the outset I wish to avoid quibbling over whether such experiencing is possible. My methodological strategy is to let what I mean by area of faith stay open and gradually grow richer as the paper unfolds.

Winnicott, Lacan, and Bion have attempted sophisticated and intensive depth phenomenologies of faith in travail. For them, I believe, the vicissitudes of faith mark the central point around which psychic turmoil and conflict gather. In the hands of these authors, further, the area of faith tends to become a founding principle for the possibility of a fully human consciousness, an intrinsic condition of self-other awareness as such.

In Winnicott, the area of faith is expressed in his descriptions of transitional experiencing (1953), and taken forward in his later work on object usage (1969). Since much work has already been published on transitional experiencing, my main concern will be with object usage.

 

Commentary

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Sergio Lewkowicz

“It may be wondered what state of mind is welcome if desires and memories are not. A term that would express approximately what I need to express is‘faith’—faith that there is an ultimate reality and—the unknown, the unknowable,‘formless infinite’”

(Bion, 1970, p. 31)

It is with great pleasure that I write this commentary on Michael Eigen’s wonderful, interesting, and provoking work, “The area of faith in Winnicott, Lacan and Bion”. The theme seems to me fundamental for the understanding of what constitutes us as individual humans. I believe also that this is the area of faith that makes our patients return to the follow-up sessions, for days, weeks, months, and years, even having to go through moments of intense anguish, pain, and turmoil. They have faith in us as analysts, the analytical method, and in their own ability to transform.

Eigen begins by describing that he considers the area of faith as a way of experimenting with yourself, with all of your being, heart, soul, and might, he leaves this concept open, however, to be filled throughout the work, either by the author or by the reader. He chooses Winnicott, Lacan, and Bion because he believes that these authors delve deeply into this theme, placing it as the founding principle for the possibility of a plane human consciousness, “the intrinsic condition of self-other awareness”. Furthermore, the comparative study of these psychoanalytical thinkers allows for new points of view and a deeper study of the understanding in the area of faith, a very significant theme for the development of the human being.

 

Chapter 5. Tact

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Warren Poland

T he handling of narcissism is among the most difficult issues of technique confronting us as analysts, whether in narcis-T sistic transferences or in those object-related conflicts which bear a heavy narcissistic investment (Kohut, 1971). We are faced with the problem of offering interpretations which will be insightful yet not traumatic, interpreting within the limits of what the patient can bear.

The problem is how to get the patient to consider that which he does not want to hear. Traditionally, this has been so familiar to us that we speak readily of interpreting first the side of the resistance, the side of the defence. Relying on a therapeutic alliance, we say to the patient, in effect,

“You guard against something because of experiences that have made it necessary for you to do so. You and I together can try to see how this has come to be.” Thus we invite the patient to effect an ego split and to join us in a detached observation of his own conflict (Sterba, 1934).

Dealing with narcissism is more complex. How much more we ask of a patient when we ask him to detach himself from an experience of gratification that seems to him vital to the integrity of his sense of self. We have the added handicap of being at that moment not so much an importantly helpful other person, but rather another part of the patient himself, a self-object. Now we must tell the patient something he does not want to hear in such a way that he can hear it, in such a way that he can tolerate the implicit belittlement in an observation that notices his lack of perfection, and in such a way that he can integrate this information without destroying further work.

 

Commentary

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Bien Filet

W hat an excellent choice it was to include Warren Poland’s (1975) paper in a reader of classical essays in psycho-analysis. What could one want to add to it? It is well balanced and complete. I will attempt to complement his thoughts and delineate some of the difficulties associated with the notion and the management of tact in our clinical encounters. I draw this mainly from the insights I derived from my work with patients, where the use of tact was not immediately given by a shared social culture. Patients, who were first and later generation survivors of racial and political persecution, refugees, exiles, abused either as children or as adults, originating from different cultures, whose histories had produced severe trauma, either from external reality or from intrusions in their psychological development.

Every one who had known Freud personally has always recounted that the gentility in his manner in contact with persons, patients or otherwise, made it hard to imagine that he could be not tactful. However tasking the obsessive ruminations of the Rat-Man might have been, or how provocative the abuses of the Wolf-Man, who declared that he would shit on the head of that Jewish swindler, as he called Freud, we find no mention of how Freud managed to deal with this, while at the same time continuing the processes of discovery of their unconscious. Taking it as a self-evident function, being part of the character of those who analyse, it may not be surprising, then, that he would not mention tact as part of psychoanalytic technique as a separate concept. Mention of it, more implicitly rather than explicitly, appears in “‘Wild’ psychoanalysis” (1910k) and in “The question of lay analysis” (1926e), but not, for example, in “Recommendations to physicians practising psycho-analysis” (1912e). Ferenczi would soon pick up the ball Freud left him to play Ferenczi returned to the subject of tact at various times until the end of his life, convinced that it should be more précised, as he put it in his article “Elasticity of psychoanalytic technique” (1928). The answer to what tact is was, for him, a question of the empathy (Einfühlung) one is capable of. To conclude that, after all, the analyst knows about the dissection of human psychic dynamics, it is above all the dissection of one self one is capable of that will determine how tactful he can be and where he can go with his patient.

 

Chapter 6. Love

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Otto Kernberg

I n an earlier paper (1974), I described some intrapsychic pre-I requisites for falling in love and remaining in love, and exam-ined the consequences of failure to establish these prerequisites. I proposed that two major developmental stages must be achieved in order to establish the normal capacity for falling and remaining in love: a first stage, when the early capacity for sensuous stimulation of erogenous zones (particularly oral and skin erotism) is integrated with the later capacity for establishing a total object relation, and a second stage, in which full genital enjoyment incorporates earlier body-surface erotism in the context of a total object relation, including a complementary sexual identification. I also described a continuum in the capacity for falling in love and remaining in love, illustrating this continuum with case material highlighting the particular prerequisites that need to be fulfilled at each stage of development of this capacity. In elaborating these findings, I stressed that these points along a continuum have diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic implications. The socially isolated, almost completely non-involved narcissistic personality who comes for treatment because of impotence, conflicts over homosexual urges, or any other kind of sexual psychopathology has a poor prognosis. Narcissistic personalities who are at least able to establish promiscuous sexual relations, implying some involvement with others, have a somewhat better prognosis. (I have earlier [1970a] spelled out other prognostic considerations for narcissistic personalities.)

 

Commentary

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Rainer Krause

T he paper I am commenting on was published in 1974 in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association as the T second of a two-part contribution to the covering a presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic association at Dallas in 1972. The first part, twenty-five pages long, had the title “Barriers to falling and remaining in love” and appeared in the same year and in the same Journal (Kernberg, 1974a). Obviously, the second paper became more influential than the first. According to the editor, it was cited very often and had a high impact factor in modern jargon, which is, however, not rare with Otto Kernberg’s work. Some of the basic ideas were published in German in a three hundred-page book, Liebesbeziehungen— Normalität und Pathologie (Love relations—normality and pathology) by the famous Klett Cotta Company (Kernberg, 2007). At that time, the basic ideas about the so-called “borderline conditions” had been seven years on the market, but the description was schem-atical and not in depth in a clinical way (Kernberg, 1967). The book on borderline conditions and pathological narcissism appeared one year later. The application of this new thinking on love, sexuality, and perversions was not yet formulated. So, these two papers are the first attempt to apply the central points of his borderline thinking and research to love, and especially mature love. Both papers include eleven case vignettes describing treatment courses leading to mature love or failure. In fact most of the cases end up in failure. This leads, however, to a certain scarcity in the description of mature love, favouring a detailed characterization about what kind of personality organization is detrimental for love in general and for mature love in particular.

 

Chapter 7. Friendship

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Leo Rangell

I

The subject to which I shall address myself today is that special form of object relations designated as friendship. As was the case with other subjects I have approached in recent years, such as a study of the state of poise (Rangell, 1954), or the quest for ground in human motivation (Rangell, 1955), or a survey of the role of object relations in psychoanalysis (Rangell, in Ritvo, 1962), the present subject has in common with all these the qualities of ubiquity and a certain diffuseness. This circumstance prompts me to characterize these areas as the psychological sea or air around us. They are all of such a nature as to fill the very interstices of psychic life, as a result of which they tend to become invisible and elusive. The task then has been with each of them to get a grip, to identify the phenomenon, to outline its periphery and borders, and, hopefully, to describe its central core.

It is astonishing how little has been written in the psychoanalytic literature on this perhaps most frequent of all human relationships. The references which do exist are generally glancing, scanty, and en passant. There is, to my knowledge, scarcely a psychoanalytic study centred on this subject in depth. Most of the existing studies have been written by psychologists, psychiatrists, group workers, or social scientists, and appear generally in works on educational psychology or mental hygiene. Khanna (1960) recently reviewed the literature on friendship in adolescence, mostly of American and Indian sources, and found concern mainly with friendship patterns and with factors conducive to social acceptance and rejection. The subject of friendship does not appear in the index of any of the volumes of The Annual Survey of Psychoanalysis.

 

Commentary

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Rita Schulman

Friendship is an extremely complex aspect of human related-F ness. Bound by neither law nor by inheritance, an expendable relationship, it is none the less central to human functioning. The more deeply one considers it, the more multi-faceted friendship appears. From consulting rooms to living rooms, from prime-time television to Internet chat rooms, friends are an abiding preoccupation, constantly discussed, agonized over, valued, questioned, and, above all, needed for mental health. Everyone seems aware of the power of the friendship bond and recognizes its importance in coping with crisis and trauma. Yet, this complicated relationship is not merely a source of solace. It can also provide self-knowledge, a sense of belonging, and a powerful opportunity for emotional growth. Still, at times, friendship can trigger self-doubt, fury, competition, and wrenching fears of loss. But it also gives meaning to our lives and mitigates loneliness.

While we traditionally envision friendship as a bond of same-sex peers, it can blossom in the most unlikely places: between people of the opposite sex, between spouses, and between people of different ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

 

Chapter 8. Humour

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George Christie

I n this paper I would like to focus upon what one might call a I reasonably mature sense of humour—its essential nature, its possible developmental origins, its creative potential, and the question of its place, or otherwise, in the psychoanalytic treatment of patients, individually and in groups.

I am referring here to a certain quality of humour, and questioning whether it can be a generative influence in human communication, facilitating increments of insight and personal growth. If so, it should be contrasted with other forms of so-called humour that can be drawn into the service of manic defence, or into providing slightly modified avenues for destructive impulses, such as in obscenity and sarcasm.

As Freud first showed us, a communication through humour always springs spontaneously from the unconscious and, although it initially engages us at that level, the whole experience quickly comes to life in our conscious awareness. In this way it allows the momentary enjoyment of an idea, feeling or impulse currently being repressed or disavowed. Irony achieves a similar result in the emphasizing of one idea in order to convey the opposite meaning. Both usually contain an aggressive or rebellious element, and may walk a tight-rope between something genuinely funny and something rather cruel.

 

Commentary

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Alessandra Lemma

There is the story of an elderly Jewish wife who calls downstairs to her husband, “Harry, come upstairs and make T love.” After a pause, the sorrowful reply is made: “Sarah, I can’t do both.”

As Freud (1927d) so helpfully highlighted, humour is the most sophisticated defensive manoeuvre at our disposal to cope with the realities of the human condition. He did not view humour as an “escape” as such, but, at its best, more as a capacity within the self to be regarded far more positively than just as “another defence”. He believed that humour was a mature adaptation because it makes it possible to find an alternative between suffering and its denial. Indeed, one of the constants in life, cutting across historical periods and cultures, has been the function of the “comic spirit” as a way of managing the inescapable difficulty of being. In his own way, Charlie Chaplin recognized this essential function. “Humour,” he said, “is a kind of gentle and benevolent custodian of the mind which prevents us from being overwhelmed by the apparent seriousness of life” (quoted in Boskin, 1987, p. 154).

 

Chapter 9. Creativity

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Philip Weissman

Regression in the service of the ego has become an important R criterion for differentiating creative from pathological psychic activity. But is this criterion an accurate or adequate estimation of the modus operandi of the ego in creative inspirations? I shall attempt to show that controlled regression in the service of the ego, as a theoretical and clinical formulation, has as many, if not more, limitations than other broad assessments of ego activity ascribed to other psychic states.1

My contention is that controlled regression in the service of the ego should be replaced by more detailed statements on the specific ego functions. A more serious problem confronts us in the evaluation of the state of the ego and its function in the creative process. It is a presumptive assessment to state that a controlled regression in the service of the ego takes place during inspiration when we have not as yet specified which specific functions or what specific parts of the ego might be regressively involved. This study attempts to show that a dissociative or desynthesizing function, as I shall call it, along with the synthetic or integrative functions of the ego, constitute a more definitive approximation of non-regressive ego functioning in creativity.

 

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