Memoirs and Biographies
Resources

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecoming AnnaBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor

Related Topics
Heinz KohutReview - Heinz Kohut
The Making of a Psychoanalyst
by Charles B. Strozier
Other Press, 2004
Review by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Ph.D.
Dec 31st 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 52)

Say what you will about psychoanalysis, it has attracted a large number of brilliant people into its ranks. And what would you say about somebody who single-handedly created a new psychoanalytic tradition, and started that when he was 55 years old? That individual had to be not just brilliant, but charismatic and self-confident. . As we discover reading this biography, Heinz Kohut the person was just what we would expect of a leading psychoanalyst, and much more. 

Heinz Kohut (1913-1981) was the man who created the "self psychology" school in American psychoanalysis.  In some ways, his early life mimicked that of Sigmund Freud and countless other well-known artists and intellectuals. He was a product of  Vienna as it was before the Nazis, a cultural center and a home to creativity  and radical ideas. He was a man of high European culture, like Freud, quoting both the classics of antiquity and Geothe.  Until the age of eleven private tutors educated him; then he joined the regular school system, leading to graduation from an elite high school, and, at age 19, to medical school. As a medical student he was analyzed by August Aichhorn, a well-known name in the history of early psychoanalysis, but at that point his future role in psychoanalysis was not even dreamt about. Heinz Kohut became an MD in 1938, the year Austria became part of the Third Reich.Like many other psychoanalysts and intellectuals, was born in a Jewish family, and so had to leave Vienna, and Europe, behind.

He settled in Chicago, where he did residencies in neurology and in psychiatry in the 1940s, became a candidate at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis in 1946, graduated in 1950 and joined the faculty. Kohut soon became recognized in the local psychoanalytic community, until led the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis as an orthodox psychoanalyst who, for a while, read only Freud's writings, until he broke away to develop his own ideas. In 1964-1965 Kohut served as President of the American Psychoanalytic Association, which was a measure of his reputation among US psychoanalysts. In 1971 he came on stage as a major challenger of psychoanalytic orthodoxy when he published The Analysis of the Self: A Systematic Analysis of the Treatment of the Narcissistic Personality Disorders.  This book presented the concept of "self-object transferences", as part of a whole new terminology, as well as claiming a major role for empathy in psychoanalytic practice. Within a decade, Kohut's ideas became internationally known, and today one may speak of a worldwide "self psychology" movement, with conferences and teaching institutes. The idea of the self as the center of personality and interactions with the world is at the center of that movement.

The biographer, Charles Strozier, is both an academic historian and a psychoanalyst. He knew Kohut, and follows Kohut's ideas sympathetically in his own psychoanalytic practice. He worked on this biography for 20 years, and in his introduction to the 2004 edition makes it clear that in working on his subject he discovered quite a few things he had not anticipated. There were not only skeletons in Kohut's closet, but personality traits that could only be described as problematic. The man who theorized about narcissism turned out to be a real narcissist, obsessed with his importance and contributions to the world. He did not always tell the truth about himself, which is rather unremarkable, but some of the things he lied about leave us puzzled.

And then there is the matter of Kohut's "protean sexuality", as Strozier put it. As a prepubescent boy, he was seduced by one of his tutors into a homosexual relationship. Strozier writes that "By current standards, what went on...can only be defined legally as childhood sexual abuse "(p. 25). But also states that  " it may well be that our sense of the exploitation of children has become too ideological and leads us to miss the subtlety of love and connection that can arise even in deeply unequal relationships "( p. 26). Heinz Kohut described a similar history in a case study published in 1979, "The Two Analyses of Mr. Z.", which Strozier considers autobiographical. Strozier also reports judgments of those who saw in Kohut a strong homoerotic streak.

Kohut's actions regarding his Jewish ancestry seem the most baffling thing about his private and public persona. He was born to Jewish parents, but since coming to the US described himself as half-Jewish or as a gentile. Later on he described himself as Christian, and attended church. The issue was that of Jewishness, rather than Judaism, of social identity, rather than religious practice  (see Beit-Hallahmi, 1993).  Most psychoanalysts of Jewish ancestry were atheists, starting with Sigmund Freud, and so they never observed any of Judaism's commandments and taboos. But, while keeping their distance from Judaism, they retained Jewishness, never denied their ancestry, and would not dream of embracing another religion. 

Kohut's own theoretical ideas about religion, as presented by Strozier, offer a psychological analysis in terms of the motives and human needs that create religious ideas, starting with the idealization need.  Kohut states that "there must be something idealizable, something that nears perfection or that is perfect, something that one wants to live up to, something that lifts one up" (p. 329)..."Such experiences touch the psychological core of our first encounters with the majestic mother who uplifted us as babies and held us close to her...Uplifted, we merged into the mother's greatness and calmness" (p. 329) These stimulating ideas and insights, which tie the readiness of adult humans to believe in religious illusions to childhood helplessness and dependence on  parents are quite consistent with the tradition of interpretations by such well-known atheists as Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein, but their author, Heinz  Kohut chose to present himself to the world as a religious believer.. Strozier himself asks: "Did Kohut himself believe in God?" (p. 330).

Kohut called himself Christian and was a member of a Unitarian congregation in Chicago for many years. But the Unitarian-Universalist movement is not officially Christian, and this is a point not raised but either Kohut or Strozier. Unitarians may choose to be Christian, but it seems that for Kohut the label of Christian was just a façade. In a fascinating letter to Anna Freud in 1964, presented by Strozier, Kohut describes American psychoanalysis as dominated by Jewish MDs and by individuals coming from Protestant groups such as the "mystical Quakers" and the "rationalistic Universalists and Unitarians". The problem with Protestants was that they would "probably move psychoanalysis toward nonscientific "healing through love" and other cures by identification"(pp. 136-137). So Kohut chose to join the "rationalistic Universalists and Unitarians", had his doubts about their penchant for "healing through love", but still wanted to call himself a Christian, apparently for the sake of appearances and for his son, who should not know of the curse of Jewishness among his ancestors.

We all have clay feet, things about ourselves we would not want the world to see, but the question is always what we have got to balance out our weaknesses and sins. We can find many narcissists, but only a few among them do indeed offer us outstanding contributions and make our lives more enjoyable, or at least interesting, Whatever faults Kohut had, he was simply an outstanding and creative thinker. Strozier makes Kohut's original and provocative ideas stand out, in addition to his personality. The writing is clear and engaging, and this book is a must read if you are curious about psychoanalysis in general or about the development of psychoanalysis in the United States.

 

Reference:

Beit-Hallahmi, B.   Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel.  New York: Interlink, 1993.

 

© 2005 Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi

 

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi has written about psychoanalysis and Jewish identity. See Bunzl, J. & Beit-Hallahmi, B. Psychoanalysis, Identity, and Ideology: Critical Essays on the Israel/Palestine Case:.  Boston: Kluwer, 2002.


Share

Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7800 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'


Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!


Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716