Psychoanalysis and Self Psychology

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Psychoanalysis and Self Psychology Although Heinz Kohut started out with classical psychoanalysis and followed the theory laid out by Freud himself, it is interesting to see how Kohut’s ideas evolved with time, as they were affected by his own clinical experiences. As he began to develop his own theories about people, Kohut started to separate from the classic view until he completely abandoned it and created self psychology. And, although I appreciate the importance of Freud’s work and feel that his contributions to the field of psychology are immense, there is something about Kohut’s work that resonates with me much more than classical psychoanalytical theory. Freud saw human nature as riddled with conflict and driven by instincts (Freud, 1923). He viewed childhood as dominated by conflictual sexuality and personality as an intricate net of impulses and defenses (Mitchell & Black, 1995). In addition, he identified two classes of instincts in humans, namely the Eros (sexual instinct) and Thanatos (death instinct), which played a central role in conflict and psychopathology (Freud, 1923). It appears that, according to Freud’s vision, all mental life and human behavior were propelled by unconscious drives and impulses. He saw human beings in a state of constant struggle with impulses and forbidden wishes and that this conflict was what people were truly made of. However, even though there is no denial of inner human conflict, drives, impulses, or even the unconscious, the vision of humans that Freud paints seems devoid of free will. If all human action (mental and behavioral) is instigated by inner forces we have little control over, then where does the idea of choice fit in? In contrast to Freud’s theory, Kohut envisions human beings as struggling with isolation and alienation, and the pain that results from the lack of meaning in life (Mitchell &
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