Self-Psychology and Diagnostic Assessment: Identifying Selfobject Functions through Psychological Testing

By Marshall L. Silverstein | Go to book overview

POSTSCRIPT: SUMMARY AND REFLECTIONS

In The Future of an Illusion, Freud ( 1927/ 1961) wrote: "The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest till it has gained a hearing" (p. 53). He was describing how drives can overwhelm, but not totally silence, the rationality that comes about when internal self-control predominates. Such internal control is one therapeutic result that marks the strengthening of that psychological function the ego psychologists would subsequently term the observing ego. In the language of Rorschach psychology, it can be represented by acquiring the resilience to produce a sufficient number of M responses of good quality to compensate for, if need be, impinging determinants suggesting potentially disorganizing affect states.

Notwithstanding Freud's pertinent observation, there is also a number of conditions (many of which are character disorders and sub-clinical forms of character pathology) typified by hypertrophy of rationality and intellect. Not all of these states necessarily signify psychological health; some denote obsessions or related characterologic disturbances typified prominently by isolation or distancing defenses such as intellectualization. Conditions that are dominated by overintellectualization are frequently associated with smoothly operating or efficient deployment of defenses. There is characteristically minimal distress, although chronic low-grade dysthymia may be present. It is a form of defense that appears, on the face of it, to turn pathology into a virtue.

The disorders of the self sometimes appear this way, often accompanied by diminished zest or vigor, boredom or ennui, or aimless life paths lacking in goals or a clear enough sense of direction. The improved efficacy of the newer generation of antidepressant and anxiolytic compounds effectively treats the symptomatic manifestations of some of these disturbances, leaving the remaining ingrained characterologic adaptations as the residual stamp of the personality.

For these conditions, it can be argued, it is the voice of the unconscious that is soft but persistent. This restatement of Freud's comment cited

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