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Concept: Ego psychology


Suffering is commonly seen as an unconscious effort to alleviate painful feelings of guilt. However, suffering also aims at averting loss of ego functions and hence loss of mental stability. This second function of suffering is discussed in the light of Freud’s observations of characters wrecked by success and Weiss’s ideas about mutual love as a threat to mental stability. Hawthorne’s portrayal of Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter (1850), biographical material about the author, material from his diaries, and material from a psychotherapy case and an analysis illustrate the function of suffering to preserve mental stability in the face of heightened success and happiness. Hawthorne, it is argued, intuitively grasped this function of suffering in his novel.

Concepts: Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, Ego psychology, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Carl Jung


This interview, with Professor Daniel Stern conducted on February 16, 2012, by Dr. John Talbott, reviews the field of infant psychiatry, the history of which goes back more than 100 years. Sigmund Freud, then Melanie Klein, Anna Freud, Donald Winnicott, and, finally, Margaret Mahler, all psychoanalysts, influenced its development. Direct observation of very young infants and their mothers began in the latter half of the 20th century, and the subsequent course shifted through the influence of developmental psychologists and ethologists. This review concludes with Dr. Stern’s predictions and fears about future directions of the field.

Concepts: Psychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Ego psychology, Melanie Klein, Controversial discussions


The main objective of this research was to test central assumptions from the Self-centeredness/Selflessness Happiness Model. According to this model, while self-centered psychological functioning induces fluctuating happiness, authentic-durable happiness results from selflessness. Distinct mediating processes are supposed to account for these relationships: afflictive affects (e.g., anger, fear, jealousy, frustration) in the case of the former, and both emotional stability and feelings of harmony in the case of the latter. We tested these hypotheses in two studies based on heterogeneous samples of citizens (n = 547). Factor analyses revealed that self-centeredness (assessed through egocentrism and materialism) and selflessness (assessed through self-transcendence and connectedness to other) were two distinct psychological constructs. Second, while self-centeredness was positively and significantly related to fluctuating happiness, selflessness was positively and significantly related to authentic-durable happiness. Finally, distinct psychological processes mediated these relationships (study 2). On one hand, the relationship between self-centeredness and fluctuating happiness was fully mediated by afflictive affects. On the other hand, emotional stability and the feeling of being in harmony partially mediated the relation between selflessness and authentic-durable happiness.

Concepts: Psychology, Interpersonal relationship, Emotion, Feeling, Ego psychology, Jean Piaget, Egocentrism, Epistemic virtue


The maintenance/strength of self is a very core concept in Western psychology and is particularly relevant to egoism, a process that draws on the hedonic principle in pursuit of desires. Contrary to this and based on Buddhism, a nonself-cultivating process aims to minimize or extinguish the self and avoid desires, leading to egolessness or selflessness. The purpose of this paper is to present the Nonself Theory (NT). The universal Mandala Model of Self (MMS) was developed to describe the well-functioning self in various cultures. The end goal of the self is to attain authentic and durable happiness. Given that the nonself is considered a well-functioning self, the MMS is suitable for constructing the NT. The ego and nonself aspects of psychological self-functioning and their underlying processes are compared, drawing on the four concepts of the MMS: biology, ideal person, knowledge/wisdom and action. The ego engages in psychological activities to strengthen the self, applying the hedonic principle of seeking desire-driven pleasure. In contrast, a nonself approach involves execution of the self-cultivation principle, which involves three ways: giving up desires, displaying compassion, practicing meditation and seeking understanding Buddhist wisdom. These three ways have the goal of seeing through and overcoming the illusion of the self to achieve a deep transformation integrally connected to the experience of eliminating the sense of self and its psychological structures. In addition, the NT provides a comprehensive framework to account for nonself-plus-compassion-related activities or experiences such as altruism, mindfulness, mediation, mysterious/peak experiences, elimination of death anxiety and moral conduct. The NT offers possible answers that might lead to a more comprehensive understanding of human beings and the deeper meaning of life, toward the ultimate goal of a well-functioning self. An examination of possible clinical applications and theoretical directions for future research in nonself psychology are provided.

Concepts: Anxiety, Meaning of life, Clinical psychology, Positive psychology, Morality, Buddhism, Self, Ego psychology


Defined variously and unsatisfactorily as a worsening of the patient’s condition following a correct interpretation, the negative therapeutic reaction is typically blamed on the patient: “the operation was a success but the patient died.” For most neurotic patients unconscious guilt objects to progress and activates the need to suffer. For most character-disturbed patients envy cannot bear the analyst’s cleverness. However, patients with ego boundary problems-even sectors of psychosis-may require a different explanatory mechanism, where a correct interpretation may be experienced as a penetration and an engulfment, threatening the intactness of the self. A short-term, time-limited, psychoanalytic psychotherapy that went off the rails following a correct but ill-timed interpretation is presented as an opportunity to amend analytic theory, here favoring the interactional over the intrapsychic. Herman Melville helps tell the tale.

Concepts: Patient, Patience, Philosophy of mind, Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, Ego psychology, Carl Jung, Herman Melville


This paper demonstrates that Kohut’s definitional system of the “bipolar self” within psychoanalytic self psychology can be modeled as a biological autopoietic system, both in terms of its structure and dynamics, in a way that accounts for the phenomenological aspects of experiential living. Based on this finding, the author argues that a nonreductionist definitional system of this type is an integral component of any pragmatic methodology, such as Kohut’s “empathic-introspective” method of treatment, which aims to enable the analyst, as observer, to gain access to the phenomenological world of the analysand within the analytic setting. The dialectic approach undertaken in this preliminary exploration of the “bipolar self” as an autopoietic system has proven fruitful in excavating some of the theoretical features of psychoanalytic self psychology, the weighted importance of which can now be reevaluated in contemporary practice.

Concepts: Analytical chemistry, Philosophy of mind, Philosophy, Psychotherapy, Aristotle, Psychoanalysis, Ego psychology, Analytical psychology


This paper questions the function and subsequent affect of the trick within everyday life, emphasizing its dependence on visuality and misrecognition. It pays specific attention to the psychoanalytic implications of trickery and identity of ‘trickster’ in terms of environment, emphasizing the theories of transition and transformation indicative of the methodologies pertaining to the Object Relations School of psychoanalytic theory and the ocular theories of Lacanian psychoanalysis. The event of the trick is considered with regard to visuality, appetite and satisfaction, leading to a discussion of what the trick represents within the Winnicottian frame of transitional phenomena, of expectation referencing Bollas’s transformative experience, and of Lacanian méconnaisance.

Concepts: Psychology, Psychoanalysis, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Ego psychology, Psychoanalytic theory, Julia Kristeva, Félix Guattari


Conduct disorder is characterized by aggressive behaviors, deceitfulness or theft, destruction of property and serious violations of rules prior to age 18 years. The object relations theory provides an integrative model to understand the problems of conduct disorder, and proposes that child-caregiver relationships develop the internal working models of self and others. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship difficulties of Iranian adolescents with conduct disorder.

Concepts: Psychology, Model theory, Object-oriented programming, Property, Content analysis, Attachment theory, Ego psychology, Object relations theory


This study sought to determine (a) if the Differentiation-Relatedness Scale of Self and Object Representations (D-RS), a coding model used with the Object Relations Inventory (Blatt, Wein, Chevron, & Quinlan, 1979 ) could be reliably applied to transcripts of psychoanalyses, and (b) if levels of differentiation-relatedness improve over the course of psychoanalysis. Participants were 4 creative writers who underwent psychoanalysis as part of a longitudinal research project focused on the processes and outcomes of psychoanalysis. Transcripts from the beginning and termination phases of psychoanalysis were coded by 2 independent raters for global, low, and high levels of self and other differentiation-relatedness and compared. There was good interrater agreement, suggesting that, like other forms of narrative material, psychoanalysis transcripts can be reliably rated for levels of object relations. Analysands showed an increase in global levels of differentiation-relatedness from a predominance of emergent ambivalent constancy (M = 6.2) at the beginning of analysis to consolidated, constant representations of self and other (M = 7.5) at the end of analysis. These preliminary findings contribute significantly to the empirical literature with regard to the measurement of self and object representations and change in these representations over the course of psychoanalysis.

Concepts: Scientific method, Longitudinal study, Research methods, Research, Change, Code, Psychoanalysis, Ego psychology


Freud stated that any line of investigation which recognizes transference and resistance, regardless of its results, was entitled to call itself psychoanalysis (Freud, 1914a, p. 16). Separately he wrote that psychoanalysis was the science of unconscious mental processes (Freud, 1925, p. 70). Combining these two ideas defines Essential Psychoanalysis: Any line of treatment, theory, or science which recognizes the facts of unconscious, transference, or resistance, and takes them as the starting point of its work, regardless of its results, is psychoanalysis. Freud formulated two conflicting definitions of psychoanalysis: Essential Psychoanalysis, applicable to all analysts regardless of their individuality and Extensive Psychoanalysis, modeled on his individuality. They differ in how psychoanalytic technique is viewed. For Essential Psychoanalysis, flexible recommendations constitute psychoanalytic technique, whereas for Extensive Psychoanalysis, rules constitute a key part of psychoanalytic technique.

Concepts: Psychotherapy, Unconscious mind, Psychoanalysis, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Ego psychology, Dream, Transference