Comments on Heinz Kohut’s Conceptualization of a Bipolar Self

  • Ernest S. Wolf
Part of the Path in Psychology book series (PATH)


More than twenty years have passed since the publication, in 1959, of Kohut’s defining paper “Introspection, Empathy and Psychoanalysis”. After that, many developments had to take place in the growth of psychoanalytic theory and in the expanding scope of psychoanalytic treatment before Kohut arrived at what he calls the psychology of the self and what he conceptualizes as the Bipolar Self. To begin with, I would like to go back, briefly, to that 1959 paper on empathy and introspection. For the issues raised at that time are, to this day, the focus around which pivots the controversial aspect of Kohut’s subsequent work on narcissism and the self. On the one hand, an acceptance of Kohutfs 1959 definition of psychoanalysis makes the emergence of the self and self theory an almost foregone conclusion, a kind of inevitable development; on the other hand, a rejection of the major defining premises of the 1959 statement on empathy just as inevitably leads to a rejection of most of the conceptualizations advanced by Kohut during the last twenty years.


Sexual Arousal Psychoanalytic Theory Oedipus Complex Sexual Excitement Psychic Structure 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1982

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  • Ernest S. Wolf

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