Conversation between self psychologists and analysts of other persuasions has often been and frequently still is problematic. Feelings frequently have run high. Mutual misunderstanding and suspicion, a sense of abuse, and excommunica-tive tendencies have often overpowered more constructive, collegial, communicative desires. Apart from the cruder forms of dismissal, merely questioning, let alone criticizing, one side rather than simply embracing and idealizing it has often been taken as tantamount to persecutory devaluation. Not surprisingly, such perceived or imagined degradation has ofttimes been responded to with correspondingly defensive counterattack. Once these processes are in motion, participants become increasingly hard of hearing.
As so often happens when one has something to say that differs from received wisdom, self psychologists have had to struggle valiantly against considerable odds to make space for their point of view. Due to the endless skirmishes and bitter battles they have faced and managed to survive, some self psychologists may feel slighted by a treatise, such as this one, that uses some work by their preeminent personage for illustrative purposes. I wish, therefore, to underscore that Kohut's writing has been chosen primarily because it is relatively contemporary and therefore especially well suited for exploring the idea that the new can block access to still important aspects of the old. This contention could be equally well illustrated with examples from other schools of thought. Such illustrations would, however, probably be less well known and consequently less evocative, engaging, and interesting for readers. Alternative vignettes would likely be regarded as more historically or locally significant rather than constituting cutting-edge concerns of real import to contemporary psychoanalysis.
If this book were to alienate any colleagues strongly identifying with Kohut's perspective, I would be chagrinned indeed. This disappointment would be particularly intense with respect to those whose professional identities have been forged in the heat of battles that required individualism, character, and courage on the part of dissidents. My sympathies tend to be more with those who dare to think, speak, and advocate for interesting alternative points of view rather than with those comfortably ensconced in old positions who seek to protect themselves against disequilibria by branding upstarts as deviants in a malicious sense of the word.
My hope is that rather than seeing red, or even pink, recent revolutionaries will instead find the ideas in this book of considerable interest. Ideally, they will grasp that my views are not directed toward any single perspective but rather constitute a necessary, worthwhile challenge to our field as a whole. It would please me to know they understood my argument could be founded equally well on other important moments in the evolution of analysis. For example, Freud's shift from his traumatogenic, seduction theory to a more drive-based, intrapsychic, conflict model might have served these purposes almost as well. That exemplar from the end of the 19th century would, however, leave it to the reader to apply the lessons learned from that historic situation to current controversies. Rather than argue mostly from that relatively remote, now fairly safe past, if we can tolerate a more contemporary discussion, it will increase our chances of being able to apply the lessons we may learn to the most important period, that is, to the present and future, as we attempt to advance our knowledge base.
Should books be received more frequently on electronic monitors in the future, the preceding caveat could be programmed to pop up every 30 pages. In the absence of such cooling flashes, should anyone temporarily lose sight of this "heads up" and start to feel annoyingly alienated, perhaps the much maligned wonders of suggestion and conditioning will come to the rescue, bringing this message to mind, reducing the tendency to see scarlet, permitting the full spectrum of colorful thought to return.
In sum, this volume is not about the presence or absence of the Oedipal complex (or self-object transferences, or any other singular phenomenon). It is about the presence of complexity. Cognizant of our inclination to shift to a paranoid-schizoid, defensive, battle-ready posture, it is useful to endeavor to keep open the contemplative space of the alternative (so-called depressive) position. If we can make room for the depressive position to complement the paranoid-schizoid position, we may be able to play with ideas and make conversation, not war.
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