Kohut Memorial Lecture

by  Nancy VanDerHeide, Psy.D.

Jim Fosshage presented this year's Kohut Memorial Lecture entitled, "The Psychoanalytic World: Notes from My Personal Odyssey" to an audience recently saddened by the illness and loss of a beloved colleague, Marian Tolpin. Preceding Jim at the dais, Shelly Doctors read her touching tribute to Marian, long one of self psychology's most ardent fans and important contributors. As Jim put it, she was "a woman of unwavering integrity, scholarship, and rare clinical ability." She will be greatly missed for her warm and generous spirit.

In his presentation, Jim shared with us some of the highlights from his journey through the world of psychoanalysis. True to his relational nature, significant people played pivotal roles at critical junctures along his way and he took this opportunity to acknowledge many of them - truly a who's who of contemporary psychoanalysis, many of whom were in the room with us.

Unlike many analysts whose interest was piqued by first encounters with Freud, Jim encountered the work of C.J. Jung as an adolescent and was captivated by concepts that clearly resonate for him to this day. Jung wrote about the self as the unconscious organizing principal of personality and proffered a developmental motivation model, ideas that have accompanied Jim on his journey in one form or another and emerged even in his presentation earlier in the conference.

From his student days at the University of Colorado, Jim knew he aspired to be a psychoanalyst and, though the route he took had many unanticipated twists and turns, he never deviated from that path. His first stop after receiving his doctorate was at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health to begin his psychoanalytic training. In spite of a year and a half of sincere, concerted effort, he never got the knack of doing classical psychoanalysis (their loss, our gain!). The loss of the idealization he had carried for classical analysis opened the door for him to regain the trust he'd had of his own clinical acumen prior to that training. Jim spoke of the more positive influences from the Postgraduate Center, among them his training analyst, Helen Durkin, a supervisor in his fourth year, Ruth Gruenthal, and Frank Lachmann, an important mentor, and subsequently a good friend and co-author.

Since his graduation from the Postgraduate Center, Jim's contributions to the field of psychoanalysis have mounted steadily. Together with four other graduates he helped found the National Institute for the Psychotherapies of New York City. With a focus on philosophical openness, the Institute embraced a pluralism of theories long before it was acceptable in the wider world of psychoanalysis. Since that time, he has played a major hand in several of contemporary psychoanalysis' championing institutes: as invited faculty of the New York University postdoctoral program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, cofounder of the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, and co-architect of the Relational Track at NYU. Early in the history of the International Council for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology he was invited to join the prestigious group of analysts excited by the new psychology of the self. More than twenty years later he continues to contribute both to the governance of the organization now known to us all as the International Association of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology and as a respected and popular presenter at its conferences.

Jim spoke of another love from his early days of studying Jung and his different personal analytic experiences, his long-lasting interest in dreams. His co-authored book, Dream Interpretation: A comparative Study was the first of many publications devoted to the subject. The organizing functions of dreams is a concept that stands the mark of time as "the development, maintenance (regulation), and, when necessary, restoration of psychic processes, structure, and organization" (Fosshage, 1983, p. 657). As well regarded as this formulation is among contemporary psychoanalysis, it has not fared so well in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. Jim relayed with much amusement his attempts to sneak this heretical notion past the reviewers and editors of that august journal, all to no avail. Happily, other journals have been more willing to do so and in 1997 a research-based version, "The Organizing Function of Dream Mentation" was published in Contemporary Psychoanalysis.

Jim spoke of other areas of significant interest that have figured prominently in his work, some of which have even appeared in print in the IJP! As any of us who have read his work can attest, Jim has an exceptional ability to take an established concept like transference, recast it in relational terms, and greatly increase its usefulness. In this case, transference became an organizing activity whereby the patient's experience of the analytic relationship is shaped by his or her patterns of assimilating relational information and constructing meaning. Relationships with people other than the analyst become important to the analysis in this conceptualization, as opposed to that of traditional views wherein transference refers solely to the analyst, because not all of the patient's organizing principles are likely to be activated by the analyst.

Paradigm shifts in psychoanalysis from objectivism to constructivism, and from the intrapsychic to intersubjective relating account for the wide appeal and acceptance of many of these ideas. His interest in the factors that influence countertransference led him to conceptualize a third listening perspective that complements the self psychological emphasis on the empathic perspective of listening from within the patient's frame of reference and the Relational analyst's use of what he calls the other-centered perspective, which refers to how if feels to be in a relationship with the other. This third perspective, the analyst's self perspective refers to the analyst's own experience, a necessary, and natural, additional perspective that augments our comprehension of any interaction.

Demonstrating yet again his differences with classical theorists, Jim's thoughts on such topics as physical touch and love derive from his wish to participate as fully as possible in his analytic encounters. Once again, his theoretical formulations emerged as part of ground-breaking publications that speak more fully to the complexity of the analytic process. Other recent formulations regarding the implicit and explicit domains in the process of change are similarly cutting edge.

The experiences and body of work that Jim Fosshage brings to the world of analytic self psychology thus range far and wide and stand as a credit to Heinz Kohut and the pioneering, ground-breaking spirit with which he imbued psychoanalysis.

Nancy VanDerHeide is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, California. She is President of the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, a member of the International Council of the IAPSP, Associate Editor of the IJPSP, and Assistant Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues.

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