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Kohut and Jung

A Comparison of Theory and Therapy

By Lionel Corbett

Copyright 1989, in Self Psychology: Comparisons and Contrasts, eds. Douglas W. Detrick, Susan B. Detrick, Hillsdale, NJ, The Analytic Press

This paper is also available to download.

While clearly maintaining its own identity, the Jungian analytic community has been profoundly influenced by theorists of other schools, of who Heinz Kohut is currently of particular importance because of various intriguing points of contact between his writing and that of Jung. Both of their positions have been viewed as "metaphysical," and Kohut too is seen as a defector who "opens the door to a strange and enchanted land of make-believe" (Hanley and Masson, 1976).

As Samuels (1985) has shown, the historical reality is that Jung anticipated many modern developments within psychoanalysis, including some aspects of self psychology. Samuels quotes Roazen: "Few responsible figures in psychoanalysis would be disturbed today if an analyst were to present views identical to Jung’s in 1913" (p. 9). It is significant that Kohut’s position is close to that of Jung on Many of the issues that led to the Freud-Jung break in 1913, such as their mutual deemphasis of drive-defense psychology and the purely oedipal theory of neurosis.

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Various factors make it difficult to compare the therapeutic approaches of Jung and Kohut. There is no single or formal Jungian method of therapy, although there are typical therapeutic attitudes. These have never firmly been codified, because to do so would contravene a fundamental point of agreement within the field" although there exists a core corpus of literature and concepts, the personality and level of psychological development of the individual practitioner remain the most important therapeutic factor (Jung, 1966a, p. 78; 1976, p. 439). Furthermore, Jung’s work stretches over a period of more than 50 years and consequently contains a variety of chaging views and emphasis. Many beginnings were made but not developed, or development proceeded in different directions in the hands of his successors. This lack of homogeneity complicates comparative studies, but nevertheless various areas of comparison may be delineated.

The Concepts of the Self in Kohut and Jung

Both Kohut and Jung stress the overriding importance of the self as a supraordinate intrapsychic structure. Their descriptions of the nature of the self sometimes overlap but also differ in many important ways. A brief summary of the two concepts follows; fuller discussions have been provided elsewhere (Jacoby, 1981; Schwartz-Salant, 1982; Redfearn, 1983; Samuels, 1985; Corbett and Kugler, 1989).

Both authors state that the self cannot be fully described. Kohut (1977) refers to its cognitive impenetrability; only its "introspectively or empathically perceived psychological manifestations are open to us" (p. 311). Jung (1966b) also refers to the self as an "unknowable essence" that transcends our powers of comprehension. For Kohut (1977) the self is "the way a person experiences himself as himself" (p. xv), a permanent mental structure consisting of feeling, memories, and behaviors that are subjectively experienced as being continuous in time and as being "me." The self is also a "felt center of independent initiative," and an "independent recipient of impression"—the center of the individual’s psychological universe (p. xv), and not simply a representation. Jung uses the term in ways that cannot be described in a unitary manner. For him, the self is not developed by accretion out of the internalization of selfobject relationships but is the a priori ordering, structure-giving principle within the psyche. Kohut’s description of man’s goal as "the realization, through his actions, of the blueprint for his life that had been laid down in his nuclear self" (p. 133) is similar to Jung’s (1968a) concept of individuation as meaning the unfolding of the self throughout life in an attempt to realize the potential wholeness of the personality. The maturation of factors, such as Kohut’s nuclear determinants, or blueprint, into a cohesive structure is implied within this process.

The self for Jung (1971) is also a totality of the psyche, both unconscious and conscious. The self is seen as purposive, acting as an organizing center that tries to maintain the integrity of the personality by maintaining intrapsychic homeostasis. Jung (1969) believed that the personality operates according to fundamental morphogenetic laws, which he termed "archetypes." Archetypes govern perception, and affective experience, especially as they influence the formation of complexes, which develop around a particular archetypal (core) issue. The archetypes are the individual components or manifestations of the self; they determine particular intrapsychic structures: Kohut’s innate grandiosity and need for an idealizing selfobject, two such components, meet the definition of what is archetypal because they organize psychic reality and produce typically human needs and patterns of behavior. Jung’s self is the preexistent matrix of consciousness from which the ego, or individually differentiated consciousness, arises. The ego is that aspect of the self which is experienced as personal and self-reflexive. It is the felt center of consciousness, while the self is the center of the total psyche (Jung, 1966b, 1968a). The implication is of a "deeper" center than can be consciously experienced, one that acts as a psychological center of gravity (Jung, 1966b). Ideally, the ego and the self are in a dialectical relationship with each other—the "ego-self axis," which is based on the attempt of the conscious personality to respond to the manifestations of the unconscious. Without ego consciousness, the self cannot realize itself in the world; and with the self, the ego has no depth or source of meaning and integration. The ego stands to the self as the moved to the mover (Jung, 1969b) and through the process of individuation, as consciousness of the self increases, the ego increasingly experiences itself as the object of a supraordinate subject (Jung 1966b).

One metaphorical comparison between the two self concepts is found in the analogy of the personality as a dynamic sculpture, in which Jung’s self corresponds to the wire armature onto which the clay of Kohut’s self must be attached to finish the work. Without the armature, the clay has no support or adequate form; without the clay, the armature remains lifeless and lacking in specificity. The metaphor requires that specific qualities and quantities of the clay be understood as differentially attracted to specific parts of the armature, because Jung believed that we become involved with people in the world who correspond to our essential nature. As Redfearn (1983) put it, in development "one can only introject what one is in the first place" (p. 99). The unconscious, form-determining (archetypal) components of the personality, and the complexes of ideation and affect that form around them seem to act like inductive magnets for certain events and affects to which they correspond (Jung, 1960, 1969c). The result is that the "inner" psychic predisposition of the individual and his "outer" world become one and the same, joined within an interactive field. Unconscious aspects of the self are therefore experienced as "outer," according to Jung, so that we "happen to ourselves." Some aspects of the self are consequently experienced only with relationships, which are faithful mirrors of intrapsychic dynamic. (This concept of Jung’s links his notion of the self with Kohut’s concept of the selfobject.)

The self and its a priori (archetypal) categories represent Jung’s fundamental ontological ground. This factor cannot be reduced to any simpler phenomenon, and for Jung they are certainly not reducible to an epiphenomenon of brain. The multiplicity of usages with Jung’s position leads to the paradox that the self is at the same time the center of the psyche, its source of integration, and also the totality. While it is the matrix of personal awareness, the experience of the self is also the goal of the development of consciousness.

According to Jung, the self depicts its own processes within the psyche by the production of specific imagery, in dreams and fantasy and is thus an experience-near concept when felt as immanent through such symbols, but is also experience-distant when used as a theoretical concept. Kohut pays no particular attention to symbolic experiences of the self (expect in relation to self-state dreams), but these are of considerable importance to Jung. For him, symbols of the self typically range from the most abstract to the most human, depending on which aspect of the totality of the self needs to be stressed. The particular content of a self-symbol found in a patient’s imagery is determined by whatever is being ignored by ego consciousness, because such experience of the self is a homeostatic attempt to correct for a one-sided or incomplete conscious attitude. According to Jung (1968b, 1971) typical symbols that mediate the intrapsychic experience of the self are (a) geometric figures suggesting symmetry, wholeness, and completion, such as the circle or square; (b) figures that are idealized or transcendent, such as royalty or savior figures; (c) figures representing the union of opposites, since the self is a complex of opposites with a paradoxical, antinomial character. Kohut’s self is also structured as a pair of opposites, in the sense that grandiosity implies that the greatest value lies within the person, whereas idealization locates this value within another person. However, for Jung, many other pairs of intrapsychic opposites can also be round within the self. This, in dreams, the self may be represented by king and queen, a marriage pair, an elderly person with a child, a hermaphrodite, or any image of unity that transcends or includes opposites. The full appreciation of such symbolic experience in analysis is thought to supply what is required by consciousness to enhance the growth and wholeness of the personality. In a sense, therefore, Jung’s conception of the symbol is similar to Kohut’s conception of the selfobject—both provide missing structure. This is possible because the symbol is derived from, and is the best possible expression of, an archetypal content of the psyche (Jung, 1967). It is a short step to suggest that sometimes the se3lf will product an intrapsychic symbol, or, given the opportunity, a particular form of relationship, in its attempt to achieve the integration of the personality.

According to Jung (1968), the self has also been projected onto whatever is the cultural image of the divine. The self functions as an intrapsychic god image, symbolizing whatever is of the highest value to the individual. Jung (1969a, b) is clear, although widely misunderstood, that the existence of this psychological phenomenon has no bearing on the existence of a metaphysical, extrapsychic god. Hence Jung sees the phenomenology of the self expressed in religious systems, mythology, art and literature, as well as secular "religions" such as science, political beliefs, money, psychological schools of thought, and so on. Jung paid so much attention to symbol systems outside psychology because he felt that depth psychology needed an outside system of reference with which to compare itself. This is why, for instance, he studied alchemy—he saw that tradition as an opportunity to study a very old record of the structure and dynamics of the psyche in projected form. Thus, the alchemical "gold" made out of lead was, in reality, the alchemist’s attempt to experience the self, as he struggled to emerge from his initial psychological state of chaos and depression. Alchemical texts are therefore seen as symbolic representations of unconscious processes projected onto the operation of the laboratory.

Unlike Jung’s stress on the intrapsychic experience of the self via the image or symbol, Kohut’s concept of the selfobject implies that selfhood is most fully experienced within a relationship that provides for the person what is otherwise missing. However, this apparent dichotomy must not be upheld too rigidly. Kohut stresses that the selfobject is an intrapsychic phenomena, not simply an interpersonal process, whereas Jung is aware that the self may be experienced between two persons. Jung is sometimes hard to understand because of his use of alchemical imagery and metaphors to depict clinical situations. Thus, his major work on the transference describes the experience of the self in the relationship as a coniunctio, or conjunction, an alchemical term for the union of opposite principles, the goal of their work, which was depicted symbolically in certain of the alchemical literature as a couple in the act of coitus. Using this metaphor, Jung suggests that within the transference dyad both participants typically experience a variety of opposites, such as consciousness and the unconscious, the contrasexual components of the personality, and the conflictual elements within the patient’s psyche. The self as an integrated whole is the epitome of the union of such opposites, which is one of the goals of therapy (Jung, 1966a). Jung suggests that at the core of the transference phenomena is a factor he calls "kinship libido," or the seeking of human connection: "relationship to the self is at once relationship to our fellow man, and no one can be related to the latter until he is related to himself" (p. 234). In other words, "inner structure must be created and then led back toward kinship and relationship with other" (Schwartz-Salant, 1982, p. 24).

When Kohut (1977) writes that "our transient individuality also possesses a significance that extends beyond the borders of our life" (p. 180) and describes "cosmic narcissism," which transcends the boundaries of the individual (Kohut, 1966), he seems to be referring to the phenomenon that Jung describes as the transpersonal or transcendent aspects of the self (Jung, 1968a, p. 182). Gordon (1980) notes how Kohut, while discussing Kafka and O’Neill, emphasized man’s search for wholeness and meaning, which is close to Jung’s association of the experience of the self with the discovery of meaning. According to Jung (1969b) only meaning liberates; neurosis can be understood as the suffering of the soul that has not discovered its meaning, and the doctor has to help find the "meaning that quickens" (p. 330).

The Origin of Development of the Self

Samuels (1985) points out that Kohut’s self is created during development and forms at a specific point in time; This idea seems antithetical to Jung’s concept of an a priori self. The use of the same term to indicate very different, but possibly equally necessary, concepts is responsible for some of this confusion. Samuels compares Kohut’s theory of a self that coalesces from smaller units with the work of the Jungian writer Fordham (1976, 1985). Fordham’s theory of "deintegration" described the baby as possessing an initially integrated self-unit (in Jung’s sense), which unfolds or deintegrates because of the interaction of its innate organizing ability with the environment. This tow-fold theory encompasses both concepts; Kohut’s two poles would represent deintegrates of Jung’s self.

Theories of the self that require an innate "blueprint" (Kohut, 1977) are problematic because they produce an infinite regression: they presuppose a designer of the blueprint or an agent more complex than the phenomenon to be explained. Kohut’s blueprint includes two primary needs, for mirroring and idealizing. Either these originate in brain mechanisms, in which case they must be structured through yet another, genetic, blueprint, or he must assume a psychic organizing principle independent of the physiological structures that embody mental processes (Yates, 1984). Such a principle is implied by Jung’s position about how the self self-organizes; Kohut’s own position is not clear, but some current self psychologists reduce his blueprint to amore ontologically primary brain mechanism. This reduction inevitably regresses the problem onto organic systems without accounting for their structurality. It does not account for the manner in which macroscopic psychic regularities emerge out of microscopic chemical or physiological events, such that psychological regularities exhibit autonomy and sovereignty. Psychological events are ordered lawfully, in ways that are independent of the lays of physiology (Kugler and Turvey, 1987). In response to this issue, Jung (1969c) postulates the existence of "archetypes," which are self-organizing intrapsychic principles. He therefore begs the question of morphogenesis but at least keeps the self within the realm of discourse of psychology and attempts to account for the intentionality of the psyche without appealing to extrapsychic structural principles. Jung’s self, with its archetypal components, represents his attempt to delineate the lawfulness of the psyche; the poles of Kohut’s self are similarly fundamental and could be conceived of as components of Jung’s self. In this way, the two concepts are highly compatible. Jung’s self is the principle by which Kohut’s self organizes.

The Importance of Intrapsychic Splitting

Both Jung and Kohut stress the importance of intrapsychic splitting. Kohut (1971) makes a major distinction between vertical and horizontal splits. In the former case, intrapsychic material is not repressed, but its emotional significance is ignored. Such disavowal leads to the coexistence of intrapsychic contents that do not communicate with each other. This emphasis is similar to Jung’s (1969a) fundamental theory of neurosis, which concerns the inherent dissociability (splitting tendency) of the psyche, and the autonomy of the resultant split off "complexes," or clusters of associated images, feelings, ideas, and associations, that can potentially behave like "splinter-psyches," conscious to varying degrees and more or less in harmony with the larger personality. Complexes are structural units within the psyche, which develop as a result of the interaction of childhood experiences with the innate (archetypal) disposition of the individual. They are not necessarily pathogenic, and are based on a group of memories with a common feeling-tone (Jung, 1960). The complex may form around any archetypal, that is, structurally important, component of the psyche; The Oedipus complex is considered to be only one of many such archetypal possibilities. Kohut’s use of the term disavowal to refer to the maintenance of split-off, archaic selfobject relationships, is in keeping with Jung’s use of the term complex, since early selfobject needs are of archetypal importance within the personality and form complexes in Jung’s sense.

Jung regarded the ego (which in his work is synonymous with personal consciousness, or the experience of individual identity) as that complex which is hierarchically dominant within the personality, but related to others, with which it may coexist peacefully or conflictually, with varying degrees of consciousness. Jung’s view of the importance of splitting is similar to Kohut’s description of the intrapsychic barrier which done not allow the psyche’s "right hand" (the reality ego, with its low self-esteem) to know what the "left hand" (the grandiose, split-off self) is doing (Kohut, 1971). Kohut’s "vertical split" describes two contradictory feeling states, so that there exist, side by side, "cohesive personality attitudes with different goal structures, different pleasure aims, different moral and aesthetic values" (p. 183). This formulation is similar to Jung’s notion of the complex. Jung (1969a) attempted to explain the origin of splitting as derived from "the apparent impossibility of affirming the whole of one’s nature" (p. 98) because of the painful contents of the complex. Situations in which people say "I don’t know what came over me," or similar figures of speech, are examples of the temporary overwhelming of normal, conscious behavior by a complex that has developed a degree of autonomy such that it is at that moment not integrated into the totality of the self. The autonomy of the complex would be exemplified by the acting out of a perversion, related, for instance, to the sexualization of a pathologic selfobject need. In terms of Freud’s structural theory, each complex might contain components of id, ego, and superego but is structurally more complex than such a formulation. Freud eventually discarded the term complex in favor of the idea of conflict between intrapsychic agencies, except when he referred to the Oedipus complex, but its use persisted with more general application within analytical psychology.

Jung (1969b) refers to neurosis as the result of inner cleavage, resulting in different aspects of the personality operating in opposition to one another. For Jung, this leads to the problem of how to reconcile oneself with one’s own nature. He thought that the tension produced within the personality by complexes with opposing ideation and affect is an essential part of human life and development, providing a certain dynamism to the personality, and is not necessarily negative as long as such internal oppositions remain related within the totality of the personality. Jung (1969a) describes psychopathology as cause by internal splitting due to the excessive intensity of the emotional difference between such fragments, so that the experience of the internal unity of the personality is lost. This is a notion similar to Kohut’s concept of a cohesive self, which is able to contain internal tension without fragmentation; for Kohut, manifestations of "conflict," or the appearance of raw affect or drive, can be seen to be secondary to the fact that there are areas of the self in which it is incompletely established. Thus, both self psychology and Jungian psychology place much less stress on conflict as it was understood in classical psychoanalysis.

Kohut (1977) refers to a patient whose personality disturbance was marked by a vertical split in his personality. One fragment was characterized by a sense of superiority and messianic identification; this result from a merger with his mother, who had idealized him and encouraged his grandiosity. In Jung’s terms, these contents represent a split-off complex, unintegrated with the rest of the personality. He is particularly concerned with the need to achieve the wholeness of the personality, which requires the integration of material split off from the totality of the person’s self, and Kohut’s approach is remarkably similar. In the case of Mr. X, he focused on "breaking down the barrier that maintained the vertical split" in the patient’s personality. This allowed his patient to experience aspects of his authentic self that were deprived, rather than only the self-experience of arrogance, which "did not emanate from an independent self but from a self that was an appendage to the self of his mother" (p. 211). Later, Kohut’s analytic work focused on uncovering his horizontally repressed (unconscious) material that underlay the patient’s conscious self-experience, leading t a more authentic sense of identity.

Hearing this case material, a Jungian would use different language but describe a similar therapeutic task. The patient’s grandiosity would be seen as an unintegrated complex. This pathology would be seen as partly purposeful, in the sense that neurotic difficulties are seen as attempts to consciously incorporate the neglected side of the personality (Jung, 1966b). When the patient was relating to others based on this material, he would be described as behaving within a ‘personal’ identification. The persona is that functional complex which acts as a mask the pe4rson wears to relate to the outer world, for reasons of social and often narcissistic adaptation (Jung, 1966c). In this kind of case, the personal becomes pathologically defensive because it developed in response to mother’s needs. Those aspects of the patient’s personality of which he is unconscious are termed the "shadow" in Jung’s (1968b) work. Therapy partly consists of becoming conscious of the shadow and the attempted integration (not re-repression) of the shadow, which in this case includes the patient’s grandiosity, including material that is horizontally split (repressed).

The Idea of Wholeness in Jung and Kohut

Kohut (1984) emphasizes the total personality of the patient. He writes that this is "an intrinsic constituent of the overall stance of the self psychologist" (pp. 126-127). He prefers to see the patient in overview before assessing individual psychic mechanisms such as defenses and resistances; "it is not the parts that explain the meaning and significance of the hwole, but the whole that explains the meaning and significance of the parts" (p. 127).

This position is strikingly similar to the guiding principle of Jung’s (1966a, 1969a)—the concept of the totality of the psyche, which he began to articulate soon after his break with Freud in 1913 (Jung 1969(a) p. 88; Jung 1966(a) p. 138). All psychological phenomena are seen as parts of a whole, because of an integrating or centering tendency within the psyche, which is, in fact, the self, or the core of the personality. He regarded ego consciousness as a limited component of a much greater totality. The ego is only a partial, and often developmentally distorted, realization of the total or true personality, which he describes as the self. Jung’s stress on the inevitable one-sidedness of ego development, and the suffering this produces, is similar to Kohut’s understanding of "tragic man’s" suffering his incompleteness. Perhaps the major difference here is one of emphasis. For Jung, the self exists as an a priori source of wholeness, which acts as an inner authority and seems to press for conscious recognition, unfolding, and integration; while for Kohut, wholeness is achieved only by virtue of relationships. However, Kohut does postulate an innate program, and Jung is clear that the self in potentia needs human contact to become actualized in the world.

Kohut’s concept of the self allows psychoanalysis to consider the whole person, just as Jung was concerned with neurosis in terms of the total personality rather than as a conflict between individual agencies of the mind. He believed that neurotic suffering is only approachable in terms of the "distorted totality of the human being" (Jung, 1966a, p. 89). The concept of wholeness has always been fundamental to Jungian psychology, since wholeness is associated with the experience of the self, which is a central concern within analytical psychology. One of the meanings of Jung’s concept of individuation is the gradual realization oin life of the potential wholeness of the personality—the urge toward individuation is thought to include an inherent striving for completeness as a kind of theoretical goal for the personality. Many Jungian writers equate healing with the attainment of wholeness; the common etymology of "heal" and "whole" is often indicated (see Gordon, 1979). Gordon, a contemporary Jungian analyst has distinguished between cure, which involves ego development, and healing, which is a "process in the service of the whole personality towards ever greater and more complete wholeness" (p. 216).

The Transformations of Narcissism

Kalsched (1979) has pointed out that the first metapsychological debate about the origin of narcissism began in the context of the conflict between Freud and Jung. Freud’s (1914) paper "On Narcissism" was a direct response to Jung’s (1912) "Symbols of Transformation", which challenged Freud’s ideas about incest and the libido theory. The issue of narcissism is thus a watershed issue in the history of psychology. It is therefore particularly interesting that this topic also provides a major parting of the ways for Kohut and Freud.

Certain similarities can be found in the concepts of libido found in the work of Jung and Kohut. In his early work, Kohut (1071) referred to "narcissistic libido" in a manner that distinguished it from object-instinctual libido. Like Jung, he did not see libido as purely sexual. Eventually, when he too abandoned the drive-defense model of psychopathology, Kohut had no further need for the tern "narcissistic libido," because he no longer understood narcissism as the attachment of libido to the self, which is a formulation in terms of instinct theory. Kohut described the therapeutic transformations of archaic narcissism into areas such as improved relationships, enhanced self-esteem, creativity, humor, wisdom, and so on. One of the major causes of the Freud-Jung rift was their disagreement about the concept of libido. Jung disagreed with the idea that psychic energy was based purely on sexuality. Instead, he conceived of libido as a neutral energy or intentionality, which could express itself in many different ways. Jung did not use the tern energy in a mechanical sense, but to refer either to differences in the intensity of psychological experiences or to subjective evaluations of their quality and value. Like Kohut, Jung (1067) stressed the transformation of libido, pointing out that the same abstract form of energy might express itself in any form of psychological activity, such as creativity, affect intellectual work, or spirituality. Both Jung and Kohut, therefore, described broad and essentially psychological theories about narcissism, distinct from the biological flavor of Freud’s original concept.

 The Importance of the Patient’s Subjectivity

Kohut (1971) stressed the importance of empathic attunement to the patient’s affective state, or the "perception of complex psychological configurations" (p. 300). In fact, he defined the essence of psychoanalysis as the analyst’s "protracted empathic immersion" in the patient’s material, which is the starting point for all subsequent theory building. He defined empathy as "vicarious introspection," and as the "essence-creating first step," which lies "outside the realm of causal sequences," which we are unable to account for with "our present means of logical or psychological explanation" (p. 302). Kohut was aware that this attitude exposed him to criticisms of being unscientific and "quasi-religious or mystical." He held that rather than repudiate the primacy of empathy on these grounds, one should strive for both conceptual clarity in its definition and also carefully applied standards of research and practice.

These comments of Kohut are remarkably similar to Jung’s (1914), insistence that all investigation of psychological processes was grounded in subjectivity and could not be considered scientific in the causal, reductive sense. He was opposed to the idea of psychic determinism and pointed out the Freud’s method stressed causal explanation and the attempt to explain what is unknown in terns of what is known. He insisted that any attempt at the objective analysis of the subjective world of another person would be inadequate, just as we could not unders5tand works of art in this way. Jung (1960) wrote, "If we want to understand anything psychological, we must bear in mind that all knowledge is subjectively conditioned" (p. 182). "The subjective can only be understood and judged subjectively…" (p. 187). Jung emphasizes the need to grasp the subjective meaning of the patient’s material or of a work of art, suggesting that we should try to discern the goal and meaning of the work, and understand it " in and through ourselves." Or, he suggest, when we study the delusions of a patient like Schreber, we should ask, "What is the goal the patient tried to reach through the creation of his system?" (P. 186). It is fundamental to try to understand how the patient (or artist) is trying to express (or redeem) himself. Jung refers to this as a "constructive" attitude, which although it is capable of analyzing, does not reduce (p. 187). It is unfortunate that Jung uses the word "constructive" here. He does not mean the attempt to reconstruct the patient’s developmental history, which he terms reductive analysis; rather he wishes to convey the idea of looking toward the future development of the personality, which he describes as the "synthetic" approach. Different patients require reductive or synthetic work to different degrees. In the attempt to understand the meaning of the patient’s imagery, the Jungian approach includes the possibility that it points forward in time, as well as referring to the here and now or the past, and is therefore not always fully understandable in terms of the patient’s developmental history.

Jung says that "analysis" in this context means the attempt to break down the material into typical intrapsychic components and find parallels and analogies to it in other systems of thought in order to discover typical natural formations. This is the basis of his hermeneutics, which tries to discover the "typical ways in which humans invest their world and their existence with psychic significance" (Steele, 1982). Because he believed that the psyche depicts its own process imagistically and that fundamental intrapsychic image are not reducible, Jung sought to amplify their meaning by the search for analogy and metaphor, as an aid in understanding symbol and image. The search for such generalizable phenomena led Jung into studies of other symbol systems, such as religion and mythology, so that the fate of being labeled unscientific, which Kohut was concerned about, actually befell Jung. However, if Jung was correct in stressing the irreducible and unique, but definitely patterned, quality of human subjectivity, and if self psychology also continues to stress the importance of such data, then Jung’s hermeneutical method is also applicable to self psychology. The data gathered through the process of empathy still require ordering, and it is unlikely that the symbolic contents of the patient’s unconscious will all be reducible to manifestations of the transference.

Steel (1982) points out that one of the major differences between Freud and Jung lay in their concept of what is real. Jung (1969a) believed that we live in a world of psychic images. "Far from being a material world, this is a psychic world, which allows us to make only indirect and hypothetical inferences about the real nature of matter" (p. 384). The only reality is the reality of the psyche. By contrast, Freud’s (1933) view was more materialistic and empirical, holding that there is a "real external world we call ‘truth’" (p. 170). Jung is clearly closer to Kohut’s (1977) view that the subject matter if psychoanalysis is "that aspect of the world that is defined by the introspective stance of the observer" (p. 303). They appear to differ, however, in that Kohut (1984) uses empathy to "experience the inner life of another while simultaneously retaining the stance of an objective observer" (p. 175), whereas Jung (1976) would not allow the therapist to conceive of himself as objective: "Never forget that the analysis of a patient analyzes yourself, as you are just as much in it as he is" (p.439). In a passage that sounds similar to Kohut, Jung (1969b) also writes:

If the doctor wants to guide another, or even accompany him a step of the way, he must feel with that person’s psyche. He never feels it when he passes judgement. Whether he puts his judgments into words, or keeps them to himself, makes not the slightest difference. To take the opposite position, and to agree with the patient offhand, is also of no use, but estranges him as much as condemnation. Feeling comes only through unprejudiced objectivity. This sounds almost like a scientific precept, and it could be confused with a purely intellectual, abstract attitude of mind. But what I mean is something quite different. It is a human quality—a kind of deep respect for the facts, for the man who suffers from them, and for the riddle of such a man’s life (p. 338).

The phrase "unprejudiced objectivity" seems to be close to Kohut’s (1980) notion of empathy as being "value neutral" and "in essence neutral and objective. …not in its essence subjection" (p. 483).

Transference and the Therapeutic Interaction

Kohut’s view of the narcissistic transferences is fundamental to his psychology. This concept bears certain important points of comparison with Jung'’ writing about the transference. Jung (1966a) distinguished between those aspects of the transference which are "archetypal" from those which are "personal." Archetypal here refers to the experience within treatment of fundamental intrapsychic organizing principles, or the deepest levels of psychological structure, common to the human psyche in general; whereas personal refers to the re-experiencing of the specific contents of the individual’s early relationship within therapy. These two forms of the transference cannot always be clearly distinguished, because the archetype provides the potential form for experiences that are given individual content by the person’s actual experiences with his parents. For example, in the course of a mother transference, the patient may attribute qualities to the therapist that were not present in the patient’s mother, but that belong to the mother archetype, or the psychological predisposition to be, and to experience, a mother. The practical importance of this concept is that even if the patient’s mother was negative, the intrapsychic potential for a positive experience also exists and can become active in the treatment, because the archetype contains the potential for both poles (Jung, 1969c). Hence the potential for healing exists if access can be gained to the positive pole within the treatment relationship. The successful establishment of the needed mirroring or idealizing transference in such a situation would be seen as the actualization of this healing potential through the therapist’s capacity to stimulate and "hold" the positive side.

If Kohut is correct in believing that the need for mirroring and idealizing selfobjects is as psychologically fundamental as is the physiological need for oxygen and nutrients, then by definition these represent archetypal lays within the psyche. Kohut’s two transferences would in principle be archetypally based, but their particular contents would be personal in the sense that the specific circumstances of the individual’s early selfobject milieu would color their presentation. Jungian theory would predict that since there are other archetypal forms within the psyche, other fundamental forms of the transference remain to be elucidated. The archetypes are seen by Jung as unconscious regulators of psychic life that attempt to redress psychic imbalances. The unconscious is considered to interact with consciousness in a compensatory way, which leads to intrapsychic self-regulation or homeostasis (Jung, 1966a). Kohut’s stress on the appearance of important (but unconscious) components of the patient’s self within the transference is understandable within this theoretical frame work, since the transference the patient needs emerges as a compensation attempting to restore wholeness. Jung (1969a) wrote that the transference must be understood in terms of its purpose, which is ultimately the process of individuation. Kohut explains in detail how this occurs—his notion of the unfolding of the self’s nuclear blueprint in the context of the transference is a similar concept. For Jung, the progressive assimilation of unconscious contents into consciousness was crucially important. He used the somewhat misleading term "transcendent function" to describe this process of uniting or bridging the two and felt that the analyst had to carry this capacity for the patient until he was able to do it alone. In this sense, Kohut’s description of the analyst’s selfobject function for the patient is similar—the analyst is a bridge to the patient’s unconscious deficit, reproduced in the transference, until the patient no longer needs him for this purpose.

Jung would see a transference as archetypal if it was depicted in ways that were not simply based on the actual life experience of the patient, but instead the therapist appeared in the patient’s imagery in such forms as magician, witch, demon, redeeming messiah, or some other more than human entity. (These may all be forms of the idealizing transference, or they may represent individual categories). Such an extremely archaic, and distorted, image of the therapist provides the clue that more than personal material is being experienced. Seeing the therapist in such a light means that the patient is projecting mythological, rather than purely personal, material (Jung, 1966b). For example, when a therapist is idealized, he may appear to be omniscient to a superhuman extent. It is as if the subjective experience of fundamental structural needs within the relationship produces a larger-than-life quality—Jung refers to this as the "numinous" property of the archetype, which when activated has a powerful and attractive quality. Jungian theory would explain the intensity of Kohut'’ narcissistic transferences in terms of their archetypal, rather than purely personal, origin. Via the unconscious force of the archetype, the analyst is the medium by which the patient is able to experience what is nonego within himself.

In his discussion of a case involving such a transference, Jung (1966b) wrote, "What would be the good of explaining. …I am not the least sinister, nor am I an evil magician. That would leave the patient quite cold, for she knows that just as well as I do" (p. 91). He went on to say that the doctor then has to accept the patient’s need for the particular transference, without trying to interpret it away and must acknowledge himself as representing an archetypal image. Jung regards these as impersonal determinants within the psyche that behave in an autonomous way. (That is, they are not under the control of consciousness). Exactly like the need for mirroring or idealizing, they emerge in the treatment because they are significant factors within the patient’s psyche that need conscious recognition and attention.

Archetypal transference images appear in dreams or fantasy (unless the patient is psychotic) and may be extremely positive as well as negative; their appearance in positive form may indicate the beginning of healing within the relationship. For example, Jung reported a case of what he described as an archetypal transference that, in Kohut’s terms, was clearly based on an idealization by the patient. Jung appeared in the patient’s dreams either as supernaturally large, or extremely old, occasionally resembling her father, as in a dream in which her father (therapist) appeared as an enormous giant who held her in his arms and rocked her like a little child. Although the patient knew intellectually that she was Jung as a semidivine father-lover and could distinguish this image from reality, and despite the fact that this had been repeatedly discussed in the treatment, the transference obstinately refused to resolve. Jung asked what the purpose of this obstinacy was, (rather than understanding it as a resistance), because the intensity of the transference gave him the impression of a ‘vital instinct." By amplifying the dream’s specific imagery in its mythological context, he eventually understood the situation as representing the patient’s deep need to ‘free a vision of God," or a reaching out for a God projected onto the prosaic figure of the doctor. In psychological terms, the patient was experiencing the self in her dreams in the form of the analyst as a superhuman figure. Eventually, the transference resolved itself, and the patient developed an important relationship outside of therapy. Jung understood her dreams, which for a while continued to swell the doctor to ‘ever vaster proportions," as self-representations of unconscious developments within the patient, which allowed her psyche gradually to grow out of the personal tie to him. In other words, he allowed the natural history of the idealization to continue until the patient no longer needed him to meet that need. Jung felt that this process was guided by a ‘transpersonal control point" within her psyche. This is a confusing choice of words, but he is referring to the tendency of the self to guide the development of the personality autonomously toward its natural unfolding, in a manner which is not directed by conscious intent. What Jung refers to as the self includes just this self-organizing property of the psyche.

The idealizing parent imago has an archetypal correspondence—that of the mythic image of Great Mother or Father. The child can be seen to relate to his mother as if she were the mother goddess of mythology. In the transference, this idealization is repeated; Jung refers to such archetypal transferences as the result of the projection of the self onto the therapist. The mirror transference can also be seen as archetypal, in the sense that, rather than projecting the self onto the therapist, the patient is re-experiencing the intense need for his inner experience of the self to be recognized by another person. Archetypally, this corresponds to two possible intrapsychic configurations, which I believe are distinguishable clinically. One is the appearance in dreams or fantasy of the mythic image of the divine child (for example, Jesus, Krishna) who is joyful and full of wondrous future potential, but helpless at the moment although he commands recognition. The other represents what is referred to in analytical psychology as an ego-self merger. Here these terms are used in a highly specific sense, referring to the ego as an island of discreet consciousness, which has not fully differentiated itself out of the self as the totality of the psyche, both conscious and unconscious. In infancy, the child’s experiences itself as incompletely differentiated from mother; self and other seem to be part of the same self, so that the child experiences itself as powerful. As the child’s ego (individual awareness) develops, it has to free itself from this merger with a felt totality into a sense of discreet identity, no longer immersed in the original state of unconscious fusion that is accompanied by the sensation of omnipotence.

Adequate mirroring of the child’s joyful experience of itself, as described by Kohut (1971), leads to the process of ego-self differentiation. If this process does not occur during childhood, the archetypal pressure for individuation, which in Jung’s psychology means the full development of individual consciousness, leads to a mirror transference so that the original need can be met. This pressure from the self for mirroring illustrates Jung’s idea of the "purposive" nature of the psyche, which aims for a final goal. Kohut’s idea of the constructive purpose of the narcissistic transferences is also forward looking and cannot be understood only as a re-experiencing of childhood needs. Both theorists suggest that unrealized potentials within the personality emerge in the transference and are necessary for the full development of the individual.

In his discussion of archetypal transferences, Plaut (1956) points out some of their countertransference dangers to the analyst, in particular the need to accept the image projected by the patient without either becoming inflated (grandiose) or rejecting the patient. His discussion is reminiscent of Kohut’s (1971) later and much more detailed discussion of the effects on the analyst of the idealizing and mirror transferences. Kohut (1977) describes how the analyst’s psyche is "engaged in depth’ during treatment, responding from the "deepest layers of the analyst’s unconscious…" (p. 251). He regards this as a sine qua non for the process. Kohut (1984) recognizes the inadequacy of the traditional idea of the analyst as a neutral blank screen, as if a purely cognitive or objective view of the patient were possible. Rather, he (Kohut, 1971) indicates how the analyst’s own personality structure and narcissistic needs become important factors in the treatment.

Jung (1966a) too reacted against the idea of the analyst as a neutral observer. In a very early appreciation of the importance of countertransference, he insisted that therapy is a dialectic, reciporcal interaction between two psychic systems. However, Jung seemed to go further than Kohut in stressing the importance of the analyst’s personality and the mutual influence that occurs in treatment. Jung used the metaphor of a chemical reaction, suggesting that if change were to occur, both participants would be transformed, because their behavior is so mutually interactive. Kohut notes that although the analyst participates in the narcissistic transferences in very important ways, only rarely does the analyst’s personality affect the choice between equally valid ways of restoring the patient’s defective self. Kohut is less sure than Jung about the influence the analyst’s personality has on the analysand. Kohut (1977) prefers to allow the patient find his own solution to his difficulties without gross identification with the analyst. Kohut’s attitude can be compared with such comments of Jung’s (1966a) as: "In any effective psychological treatment the doctor is bound to influence the patient; but this influence can only take place if the patient has a reciprocal influence on the doctor. You can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence" (p. 71). He goes on to describe how the analyst can become profoundly affected by the patient’s illness. Kohut’s writing therefore suggests a clearer sense of boundary between analyst and patient. His attitude is that if the analyst behaves properly and does not interfere because of his own needs, the transference the patient needs will emerge and can be resolved without too much distortion of the development of the patient’s nuclear self. Jung also want the analyst to pay attention to his own narcissistic defenses and needs, as he indicates in the following passage, which sounds like a Jungian version of Kohut’s remarks on the effects on the analyst of the patient’s narcissistic transference:

We could say, with too much exaggeration, that a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient. It is no loss, either, if he feels that the patient is hitting him, or even scoring off him: it is his own hurt that gives the measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician [p. 71].

However, Kohut would probably feel that Jung (1976) goes too far in this direction asserting that the transference reveals "in a pitiless light what the healing agent really is: it is the degree to which the analyst himself can cope with his own psychic problems" (p. 493). Jung is probably referring to the fact that a patient’s resistance may occasionally be justified, and the analyst then has to analyze himself to resolve the situation before treatment can proceed.

Kohut’s emphasis on the importance of allowing a transference to develop gradually without any interference from the analyst is reminiscent of a comment of Jung that we must be careful not to impose on the patient or do anything contrary to his nature. Letting things happen in the psyche, a form of action through nonaction, became a key principle for him. Jung (1976b) was afraid that otherwise: "Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace: (p. 16).


When Jung (1966a) wrote about the patients who came to consult him, he described people in the second half of life whose previous therapy had not been completely successful. Typically, they had no specific or easily defined neurotic symptoms, but rather complained of a vague sense of emptiness and meaninglessness in their life, which made them feel aimless. In retrospect, it is clear that these patients suffered from narcissistic character pathology, with self-defects in Kohut’s sense. Kohut looked to the transference relationship to repair such a defect, after it was reconstellated in the selfobject experience—indeed, they are synonymous. Jung’s approach was to encourage the patient to gain access to the depths of his own psyche by paying careful attention to this dreams, fantasies, and imaginal life. Jung believed that because of the psyche’s innate tendency toward wholeness, which can be achieved by the gradual assimilation by consciousness of the products of the unconscious, his patients would heal by establishing a dialogue with the unconscious. In his psychology, the unconscious is granted ontological reality and is treated as if it were a source of awareness other than ego consciousness. The function of the therapist is to help mediate between consciousness and the unconscious by assisting in the amplification and interpretation of the patient’s imager, until the patient no longer needs the therapist for this purpose. Thus the patient’s deficit is filled in from the unconscious, via the understanding of the symbol.

At first sight, it seems that this is a therapeutic method different from that of Kohut, but a major difference in practice is one of emphasis. Jung was well aware of the importance of the transference, and that the relationship with the therapist would often determine the content of the patient’s imagery, so that work on this material inevitably includes work on the relationship. In fact, although much of Jung’s writing is concerned with the elucidation of complex intrapsychic material derived from dreams and fantasy, it is clear that he know of the powerful influence and importance of the relationship in determining the content of the patient’s material: "With regard to your patient, it is quite correct that her dreams are occasioned by you. …In the deepest sense we all dream not out of ourselves, but out of what lies between us and the other" (Jung, 1973). If the self is truly the totality of consciousness, there cannot be any essential difference between the introspective experience of our inner life as it is depicted by the unconscious in our dreams and imagination, and the experience of ourselves in relationships. The "inner" and the "outer" must be a function of each other. Thus, Kohut’s method of empathic immersion in the patient’s experience of the relationship, when carried to its logical conclusion, must also lead the therapist to pay careful attention to the patient’s intrapsychic imagery, especially as this depicts the details of the transference. What is of archetypal—that is, organizational and structural—importance to the personality will emerge in both situations. It is therefore suggested that although Jung and Ko0hut seem to approach the psyche from different vantage points, with different theories of cure, the simultaneous application of their ideas not only is possible, but leads to the finding that their approaches are mutually enhancing rather than exclusive.

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