Self Psychology Theory
Heinz Kohut developed the theory of Self Psychology at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. As it stands, Self Psychology explains psychopathology as developmental needs that have been interrupted or unmet. There are several concepts that are crucial aspects of this theory, including empathy, mirroring, idealizing and the tripolar self. Though Self Psychology asserts the Freudian concepts of drive and conflict, these concepts are understood as a completely separate framework.
Kohut first came to psychoanalysis by studying neurology and psychiatry; he loved the theories of analysis and immortalized Freud for his primitive concepts. In the 1960s, Heinz Kohut began to explore the boundaries of narcissism and called his findings the “psychology of the self.” In 1971, Kohut published his work, “The Analysis of the Self,” arguing the new theory as a more patient-based analytical strategy; if therapy was to be successful, the patient needed to address foremost the self.
Kohut established four developmental stages of the human self:
Nuclear — human babies are born with this; it is a biologically determined psychological identity. It takes no work; it is thrust upon each individual and begins the journey of the human self.
2. Virtual– the nuclear self meets this; it is the self as seen in the minds of the parents. The child has no control over the emergence of this self, as it is the one that is impressed on the child by its caregivers.
3. Cohesive — the point where the interaction of the previous selves leads the child to regulate and organize the activities of the ego, where along the way:
4. Grandiose – an identity that sees oneself as at the epicenter of everything; as Freud had often stated, children find themselves to be the center of the universe until reaching a certain age, where others emerge and settle comfortably within their world. This self is struggling on the verge of narcissistic rage.
Self Psychology theory has many real-world applications and has made grand strides in the way of psychoanalysis and therapy. Many supporters of the theory have pinpointed the relationship between Jung and Freud as an example of Self Psychology theory at work. Carl Jung idealized Freud, who saw Jung as an idealized version of himself. Jung had to assert himself as an individual, emerging as an independent theorist apart from Freud, conquering his personal self and proving the therapeutic nature behind this theory.
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