Ethics. Research. Community.

On corruption.

The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis. 
22
(3): 
Fall
377-398; 
1994. 
(English). 
[Record Source: PubMed]
This paper begins with the premise that in most individuals and in most cultures there is an inevitable force that presses toward the production of corruption as time passes, a force that requires vigilant resistance. Corruption is here defined as a falling away from the ego ideal of the individual or the ideals of the culture, which results in certain unfortunate and maladaptive changes in attitude and behavior of both the group and the individual. Support is given to the premise by a brief review of the work of Robert Hutchins and of Oswald Spengler, both of whom were eloquent and learned advocates of the premise, although, perhaps for personal reasons, they were too pessimistic. There follows a discussion of the metapsychology of corruption both in individuals and in cultures, both from an ego psychology point of view and from a self psychology point of view. Freud's paper on narcissism and Kohut's "psychology of the self in the narrow sense" are taken as starting points. Using the terms of the former, a divestment of the ego ideal of narcissistic libido is described, along the lines of, and somewhat parallel to, Freud's concept of secondary narcissism. Using Kohut's early concept of a separate line of development for narcissism, it is suggested that a similar separate line of development can exist for "corruption" in both individuals and cultures. At the root of this development are the repeated narcissistic wounds inevitable in the course of individual life and in the life of a culture as it tries to live up to its ideals. Resistance to the demoralizing effects of the vicissitudes of life is an important function of the ego, and depends on the strength of the ego, of the cohesiveness of the sense of self, and of a conscious awareness of the dangerous pressures toward corruption that pervade our civilization and resolve not to be swept up by these pressures. This leads to the main point of the paper, focus on the status of the ego ideal of the psychoanalyst or, conversely, his or her level of "corruption," whether conscious or unconscious. It is maintained that this level and the particular value system of the analyst, as well as the level of energy invested in living up to his or her value system, is communicated subtly to both one's students and patients, and has a vital role in the treatment process.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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ISSN0090-3604