Brent Dean Robbins

The following is a long, yet still very brief, history of psychoanalytic thought, including the following topics:

Use the following hyper-links to skip to the section of your choice -- or simply read from top to bottom.

Links | Freud | Ego Psychology | Interpersonal | Object Relations | Humanistic | Existential-Phenomenology
Jungian | Archetypal | Transpersonal | Buddhist | Self | Critical Theory | Narrative | Feminist
Poststructuralist | Lacanian | Gestalt | Rankian | Adlerian | Reichian | Erikson | Anti-Psychiatry
Social Construction | Eclectic | Hermeneutics | Future | Exit


I have been quite pleased lately to find that contemporary images of psychoanalysis have begun to shift once again. For many years, psychoanalysts have been the target of contempt by the media. I think, for example, of Harold's therapist in Harold and Maude, or, more recently, the aloof psychoanalyst in There's Something About Mary. More recently, films such as Good Will Hunting and Analyze This have portrayed psychotherapy as a powerful vehicle for radical psychological transformation and healing. Negative portrayals of psychoanalysts in the media typically provide the image of the cliched classical psychoanalyst -- aloof, cold, and distant, silently stroking his beard, emitting a "hmmm..." every now and again, while the client or analysand whines endlessly while lying upon a couch. Ironically, as Freud had intended it to be, the psychoanalyst has become the image on which to project our feelings about authority figures, only now on a cultural level. People often do not realize, however, that psychoanalysis, since Freud, is in the service of liberating us from the chains of our past authority figures rather than creating new "shoulds" with which we must feel obligated. The new media images of psychoanalysts, however, portray the psychotherapist as a healer in this more originary sense of the word. I also find it interesting that the new images of psychotherapy are no longer of the classical Freudian patient lying upon the couch, but rather portrays client and therapist as face-to-face. I feel -- and I will surely ruffle some feathers with this opinion -- that this face-to-face orientation is indebted to the humanistic orientation of psychotherapy, once the "third force" counter-movement against psychoanalysis and behaviorism, though now its influences have very much become integrated into contemporary psychoanalytic thought.

I think many people have a very difficult time understanding psychoanalytic theory because it is a way of thinking which is radically different than our everyday way of talking about ourselves. If you ask people if they believe in the existence of 'the unconscious,' they will likely say, "Yes, indeed! Of course there is an unconscious!" But it is very rare, I think, to find a person who actually lives as if they are radically unknown to themselves. As we tarry about our everyday lives, there is good reason to fall into the belief that we are transparent to ourselves. The theoretical construct of 'the unconscious' is problematic theoretically, no doubt, but I think that those who do not take it seriously are simply very well-adept at duping themselves. It is safe to say that, today, there is no doubt that something like an unconscious exists, though we don't quite know just yet how to go about talking about it. Personally, I feel that existential-phenomenological philosophy offers a way to talk about what has been called 'the unconscious' without falling into the epistemological difficulties of such a concept. For more on existential-phenomenology, you can visit my existential-phenomenology page. This will surpise many who feel that this tradition -- Husserl's phenomenology and Sartre's existential-phenomenology -- denies the existence of the unconscious, or at least has developed a method by which the unconscious is inaccessible. Let me just leave off this topic by saying that psychoanalytic theory, Freud being the pioneer, has given us a great gift by delivering to us a kind of language with which to talk about the depths of the soul.

Generally, there are two extreme views of psychoanalytic theory which are equally misleading. In the first place, there exists a view, largely perpetuated by introduction to psychology courses in universities, that psychoanalysis is mostly the project of one man, Sigmund Freud. The fact is, however, that Freud, though the pioneer of psychoanalysis, is far from being the sole contributor to psychoanalytic theory and practice today. In fact, many of Freud's original tennets have been challenged by contemporary psychoanalytic theorists, including: the argument that instinctual drives are the primary motivation for human beings; the rigid focus on the Oedipus complex as the central conflict of the psyche; the emphasis on analytic neutrality; the belief that the therapist must frustrate the wishes of the client; therapy as a regression to infantile neurosis, to name a few. And, as I eluded to above, the new psychotherapy does not fit the old image of the endlessly free associating analysand, lying on a couch while surrendering to the authority of the analyst. (The exception to this rule is Lacanian psychoanalytic analysis, which in many ways is a return to Freud from a post-structuralist position). Rather, psychotherapy as it is practiced today, while there are exceptions to the rule, is viewed more as a collaborative process between therapist and client. Further, many therapists today do not claim to be the "objective" authority on truth for the client, but rather today's therapist is deeply aware that no therapist can be "value free," nor is this necessarily a good thing since it implies the therapist is detached and aloof rather than fully engaged in an empathic, therapeutic relationship with the client. If one is to provide an accurate account of psychoanalytic theory, one must take account of all the developments which follow from Freud, including the work of theorist-practitioners such as Harry Stack Sullivan, Carl Jung, Erik Erikson, Melanie Klein, Margaret Mahler, Jacques Lacan, and Heinz Kohut, among many others.

The second, related misconception, I feel, is the exact opposite of the above misconception. Personally, I am somewhat sick and tired of those  who take pleasure in bashing Freud. I in no way intend to mean here that we should not continue to be constructively critical of Freud's theory, but I feel that too often mainstream psychology as a whole has tended to humor Freudian theory while failing miserably to give it the serious attention it deserves. Most of the people I hear criticizing Freud, if probed further, will be discovered to have never read a lick of Freud, their opinions gathered instead by close-minded, dumbed-down secondary resources. For chrissake, if you are going to criticize Freud, at least read him! If you read Freud himself, you do not simply find the Freud you heard about in your introductory psychology texts. Instead, you discover a brilliant rhetor who managed to take great pains, although often failing (like the rest of us), to treat his patients with the dignity they are due, while, at the same time, persuasively legitimizing his theory amongst his neurology-trained colleagues with his meta-psychology. Freud's theory is amazingly complex and, throughout his life, continually evolved. It is unfair to say that Freud always held rigidly to his theory since he did continually develop his theoretical model. On the other hand, I will concede that Freud could often be a tyrant who could not tolerate the differences of opinion offered by his close contemporaries, particularly Jung, Adler, and Rank, all of whom hit up against Freud's hard-headed adherence to his own theoretic perspective. For the record, however, I think it is only fair to say that Freud would have never discovered what he discovered if he had not listened to his patients rather than his own presumptions. In short, I have a deep respect for Freud, though I am far from a 'Freudian,' since I have many theoretical differences with Freudian meta-psychology. But I also realize that had Freud not embarked upon his pioneering work, there would be no place from which to make such distinctions.

As a final introductory note, it is somewhat ironic that Freud's greatest impact today can be felt in the humanities rather than the natural sciences. Philosophers and literary critics, in particular, have discovered the value of Freud's work in that Freud's discoveries concretely and persuasively demonstrate that the human being is radically de-centered. Lacan, in particular, has been instrumental in demonstrating the vital connection between the unconscious and language -- a move which situates psychoanalysis within the tradition of the science of linguistics as opposed to the natural sciences.




Psychoanalysis was given birth by Sigmund Freud at the turn of the century. Freud conceptualized the mind, metaphorically, as an ancient, buried ruin which had to been unearthed much like an archeologist would unearth the treasures of an ancient civilization. Freud's influence can be traced from his hard-core natural science background as a student of neurology, as well as his rarely acknowledged debt to Franz Brentano (also a teacher of Edmund Husserl), who taught Freud to understand that consciousness is always intentional. This tension between a more phenomenological approach to understanding the mind and Freud's inclination toward natural scientific explanation is a tension which exists in all of his work and writings, as well as throughout all of psychoanalytic theory following Freud. In fact, this tension between understanding and explanation can be said to be a tension which exists, whether acknowledged or not, in all of the human sciences (see, for example, Dilthey).

Freud's version of psychoanalysis had its predecessor in the work with hysterics conducted by neurologists Jean-Martin Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim, who, using hypnosis, discovered that the origins of hysteria were mental rather than overtly physiological. Freud's colleague, Josef Breuer, first began using his modified technique of hypnosis to treat the famous hysteric patient with the alias 'Anna O,' who we now know to be Bertha Pappenheim. This technique involved placing the patient in a hypnotic trance and removing the symptoms through the use of posthypnotic suggestion. Freud, a poor hypnotist, became especially adept at listening to these patients, and, along with Breuer, discovered that the origins of the hysteria appeared to involve emotionally charged events in the patients' past. When the patient, through talking, followed associations in her memory, she was able to recover the forgotten event, which led to the cure. Freud eventually gave up the process of using hypnotism for the use of a technique he came to call "free association," in which the patient was encouraged to put aside all inhibitions and follow her associations, which would eventually, even without hypnosis, lead to the recovery of unconscious memory.

From the period of 1895 to roughly 1905, Freud's innovations led to the development of his theory, all of which were developed from his clinical work with patients. Initially theoretical formulations led to the topographic model of the psyche, which Freud categorized into three different subsections: the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious. Further, Freud became more and more sophisticated in his technique of psychoanalysis, and he became particularly adept at using his patients's subjective impressions of him to help the patient to discover the origins of the unconscious memory (or memories) which led to the symptoms from which she suffered. It followed that Freud developed a theory that patients resisted remembering the trauma, and this 'resistance' was evident in disruptions of the free association process. Such disruptions constituted what Freud called 'defenses,' and, most notably, the defenses involved what Freud called 'transference,' the transference of conflictual thoughts and feelings to the analyst. Freud also came to acknowledge that unconscious events are traceable in other phenomena, as well, including dreams, slips of the tongue, and in jokes.

From his work with patients, Freud was eventually led to develop a more and more sophisticated theory of the human psyche which became increasingly understood according to a developmental model. Freud, by observing his patients, found that many of the memories uncovered by his patients were sexual in nature and reverted back to early childhood memories. From these observations, Freud developed his controversial theory of childhood sexuality. Freud eventually justified these observations with a generalized theory of an instinctual drive, which became the foundation for his theory. At first, Freud felt that such instincts were largely sexual in nature. Later, he conceded that instincts also involved aggressive drives, as well as sexual drives. In any case, Freud's development model, a theory of 'psychosexual development,' traced the development of childhood seuxality through various stages, organized according to 'erogenous zones,' bodily zones which are highly sexually charged at certain stages in development: in particular, the mouth, anus, and genitals.

Freud imagined the instincts as consisting of a form of energy he called 'libido.' The very young infant, Freud felt, was entirely governed by the libido, and this embedded, embodied existence was called 'primary process thinking,' the bedrock of all experience. This 'primary process thinking' largely consists of phantasy, omnipotent thinking, and exists outside of linear time -- in short, it demands immediate gratification. As the child develops through the various psychosexual stages -- oral, anal, and phallic -- the child's libido is increasingly 'repressed' by parental figures who train the child to delay gratification and to channel the libido in ways that are socially appropriate. This pure libidinal drive Freud called the 'id.' Disruptions at any of the stages of psychosexual development, Freud observed, appeared to result in what he called 'fixation' -- an excessive preoccupation with that particular erogenous zone characterized either by over-indulgence or under-indulgence. With the formation of the unconscious, what is left-over in the conscious of the person is called 'secondary process thinking' by Freud.

Central to Freud's theory is the "Oedipal complex." Freud discovered that, with many of his patients, conflicts arose during the phallic stage, which occurred between the ages of three and five. With the onset of the phallic stage, Freud argued, the child's genitals become libidinally charged, and this leads to a desire for the parent of the opposite sex and a feeling of competitiveness with the parent of the same sex. The particular organization of these conflicts depends on how the child has negotiated the earlier psychosexual stages. Freud felt that the Oedipus complex is ultimately resolved, at least for males, by "castration anxiety." The young boy fears that his desire for the mother will result in the loss of his penis, which leads him, instead, to identify with the father. From this resolution of the conflict, the child develops an "ideal" self based on the internalization of parental values. This "ego ideal" results in the development of the "super-ego," which constitutes the often unrealistic ideals toward which the child will strive and which inevitably conflict with the libidinal drives of the 'id.' The partly conscious, partly unconscious self, known as the 'ego,' bears the responsibility for negotiating between these two extremes. Thus, the "ego" is governed by the "reality principle," which must use various defenses to negotiate between the unrealistic motives of the "superego" ("ego ideal") and the "id," governed by the "pleasure principle." This structure of the psyche is the way Freud made sense of the emergence of the unconscious, which results in the repression of libidinal drives, as well as memories, thoughts, and feelings which arouse anxiety. Ultimately, for Freud, the human being is in perpetual conflict with itself, torn between one's animal nature and the ideals of one's culture internalized with the values of one's parents.

(It should be noted that this very brief review of Freud's thought and work is overly-simplistic and, compared with the actual development of his thought, not adequate for a thorough understanding of Freud's theory. But it is a good start for the neophyte. I simply warn the reader that one must not stop here before making judgements. For further exploration, see the Freud page. I also recommend my paper on one of Freud's famous case studies of the 'psychotic' Dr. Schreber, within which I more fully articulate Freud's method of doing therapy).

As mentioned previously, Freud was very protective of his theory, and he entered into conflicts with various colleagues who offered alternative theoretical perspectives, including Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Otto Rank, and Sandor Ferenczi. All of these brilliant thinkers anticipated what would become central themes in contemporary psychoanalytic thought, even in Freud's later thought, although their contributions to these discoveries are often overlooked. Further, as mentioned above, Freud's psychoanalytic theory is only the beginning. Even those faithful to Freud would significantly expand upon and, ultimately, transform Freud's origin insights into the nature of psychological life.



Ego psychology is the tradition of psychoanalytic thought which was, perhaps, the most faithful to Freud's original theory. Largely building on Freud's structural model of the psyche, involving the id, ego, and superego, ego psychology largely focused on the structures of the ego, particularly ego defenses, without modifying Freud's instinct theory. Anna Freud (1895-1982) was especially instrumental in carrying on her father's tradition, particularly in her pioneering work on defense mechanisms. The psychoanalytic clinician, Ernst Kris (1900-1957), was also instrumental for this endeavor through his brilliant clinical observations, which lead to his emphasis on the clinical analysis of ego defenses at work in his patients. Kris' clinical work increasingly lead to an increased focus on psychic structure. The controversial aspect of this approach involves a method which began to attend to ways to strengthen ego defenses, a deviation from Freud's approach, which predominately focused on a cathartic release of libidinal, unconscious energy.

It is Heinz Hartmann (1994-1970) who has come to be known as 'the father of ego psychology.' Similar to Harry Stack Sullivan, Hartmann increasingly focused on the interpersonal aspects of psychoanalytic work, the field in which ego defenses become evident. However, unlike Sullivan, Hartmann wished to retain the foundation of Freud's drive theory. Influenced by Charles Darwin, as Freud himself had been, Hartmann felt that ego defenses need not always be a source of conflict, but, with psychological maturity, can and do, in fact, develop into "conflict-free ego capacities" which are well-adapted to the environment.

Since ego defenses, as Hartmann asserted, could become adaptive through psychological maturation, this opened the way for a more fully elaborated developmental ego psychology. Rene Spitz (1887-1974) pioneered the use of empirical observation of children to further develop the insights of ego psychology. In particular, Spitz' observations found that the most severely disturbed children were those poor souls who had been deprived of a loving caregiver to provide the nurturance necessary for adaptation. Margaret Mahler (1997-1985) extended Spitz' research with her own brilliant insights based on empirical observation of children. She was especially innovative in her insights into the world of the psychotic child, as was Klein in Object Relations Theory, and she developed a fully elaborated model of developmental growth with her theory of "separation-individuation."

While the tradition of ego psychology remained faithful to Freud's original drive theory, this tradition also significantly contributed to a much more sophisticated conception of the drive model. This is particularly evident in the work of Edith Jacobson (1897-1978) who developed a revised theory of instinctual drives. Jacobson' theoretical integration of the insights of her contemporaries in ego psychology was especially productive in finding resolutions to the theoretical difficulties resulting from Freud's discovery that the drives involve both sexual or life-promoting (Eros) and aggressive and destructive (Thanatos) components.

The clinical implications of ego psychology were far-reaching. In particular, ego psychology emphasized an interpersonal approach which mapped out the ego defenses which provided the structure of the client's personality, and, further, this organization was traced to development processes which could be verbally articulated and thereby repaired in the therapeutic process. Ego psychology also involved an increased focus on pre-Oedipal experiences which contributed to the formation of the psychic structure of the patient. Not too far afield from Freud's original work, the ego psychologists developed more and more sophisticated ways of using the transference to assist the client in reworking early developmental disruptions and to provide the client with the opportunity to fulfill unmet development needs in the therapeutic relationship.



Harry Stack Sullivan (1892-1949) developed his theory and practice of Interpersonal Psychoanalysis in the 1920's, his insights largely derived from his work with schizophrenics. An American psychiatrist, Sullivan, along with his contemporaries, had not yet felt the impact of Freud's psychoanalysis, and, thus, many of Sullivan's insights were derived from his own observations. His theory and practice, while having many similarities to psychoanalysis, is different than Freud's theory and practice. Sullivan's work with schizophrenics, in particular, lead him to reject the traditional psychiatric approach represented by Emil Kraepelin, who had asserted that the symptoms of schizophrenia are meaningless. Sullivan, on the contrary, felt that the symptoms of schizophrenia are meaningful, but only appear meaningless when taken out of the context of their development in the interpersonal field between self and other. For Sullivan, personality cannot be found to reside within the person, but rather is the continual unfolding product of an individual's interactions and relationships with others. Like Freud, Sullivan used the therapeutic relationship for the benefit of the client, but, while Freud did so in the service of liberating libidinal energy, Sullivan did so in the service of making the client aware of interpersonal processes which occur between him- or herself and others. From these basic premises, Sullivan developed sophisticated theories of anxiety, motivation and the self-system which were way ahead of their time. Sullivan's impact, though often unacknowledged, can be deeply felt in almost all branches of psychotherapeutic theory and practice today.

Contemporary interpersonal psychoanalysts, such as Clara Thompson (1893-1958) and Edgar Levenson (1972) have significantly contributed to advancing Sullivan's theory and to developing practical applications of Sullivan's theory in the therapeutic context. Sullivan's work also had a profound impact on contemporary psychologists such as R.D. Laing and Timothy Leary. Sullivan's theory, as evidenced in Laing's work, is particularly well-suited for integration with existential-phenomenological and humanistic orientations in the theory and practice of psychotherapy, and its impact can be felt in the self psychology movement within the last several decades.



Object Relations Theory emerges wholly from the profound impact of the work of Melanie Klein (1882-1960). Klein sought to elaborate on and extend Freud's original theory through her observations and clinical work with children. Indeed, Klein's work as a whole is an extension of Freud's work, but also a transformation of Freud's original insights through her unique interpretive perspectives. Klein was also profoundly influenced by Sandor Ferenczi, her own psychoanalyst. Klein's insights were so transformative of Freud's work, in fact, that her theoretical work was rejected by many orthodox Freudians -- a clash best represented in the split between Klein's "London school" and the "Viennese school," most closely associated with the figure of Anna Freud. The initial class between Klein and Anna Freud, leading to this profound and lasting 'split,' involved differences in opinion regarding the treatment of children. Klein used play therapy and used interpretive techniques which were very similar to the techniques used with adults. Anna Freud, on the other hand, held that children's egos were not yet developed enough for classical analysis, and, instead, she advocated a more educative role for the analyst who works with children. The heated debates in WWII Britain -- within the British psychoanalytic society -- led to a profound schism in the psychoanalytic community which is still evident to this day. In fact, until recently, most American psychoanalysts, who were more closely aligned with Freudian ego psychology, held Klein and subsequent Object Relations Theory in contempt for this reason, and, vice versa, the Kleinian tradition generally demonized the ego psychology movement. Thankfully, today this schism is beginning to heal.

Working with children, Klein felt she had observed processes in pre-Oedipal children that were very similar to Oedipal conflicts in older children. Throughout her career, she attempted to theoretically justify these observations. In turn, Klein and her followers applied her practice and theory to work with psychotic adult patients. Klein generally saw similarities between young children's coping strategies in play and psychotic symptoms. In general, however, Klein imagined that all adults retain, at some level, such psychotic processes, involving a constant struggle to cope with paranoid anxiety and depressive anxiety. Klein was led, therefore, to apply her approach to adult neurotics, as well as psychotics and children. Klein's technique, in all cases, involved a method of using "deep" interpretations which she felt communicated directly to the unconscious of the client, thus by-passing ego defenses. In conclusion, Klein's theories, for example, of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, her conception of sexuality and envy, and her discovery of projective identification as a defense have all been highly influential contributions to the field which, regardless of Klein's intentions, opened up new possibilities for psychoanalysis which were quite different than Freud's classical psychoanalytic practice and theory. The term "object relations" ultimately derived from Klein, since she felt that the infant introjects the 'whole' other with the onset of the depressive position during the ontogenesis of the self.

Klein's student and analysand, Wilfred Bion (1897-1979), has been one of the most influential and gifted of Klein's followers. Bion's work is very complex and difficult to understand, even for one who is well-versed in Kleinian theory. Many of Bion's insights came from his work with schizophrenics, and these observations led him to significantly advance and re-conceptualize Klein's original thinking regarding envy and projective identification. As for envy, Bion felt it involved self-attacks which he called "attacks on linking" designed to sever problematic object relationships, but which, in the end, lead to a destruction of one's good objects. Most importantly, I would argue, Bion's contribution to Kleinian theory is an advancement which moves her theoretically conceived subject out of a solopsistic world of phantasy generated by instinctual drives. In the case of Bion, the mother has a significant impact on the child by the way she assists the child in coping with his or her anxiety. By 'containing' the anxiety of the child, Bion felt, the mother teaches the child to cope with the anxiety. Drawing on this fundamental insight, Bion felt that one of the central tasks of the psychoanalyst is to contain the anxiety of the client. And these process rely on the use of projective identification by which the child or patient projects intolerable anxiety onto the mother or analyst, who in turn 'contains' and gives back to the child the experience in a more manageable form.

British object relations theory, as already mentioned, is indebted to the work of Klein. Interestingly, however, the major figures of object relations theory, including Fairbairn, Winnicott, Balint, Bowlby and Guntrip, developed their positions without taking sides in the debates at the British Psychoanalytic Society. Although billing themselves as "independent" from the traditional Freudians of the "Viennese school" and the Kleinians of the "London school," they were deeply indebted to Klein's work, and, vice versa, Klein was often directly influenced by this "middle school," particularly by Fairbairn.

W. R. D. Fairbairn (1889-1964) dedicated himself to solving the theoretical problems inherent in Freud's hedonic drive theory, which he was never able to reconcile with his observations of the "repetition compulsion." In order to do this, Fairbairn had to reconceptualize Freud's theory of motivation -- thus, the libido. If the libido is primarily pleasure-seeking as Freud has argued, thought Fairbairn, why do people continually involve themselves in traumatic experiences? How can one explain, for example, nightmares, sexual masochism, and traumatic neurosis involving the repetition compulsion? Fairbairn's answer to this riddle is that the libido is not primarily pleasure-seeking, but object-seeking. In other words, intimacy and a connection to others is the primary motivation in human beings and pleasure is rather a secondary motivation derived from this more primary motivation. Also, unlike Klein, internal objects are not inevitable consequences of development, but rather the result of compensations for a real connection with others and stem from disruptions in early object relations with primary caregivers. These insights led Fairbairn to develop a new structure of the psyche which differed from Freud's original tripartite id, ego and superego structure. In particular, Fairbairn conceptualized a "splitting of the ego" into a libidinal and anti-libidinal ego to account for his observations.

D. W. Winnicott (1896-1971) began his career as a pediatrician and used his experience with children to develop his innovative ideas. Like Fairbairn, Winnicott conceptualized the psyche of the child as developing in relation to a real, influential parent. For a child to develop a healthy, genuine self, as opposed to a false self, Winnicott felt, the mother must be a "good-enough mother" who relates to the child with "primary maternal preoccupation." Anticipating the insights of Kohut and self psychology, Winnicott felt that a good-enough mother allows herself to be used by the infant so that he or she may develop a healthy sense of omnipotence that will naturally be frustrated as the child matures. Winnicott's theory is especially innovative regarding his conceptualization of the psychic space between the mother and infant, neither wholly psychological or physical, which he termed the "holding environment" and which allows for the child's transition to being more autonomous. This concept of the "holding environment" led Winnicott to develop his famous theory of the "transitional object." Winnicott felt that a failure of the mother -- the not-good-enough mother -- to provide a "holding environment" would result in a false self disorder, the kind of disorders which he saw in his practice. Winnicott's theory of "false self disorders" is uncannily similar to Laing's description of the schizoid personality in The Divided Self. Winnicott also felt that the therapist's task is to provide such a "holding environment" for the client so that the client might have the opportunity to meet neglected ego needs and allow the true self of the client to emerge.

Other important figures in the Object Relations tradition include Michael Balint, John Bowlby, and Harry Guntrip, as well as the following contributors: Susan Isaac, Hanna Segal, Herbert Rosenfeld, Paula Heimann, Heinrich Racker, Joseph Sandler, Betty Joseph, John Steiner, Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Esther Bick, Thomas Ogden, John D. Sutherland, James Grotstein, Jill Savage Scharff, Otto Kernberg, Nina Coltart, Patrick Casement, Neville Symington, Stephen Mitchell, Christopher Bollas, Henry Ezriel, Henry V. Dick, David E. Scharff, and Elliott Jaques.

For an in depth exploration of Object Relations Theory from an existential-phenomenological perspective, I highly recommend reading an article I've written:

The Paranoid-Schizoid and Depressive Positions in the Psychogenesis of the Self:A Phenomenological Investigation into the Ontological Foundations of Object Relations Theory



Humanistic psychology emerged in the 1960's as the "third force" between psychoanalytic theory, on the one hand, and behaviorism, on the other. The humanistic psychologists of the day, including pioneers such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, drafted a manifesto which characterized the humanistic "third force" as having four essential principles:

1. The experiencing person is of primary interest.

This principle was largely established in relation to the behaviorist movement in psychology. Following Watson's "Behaviorist Manifesto," behaviorists argued that an empirical psychology must study behavior rather than consciousness. Radical behaviorists, such as B.F. Skinner, went so far as to argue that consciousness does not even exist. These kinds of absurdities in the name of logical positivist psychology led the "third force" humanists to develop this principle. The principle is particularly influenced by existential-phenomenological criticisms of logical positivist approaches to understanding the human being. In particular, they argued, human beings should be studied in real-life circumstances rather than in artificial laboratory settings; this was an acknowledgment that human behavior only makes sense in the context of everyday circumstances. Along with this sentiment goes the fundamental argument that human beings are subjects, rather than objects, of study. This is another argument borrowed from existential-phenomenology, which holds that human beings are not things and, thus, psychology, as a study of human beings, is a human science rather than a natural science; it cannot be modeled after physics or other natural sciences. Humanistic psychologists also argue that a holistic approach, as opposed to atomistic approaches, are necessary to understand the human being

This principle also includes the humanistic argument that a person must be examined and described in terms of personal consciousness, which includes subjective experience and how the individual perceives and values him or herself. From a post-modern perspective, this element of humanistic psychology is subject to criticism in that it posits a human subject which is too transparent to itself, unlike psychoanalytic theory which includes the fundamental principle that human beings are radically de-centered and unknown to themselves due to the unconscious.

2. Human choice, creativity, and self-actualization are the preferred topics of investigation.

This principle of humanistic psychology is directed at psychology at large, but it is pointed most directly at psychoanalytic theory. Psychoanalytic theory, historically, has based its findings on the clinical observations of persons who are suffering from some kind of psychological disorder. Thus, the humanistic psychologists argued that the study of crippled people has led to a crippled psychology, while the study of lower organisms (in behaviorism, in particular) has yielded an incomplete psychology, devoid of consciousness. Instead, they argued, psychology should study wholesome and healthy individuals, people who are creative and fully functioning. Fundamental to the humanistic psychologists is a belief that human beings have an innate drive to push forward and develop their potentials and capabilities; that is, a natural drive toward health or self-actualization. Thus, pathology results from a disruption of this natural process. In turn, humanistic psychologists argue that growth, rather than mere adjustment, is the criterion of health.

3. Meaningfulness must precede objectivity in the selection of research problems.

Psychological research, according to the humanists, has in the past centered on methods rather than on problems. Often, research problems have been selected chiefly because objective and convenient methods are available. Research projects, however, should be undertaken because they are significant and pertinent to human issues, even if the methods available are weak. More fundamentally, the humanistic psychologists argue that research cannot be value-free. This very important point is a central debate in the philosophy of science, and it is a decided break with a naive realist approach to science, which is philosophically untenable, though still often put into practice. (See my paper on Heidegger and Kuhn).

4. Ultimate value is placed on the dignity of the person.

Above all, say the humanists, humans are accepted as unique and as having the potential to be noble. Psychologists must understand people, rather than predict and control their behavior. Individuals have a higher nature with a need for meaningful work, responsibility, and the opportunity for creative expression. While most empirical psychology pretends to omit biases based on values, which is an impossibility, the humanistic psychologists at least were very honest about their philosophical assumptions. Too often, however, the humanists were very biased toward a Western conception of the human being as an "individual" that exists prior to cultural and historical influences. On the other hand, the humanists were ahead of their time in demanding that psychology be a human science based on understanding rather than explanation -- a debate going back to Dilthey and a problem which arises as a response to Cartesian metaphysics. (Vico's philosophy can be seen as a very early and direct criticism of Descartes and his followers, which I think is very pertinent today if we are to understand the historical antecedents to human science psychology).

Carl Rogers (1902-1987) is truly the central figure in the humanistic orientation. Rogers' Person-Centered Theory emphasized the concept of "self-actualization." This concept implies that there is an internal, biological force to develop one's capacities and talents to the fullest. The individual's central motivation is to learn and to grow. Growth occurs when individuals confront problems, struggle to master them, and through that struggle develop new aspects of their skills, capacities, views about life. Life, therefore, is an endless process of creatively moving forward, even if only in small ways. Regarding "self-actualization," Rogers wrote:

"During a vacation weekend some months ago I was standing on a headland overlooking one of the rugged coves which dot the coastline of northern California. Several large rock outcroppings were at the mouth of the cove, and those received the full force of the great Pacific combers which, beating upon them, broke into mountains of spray before surging into the cliff-lined shore. As I watched the waves breaking over these large rocks in the distance, I noticed with surprise what appeared to be tiny palm trees on the rocks, no more than two or three feet high, taking the pounding of the breakers. Through my binoculars I saw that these were some type of seaweed, with a slender "trunk" topped off with a head of leaves. As one examined a specimen in the interval between the waves it seemed clear that this fragile, erect, top-heavy plant would be utterly crushed and broken by the next breaker. When the wave crunched upon it, the trunk bent almost flat, the leaves were whipped into a single line by the torrent of water, yet the moment the wave had passed, here was the pant again erect, tough, resilient. It seemed incredible that it was able to take this incessant pounding hour after hour, day after night, week after week, perhaps, for all I know, year and year, and all the time nourishing itself, extending its domain, reproducing itself; in short, maintaining and enhancing itself in this position which, in our shorthand, we call growth. Here in this palmlike seaweed was the tenacity of life, the forward thrust of life, the ability to push into an incredibly hostile environment and not only hold its own, but to adapt, develop, and become itself."

Rogers' quote speaks to his fundamental assumption that human beings, as well as all living beings, are driven to grow and to strive for optimal health, and this requires a resiliency in the face of adversity. There is a decided 'John Wayne' radical individualism inherent in Rogers' thought -- very American, very rugged, very tough, and, certainly, very culturally biased in this respect, not to mention gender-biased in that it tends to downplay interpersonal interdependence. On the other hand, Rogers admits that such a resiliency necessarily develops from the nurturance of others.

For Rogers, "self-actualization" is a natural process, yet it requires the nurturance of a caregiver. This is a contradiction in Rogers' theory, which may or may not be obvious. If "self-actualization" is merely a natural process, then why must it depend on a caregiver for it to occur? In defense of Rogers, this paradox at least shows that, despite his individualistic bias, he understood deep down that people need people, that we are radically dependent on others for our existence, and that so-called "individuation-separation" involves a more differentiated and mature relationship with others rather than a lack of interdepedence with others. In any case, Rogers felt that "unconditional positive regard" is necessary for "self-actualization." That is, human growth requires the experience of being valued for oneself regardless of the degree to which specific behaviors are approved or disapproved. On the other hand, self-actualization is thwarted by "conditional positive regard" -- when acceptance is dependent on the positive or negative evaluation of a person's actions. "Conditional positive regard," Rogers felt, leads to "conditions of worth," which, in turn, can lead to alienation from true feelings and, thus, to anxiety and threat, which blocks self-actualization.

Roger's theory led him to practice a non-directive psychotherapy in which the client sat face-to-face with him rather than lying on the couch. In the larger scheme of things, I feel this was a radical move by Rogers. Most importantly, it sends a message to the client that they are collaborators and that the therapist is not the one who 'knows,' but is there to facilitate the client's growth (which can only come from 'within,' so to speak). Finally, Rogers held to the strict criteria that genuineness, empathy and unconditional positive regard are essential on the part of the therapist if the client is to be healed and "self-actualize."

Abraham Maslow's (1908-1970) Organismic Humanism is, frankly, much more sophisticated and coherent than Rogers' theory. Further, while Rogers' theory grew as a justification for his practice of psychotherapy, Maslow never formed a specific therapeutic practice. Maslow's theory has its strength in its central focus on criticizing Freud's theory of motivation. For Maslow, the human being is not driven by one central motivation, such as sexual gratification, but rather he or she is driven by a multiplicity of need systems, which Maslow conceived as existing in a hierarchy. Maslow also spent many years developing his theory of self-actualization through empirical, phenomenological interviews with people who were "self-actualized." There is a circular reasoning at work here in that Maslow already had a conceptualization of "self-actualization" in order to select his subjects for research, but, to his credit, he studied a wide range of individuals. He felt that "self-actualization" is, in part, characterized by frequent "peak experiences." Maslow was very influenced by existential philosophy, and he was also drawn to the study of mystical experiences, both from Western and Eastern religious traditions. In this sense, Maslow was a pioneer, along with Carl Jung, in developing a "transpersonal" perspective in psychology.

In truth, the heading of "humanistic psychology," as is the title of "psychoanalytic theory," subsumes many different perspectives under one umbrella term. Often, it seems, schools of therapy which are less mainstream are most often categorized as "humanistic," so, in this sense, "humanistic psychology" can sometimes be a 'catch-all' label for any marginalized theory or practice. Gestalt-oriented therapy is often associated with the humanistic orientation. Also associated with the "third force" are transpersonal approaches and existential/ phenomenological approaches to psychology. Each of these approaches share similarities with Rogers and Maslow, but they are all decidedly different, as well, and draw as much from classical Freudian theory and others as they do from the pioneers of humanistic psychology. However, the influence of humanistic psychology can be felt today in all orientations of psychology, especially contemporary psychoanalytic practice and theory. The influence of humanistic theory is particularly evident in Kohut's Self Psychology, which melds together psychoanalytic and humanistic approaches of theory and practice. And, although some may disagree, much of contemporary object relations theory, particularly those influenced by Winnicott, understand the human being and psychoanalytic practice in ways that are very similar to humanists such as Rogers and Maslow. To their benefit, however, object relations theorists tend to have a more sophisticated understanding of the radically intersubjective nature of being human.



The tradition of existential-phenomenological psychology is derived from the rich heritage of existentialist and phenomenological philosophy. For a review of existential-phenomenology, please see my existential-phenomenology page, also at Mythos & Logos. In many ways, existential-phenomenology, as a reaction to the modern Cartesian paradigm in which psychology is conceived as a natural science, has its roots in a tradition which stretches back to the pre-Socratic Greeks. The movement of existentialism itself erupts with Kierkegaard's criticisms of Hegel's rationalism, while phenomenology finds its roots in the philosophy of Edmund Husserl. The marriage of existentialism and phenomenology was realized in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Existential-phenomenology has to offer a radical criticism of psychology as a natural science paradigm, and, instead, argues that psychology is fundamentally a human science. Its insights are only now beginning to have a profound impact in the psychoanalytic community, but the roots of existentialism predate psychoanalysis (in fact, in many ways, also predicts the emergence of depth psychology). It is a tradition as rich, if not richer, than psychoanalytic thought itself, and, although historically the two traditions have often been at odds, I feel that the two traditions have much to offer to one another, as I have attempted to show in my own work. It should also be mentioned that the "third force" of humanistic psychology ultimately has its roots in this tradition, as well, though the "third force" psychologists often misunderstood the difficult philosophies which influenced them.

While existentialism as a movement emerged in the 20th century, modern existentialism is often first located as derived from the literary tradition of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), as well as Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). One could say the same for Freud and psychoanalysis, incidently. Modern existentialism fully emerged with the thought of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) as a reaction to German rationalism, Hegel in particular. Kierkegaard challenged the people of his day to again take up their faith by holding that faith holds primacy over reason. Existence, for Kiekegaard, can never be fully expressed by reason, and, in fact, is distorted by it. Rather, lived experience, for Kierkegaard, is primary. Similarly, Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) served as a precursor to the existentialist movement as an advocate for the human sciences as an alternative to the natural science model.

It is a mistake to view existentialism as a coherent theoretical system; rather, it consists of a body of related doctrines which assert a general premise of human existence. From Latin, "existence" means "to stand out." That is, the human being is not an object among objects, but rather a being whose existence involves a "standing out" in a meaningful world. In this sense, existentialists share a fundamental protest against the displacement of individual consciousness from the center of life's stage by a depersonalized nature, a transcendent deity, and/or the collectivized state. From Galileo through Descartes and finally with Newtonian physics, the world became mechanized and, with it, so did the human being. Descartes promised that human beings would be masters and possessors of nature, but, paradoxically, the mathematization of nature turned round with a vengeance upon the human being locked in the subjectivity of Descartes' cogito. The results included the disasters of the early 20th century: two brutish world wars, depression, Stalinism, fascism, and the most absurd and horrible of them all, the Nazi holocaust. Auschwitz stands today as a symbol of the world gone mad in the name of 'progress.' It is existentialism which has come to stand for a fundamental protest against the mechanization of nature, the bureaucratization of the human world, and the death of God. In the face of such horrors, existentialism cries out a vital "NO!" and demands an end to the madness. Where advanced industrialism had stressed the static, the abstract, the objective, the logically rational and unambiguous and the dispassionate universalism of systems detached from the knower, existentialists stressed the dynamic, the concrete, the inter-subjective, consensually validated experiences however ambiguous, and the passionate uniqueness of the engaged participant.

Existentialism, then, as a 20th century movement, from Kierkegaard to Camus, had already anticipated Freud with a brilliant exploration of psychological inwardness. While the human being identifies with universal objective systems which have promised Truth, our personal sense of certitude has crumbled. Identifying with 'the crowd,' we feel infinite and yet at the same time we are cut off from our finitude, since we alone can die our own death. In the Kierkegaardian sense, the human being is severed between two worlds, animal and spiritual, and this contradiction at the heart of our nature leaves us with a hope which requires a "leap of faith" across the abyss which divides one from the other. To accept the "absurd" opposition at the center of being is to know dread or anxiety and the sheer ambiguity of our powerlessness to remove this dread. We must live with the perpetual tension of "the infinite expanding factor of the self" struggling with "the finite limiting factors of the self," for "without dread there is only dogmatics." "Dread is the dizziness of freedom" which "gazes down into its own possibility, grasping its finiteness to sustain itself." It follows that freedom is as great as one's tolerance for ambiguity and anxiety. This condition, for Kierkegaard, leads him to subordinate human relationships, sacrificing his own engagement in order to more nearly approach God, who alone could resolve the rending of his soul.

Unlike Kierkegaard, Albert Camus (1913-1960) believed that one must live without appeal to God. "I will always refuse to love a creation in which children are tortured," he said. Absurdity lay in the human being's relationship to the universe, the yearning for justice and unity amid palpable injustice and fragmentation and "the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart." Said Camus: "History appears to be in the grip of blind and deaf forces which will heed neither cries of warning, nor advice, nor entreaties. The years we have gone through have killed...the old confidence man had in himself, which lead him to believe that he could always elicit human reactions from another man if he spoke to him in the language of common humanity. We have seen men lie, degrade, kill, deport, torture -- and each time it was not possible to persuade them not to do these things because they were sure of themselves and because one cannot appeal to an abstraction, i.e., the representative of an ideology."

Ideological abstractions in polarized conflict were what Camus most abhorred. The real struggle of life was to break through and sustain others with an authentic understanding. His hero was Sisyphus, the Titan condemned by Zeus to roll a rock forever up a hill. It is in the process of struggle, without tangible rewards, that the human being affirms himself. It is a rebellion that snatches meaning from "the whirlpool's shrieking face." Yet the later Camus found in the process of human dialogue a morality "which, far from obeying abstract principles, discovers them only in the heal of the battle and in the incessant movement of contradiction." From Kierkegaard through Camus, anxiety and dread is a central theme for the existentialist. This theme continues in the work of the existentialist theologian, Paul Tillich, whose work influenced the American existentialist, Rollo May (1909-1994). May also introduced existentialism to American audiences, along with Ernest Angel and Henri F. Ellenberger, with the volume of collected essays, Existence, first published in 1958.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) is one of the most well-known existentialists of the 20th century. Through his various mediums, including novels, plays and philosophical essays, Sartre asserted and demonstrated his basic view that existence precedes essence. Sartre's existentialist philosophy stands in contradistinction from the Aristotelian and Scholastic assertion that human existence is an expression of a general, metaphysical essence of being. Instead, Sartre insisted that existence defines the essence of the individual. The individual, thus, is what he or she does. The human being, then, is condemned to freedom and has no choice but to choose -- and to choose responsibly. Any denial of such radical freedom at the heart of existence for Sartre is "bad faith." Sartre forcefully -- and perhaps unfairly -- criticized Freud's argument for the existence of the unconscious. For Sartre, there can be no unconscious since one cannot consciously posit the existence of an unconscious, which, by definition, is outside of consciousness.

Sartre's philosophy, among others, deeply influenced the thinking of psychiatrist, R. D. Laing, who advanced the existential position of Sartre that persons experience being-for-themselves and seek to enhance this. Existential being refers to a continuous dynamic flow of consciousness-through-action (praxis) which issues from human beings out of their social environments. Yet when we behold others we tend to see them as beings-in-themselves, as objects located in our own purposive vision. For Sartre, interpersonal relationships were a perpetual struggle to assert the fluidity of our own existence against persistent attempts to objectify us by others. Since the "scientific world view" is overwhelmingly objectifying, this view of the detached observor seeks to explain us further by analytic reasoning which reduces us to parts. There is psychological violence in this distant gaze and disintegrative thinking. Sartre opts for his own brand of dialectical reasoning wherein the convictions of any persons or group will be 'depassed,' i.e., encompassed into the larger configuration of another's convictions. No conviction should therefore masquerade as a moral absolute or objective determination. Laing, following Sartre, regards contemporary psychiatry as having made a false objectification of psychic states. Patients seeking help because they feel like dead and shattered objects find themselves further petrified by the viewpoints of psychiatry. The very data which symptoms constitute are in reality capta, pieces torn and abstracted from the fabric of lived existence.

As mentioned above, existentialist psychology and humanism are closely aligned, and humanistic psychology is, in fact, more of an outcrop of the existentialist tradition than the other way around. Maslow was deeply influenced by existentialist philosophy and psychology, for example. Also, Maurice Friedman was responsible for generating a fascinating dialogue between the existentialist philosopher, Martin Buber (1878-1965) and Carl Rogers. Carl Rogers states the following as his "central hypothesis":

"...the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering his or her self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behavior -- and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided. "

Based on this assumption, Rogers elaborates three conditions for the therapeutic relationship in order for it to inhabit the "definable climate" of which he speaks:

1) "Genuineness, realness, or congruence"

2) "acceptance, or caring, or prizing -- unconditional positive regard"

3) "Empathic understanding"

These conditions define what Rogers calls his "person-" or "client-centered approach" to therapy. This approach is described by Rogers as more a "basic philosophy" than a particular technique or method, which involves a "basic trust in the person" rather than a skeptical or distrustful attitude. Rogers' approach begins with the assumption that human nature is essentially 'good,' that the person shares with all living organisms an "actualizing tendency...to grow, to develop, to realize its full potential." Rogers places himself in contrast to traditional psychotherapy which views the human being as "innately sinful" and, in turn, which involves a skeptical attitude toward the client.

Friedman's dialogue between Rogers and Buber reveals both similarities and differences between the two thinkers. Buber, for one, is more inclined to view human beings as polar, in distinction from Rogers' trust in the power of "self-actualization" to heal from the 'good' inner core of the person's natural resources. This leads to a fundamental difference between how Rogers and Buber understand the relationship between "acceptance" and "congruence." For Rogers, the terms imply one another, whereas Buber does not equate the two. Buber insists that "confirming a person as he or she is" merely marks the first step in confirming what "in the present lies hidden what can become." In short, it seems that Buber is less inclined than Rogers toward merely trusting in the hypothesized 'goodness' of the person's "self-actualizing" potential to lead the person to this potential.

In support of Buber's distinction, Friedman writes: "Healing does not mean bringing up the old, but rather shaping the new: It is not confirming the negative, but rather counterbalancing with the positive." Buber and Friedman seem to have a good point in that their take on Rogers allows for a darker side to human nature. Buber understands the human being as potentially destructive as well as growth-promoting. Therefore, Buber's viewpoint, as Friedman understands it, considers confirmation a "wrestling with the other against him or her self" in order to strengthen the 'positive' pole as opposed to the 'negative' pole. The question remains, however: Who is to differentiate the 'negative' from the 'positive'?

Theory inevitably implies a system of beliefs which have ethical implications. In the light of Friedman's dialogue with Rogers and Buber, there is clearly such a struggle to reconcile two very similar beliefs systems which contain different assumptions regarding the idea of the nature of the human being. In turn, this implies two potentially different views of the nature of the therapeutic relationship. Yet, can these two views be reconciled?

In support of Rogers, I must say that Buber's idea could potentially lead to a therapeutic relationship in which the therapist becomes the arbiter of 'truth,' the one who decides which pole is 'positive' and which is 'negative,' the one who is 'supposed to know.' This is potentially dangerous, for obvious reasons. Instead, Rogers' view allows for an understanding of the human being as ambivalent without the need to push the client toward any particular direction. Rogers' view allows for a therapeutic relationship in which the therapist and client may share the struggle. On the other hand, Buber's perspective is an attempt to move beyond the often 'pollyanna' humanism of Rogers by seriously considering the possibility of evil. For an attempt to reconcile these two positions, I recommend my own paper:

Reflections on Being a Psychotherapist

Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) was also one of the pioneers in developing an existential psychology. For Jaspers, philosophy involves the inquiry into freedom, history, and the possibility of meaning in existence. Jaspers studied both medicine and law, and evenually joined the staff of a psychiatric hospital in Heidelberg. Jaspers came to the conclusion in his work that there are three stages of being. Being-there, the first stage, is the human being's reference to the external, objective world of reality. The second stage, Being-oneself, is the stage that allows the person self-awareness of choices and decisions. Finally, for Jaspers, the highest stage of existience is Being-in-itself, the attainment of the fullest of meaning involving the transcendental world of individual meaning that encompasses and comprehends the totality of meaning -- the individual is in effective communication with the social and physical environment so that existence is fully defined.

The movement of phenomenology, as it is often stated in History of Psychology texts, greatly influenced the Gestalt psychology movement. Phenomenological psychology, influenced by Edmund Husserl (1959-1938), is characterized by an attempt to move beyond psychology as a natural science and define a method of inquiry for psychology as a human science. Husserl's "transcendental phenomenology" aims to "bracket" or put aside the "natural attitude," one's basic assumptions regarding the nature of reality. It is fundamentally descriptive and, thus, qualitative rather than quantitative. Without prejudgment, bias, or any predetermined set or orientation, the transcendental phenomenologist strives to apprehend the structure of any phenomena which appears through the "eidetic reduction." This involves using "imaginative variation" to capture the essential structure of any phenomena within consciousness. Most importantly, the goal of the phenomenologist is not to manipulate or control the phenomena, but rather to permit the phenomena to reveal itself as it is, including its origins or bases. Using this method, phenomenology attempts to overcome the reductionism and atomism of natural science psychology by providing a method which focuses on the meaning and significance of the phenomena for the experiencing person from the perspective of the whole person. The "Duquesne Group" out of Duquesne University has been known for its attempts to systematize a phenomenological methodology for psychological research which matches the rigour of natural science. Adrian Van Kaam, Amedio Giorgi and Fred Wertz have all greatly contributed to this tradition.

It is in the early thinking of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) that existentialism and phenomenology are brought together, particularly in Heidegger's magnum opus, Being & Time (1927). Heidegger characterizes Western philosophy as forgetful of the question of Being, which is the central preoccupation of his thought (see the Why page at Mythos & Logos for more information). Heidegger, in turn, argues that it is the human kind of being or Dasein (translated as "there-being") who asks the question of Being; therefore, the human being must already have an implicit understanding of Being. The human kind of being is distinct in that it asks the question of Being, and, as such, the human being can be said to exist and be characterized by existence. "Dasein," writes Heidegger, "always understands itself in terms of its existence -- in terms of a possibility of itself: to be itself or not to be itself. Dasein has either chosen these possibilities itself, or got itself into them, or grown up in them already." For a more in depth exploration of Heidegger's thought, see my Heidegger page at Mythos & Logos.

Heidegger's work has been highly influential in the development of existential-phenomenological psychology. Ludwig Binswanger (1881-1966) is notable as the psychologist who first attempted to integrate the work of Husserl and Heidegger with psychoanalysis. Binswanger was a close colleague of Freud's, and it is remarkable that, considering Binswanger's differences with Freud, his relationship with him endured while other dissenting colleagues, such as Jung, Adler and Rank, were shunned by Freud. The kinship between Freud and Binswanger can likely be attributed to Freud's early influences as a student of Franz Brentano, who was also Husserl's teacher and whose "Act psychology" is a major precursor to the phenomenological movement. Fred Wertz, for example, has researched the remarkable parallels between Freud and Husserl. Influenced by Heidegger, Binswanger termed his approach to psychoanalysis, Daseins-analyse. Binswanger, too, argued that the reductionistic methods of natural science are inadequate for understanding the human being. As a therapist, Binswanger asserted that the psychotherapist must endeavor to apprehend the world of the patient as it is experienced by the patient. Also influenced by Heidegger's philosophy of time, Binswanger emphasized that the therapist should focus on the patient's present experience in therapy, and, while agreeing with Freud's instinct theory, he argued that the past is relevant only in so far as it matters to the patient in the present. Fundamentally, Binswanger was concerned with understanding the present experience of the patient represented in consciousness, and, thus, the aim of analysis is to uncover the structures of phenomena interpreted by each patient's individually defined context of meaning.

Like Binswanger, Medard Boss worked at developing a critical synthesis of Heidegger and Freud. However, compared to Binswanger, Boss' Daseinsanalysis is, in many ways, a more sophisticated and rigorous development of an ontic human science psychology with its foundation in Heideggarian ontology. Boss' goal from the very beginning involved a radical humanization of medicine and psychology with such a new existential foundation, and his life-work involved a persistent articulation of both the theoretical and practical implications of such an endeavor. As such, Boss' existential-phenomenological approach to psychology shows the possibility for the emergence of human science-oriented medicine and psychology which mirrors Heidegger's polemic against Cartesian dualism -- the splitting of man into res cogitans ("mind") and res extensa ("matter"). Boss' contribution includes an existential analytic of human embodiment such that the human being is understood as a bodying-forth of possibilities in the world with others and alongside things, and, thus, overcomes the Cartesian body-mind split. While Boss is often critical of Freud, his work is, in many ways, well-integrated with psychoanalytic thought and, in fact, opens a potential paradigm by which psychoanalysis is able to overcome many of the epistemological difficulties which have plagued psychoanalytic theory from the very beginning.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) is notable for his groundbreaking work toward developing a post-Cartesian, existential understanding of perception and embodiment. A long-time colleague of Sartre (they co-edited Les Temps Moderns), Merleau-Ponty's work is in many ways more rigorous, graceful and sophisticated than Sartre's more popular writings. For Merleau-Ponty a post-Cartesian psychology depends on an understanding of perception as the primary function of the human organism such that human embodiment constitutes the only adequate foundation for a theory of perception. Merleau-Ponty's work is, in many ways, the crowning achievement of the existential-phenomenological tradition in that he develops a coherent and compelling body of work which overcomes the metaphysical problems of a modernist psychology through his analysis of perception, embodiment, intersubjectivity and language. Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is particularly ripe for a developing dialogue between existential-phenomenology and psychoanalysis; unfortunately, he died before he had truly come into his own as a cutting-edge continental philosopher. On phenomenology and psychoanalysis, Merleau-Ponty wrote:

"Phenomenology brings to psychoanalysis certain categories, certain means of expression that it needs in order to be completely itself. Phenomenology permits psychoanalysis to recognize 'psychic reality' without equivocation, the 'intra-subjective' essence of morbid formations, the fantastic operation that reconstructs a world on the margin of, and counter to, the true world, a lived history beneath the effective history -- a world called illness. Freudian thought, in turn, confirms phenomenology on its description of a consciousness that is not so much knowledge or representation as investment; it brings to phenomenology a wealth of concrete examples that add weight to what it has been able to say in general of the relations of man with the world and of the interhuman body. Phenomenology and psychoanalysis, in mutual encounter, would lead us toward a philosophy delivered from the interaction between substances, toward a 'humanism of truth' without metaphysics..."

He goes on to say:

"[However], the accord of phenomenology and of psychoanalysis should not be understood to consist of phenomenology's saying clearly what psychoanalysis has said obscurely. On the contrary, it is by what phenomenology implies or unveils in its limits -- by its latent content or its unconscious -- that it is in consonance with psychoanalysis...Phenomenology and psychoanalysis are not parallel; much better, they are both aiming toward the same latency."

As William J. Richardson (1980) has pointed out, Heideggerian phenomenology and psychoanalytic theory both are "aiming toward the same latency," as Merleau-Ponty has said. In particular, Richardson shows how Lacanian psychoanalysis and Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology aim toward this same unconscious or latency. Most importatnly, both Heidegger and Lacan adhere to Saussure's distinction between language (la langue) and speech (la parole).

Richardson writes:

"For Saussure, language is a self-contained system of signs, a species-specific, semiotic code that may be clearly disengaged from any use in speech that may be made of it and thus become the object of rigorously scientific investigation. Levi-Strauss transposes this concept into a different key and speaks of the 'symbolic order,' the order of signs that sets the pattern (establishes the law) for all human relationships, and, he, too, conceived this to be the appropriate object of scientific inquiry. When Lacan, then, speaks of language as 'structure and limit of the psychoanalytic field' (1977, p. 56) and describes this field, following Levi-Strauss, as the 'symbolic order,' we are invited to infer that this was an extrapolation from Saussure's linguistics through the sphere of anthropology to the field of psychoanalysis.

As such, then, the symbolic order would be essentially an object, however much deeper and more comprehensive than other objects, hence a being, something that is. In that case, one would have to admit that language conceived in this way as unconscious is radically different from Heraclitus' Logos when interpreted by Heidegger as aboriginal Language. The difference is as radical as the difference between beings and Being, as the ontological difference itself. It this is the proper way to understand the matter, we would have to say that what Heidegger offers Lacan is the opportunity to think the problem of language in the ontological dimension that grounds his own ontic experience of it -- to mediate the 'unapparent,' 'unavoidable' yet 'inaccessible' content that makes all scientific effort, hence structuralism itself, possible." (from Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, Fall 1980, p. 16).

With this formulation, Richardson implies that psychoanalysis may be ontologically grounded in the hermeneutic of Dasein, who is always a being-in-the-world through the existential modes of being-with, understanding and speech. In particular, this project is particularly fertile for Richardson in three ways. In the first place, Heidegger's understanding of the human kind of being is a being which is radically historical -- a being who is 'authentic' when taking up his or her history as his or her's ownmost  history (facticity) which opens toward one's ownmost possibilities. Richardson (1980) writes:

"...in psychonalysis the subject 'assumes' his own history. We take this to mean that he 'takes it over,' makes it his 'own,' 'owns' up to it. This implies the prior discovery of the past for what it is -- not necessarily for what it is in 'reality but for what it is in 'truth,' for 'in psychoanalysic anamnesis, it is not a qustion of reality but of truth' (Lacan, 1977, p. 48). But how is this 'truth' discerned? By rendering it present in the analytic dialogue, 'because the effect of full speech is to reorder past contingencies by conferring on them the sense of necessitites to come, such as they are constituted by the little freedom through which the subject makes them present' (Lacan, 1977, p. 48). Hence, the "truth" of the past is discerned by letting a 'sense' become manifest in the present. In other words, 'what we teach the subject to recognize as his unconscious is his history -- that is to say, help him to perfect the present historization of the facts that have already determined a certain of the historical 'turning points' in his existence' (Lacan, 1977, p. 52). But this rendering present of the past includes the functioning of the future as well, for the 'analysis can have for its goal only the advent of true speech and the realization of the subject of his history in relation to a future' (Lacan, 1977, p. 88)....[T]he structures most helpful to Lacan would be those of the historicity of Dasein achieving its authenticity with regard to its past by the process of re-trieve, i.e., by thinking-upon-the-past in authentic dialogue: letting the future come again through what has been and rendering it present, i.e., letting its 'sense,' its 'truth' become manifest in and through the mutual exchange." (Ibid, p. 18)

Secondly, Richardson asserts the vital point that "this constitution of the subject's history takes place in and through the speech 'addressed to the other...' In the collective dialogue, it is the letting-appear of the spoken word that liberates, that heals. And not just spoken word but word as spoken to the other." (p. 18). As radically being-with, the human being shares his or her speech with others, and healing, therefore, takes place in the shared speech of client and therapist which shows itself as a shared truth.

Lastly, Richardson demonstrates that the Heideggarian understanding of "truth" (Aletheia) is essential for a hermeneutic phenomenological thinking of the "talking cure." He writes:

"The process of logos as legein, letting appear, is also a letting truth come to pass. For truth is originally a-le-theia, where lethe means hiddenness and the alpha privative suggests privation, like the removal of a veil of darkness. To let appear, then, means to let being emerge into light as what they are, to liberate them from hiddenness, free them from darkness unto themselves, let them be true. Truth, then, is liberating, 'makes us free.' But it also makes us 'whole,' for when Holderlin speaks of Being as the 'Holy' (das Heilige), Heidegger interprets this to mean that Being in its ineffable bounty makes whole (heil); it is therefore wholesome (das Heile); it is a making whole, a healing (heilen)." (Ibid, p. 19)

In short, the "talking cure" is healing in that it listens to the Saying of Being in language (as opposed to speech) such that the 'truth' may show itself and, in turn, one retrieves one's past (as having-been) in the service of the future (as coming-toward) in the present (as waiting-toward). Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology and psychoanalysis are not at all at odds, but, in fact, inform one another.

The movement of existential-phenomenological psychology has been largely carried on by the "Duquesne school" at Duquesne University. The initial impetus for the Duquesne psychology program came from Rev. Henry Koren, a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers who resided as a faculty member in Duquesne's philosophy department, who first introduced Duquesne psychology students to a series of lectures in phenomenological psychology. It was the Dutch Holy Ghost Father, Adrian Van Kaam, however, who took the vital steps to make Duquesne's existential-phenomenological psychology program a reality. Van Kaam, who joined the Duquesne psychology faculty in 1954, felt the need for such a program in a climate in which the "third force" movement had only just begun to blossom and in which the psychological community had only begun, with thinkers such as Gordon Allport, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, to reflect on the problems of the excessive influence of positivist philosophy on American psychology. Van Kaam saw the potential in existential-phenomenology to heal the fragmentation within the discipline of psychology, as he wrote in 1959:

"The newly emerging anthropological psychology intends to fulfill the need for synthesis, integration, and theoretical depth in the many vastly expanding fields of knowledge about man. The awareness of the necessity of this kind of function in psychology has been increased considerably by the growth of existential-phenomenology. Existential-phenomenology's concentration on man's being and acting has made various psychologists aware of the need to understand in their deepest meaning the manifold findings, theories and terminologies of the numerous schools of philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry in different cultures and to keep integrating them in an open, continuously growing and changing Gestalt. This task of anthropological psychology may be compared with the task of meta-biology in the biological disciplines and the rise of theoretical physics in the physical sciences."

The tradition begun by Van Kaam has resulted in over a generation of work toward integrating a human science psychology from an existential-phenomenological perspective. This tradition has included the work of faculty such as Anthony Barton, Constance T. Fischer, William F. Fischer, Amedeo Giorgi, Richard J. Knowles, Charles D. Maes, Edward L. Murray, Paul Richer, David L. Smith, Rolf Von Eckartsberg, Michael Sipiora, Eva Simms, Russ Walsh, Roger Brooke, and Martin Packer. The tradition has continued with increasing emphasis on a dialogue with post-structuralist thought with faculty such as Suzanne Bernard and Lacanian scholar, Bruce Fink. This tradition has extended its influence to programs at the University of Dallas, Saybrook University, Fordham University, Seattle University, State University of West Georgia, BrighamYoung University and Pacifica, to name a few. Duquesne graduate and University of West Georgia faculty member, Christopher Aanstoos, resides as President of the American Psychological Association's division of Humanistic Psychology and is editor of Humanistic Psychology. Scott Churchill, faculty at the University of Dallas, edits Methods. Steen Halling and Georg Kunz, along with James Risser, have been instrumental in the development of a phenomenological-oriented psychology program at Seattle University, and, further, have both furthered scholarship into the contributions of Emmanuel Levinas for the tradition. Bernd Jager carries on the Duquesne tradition at the University of Quebec in Montreal and Fred Wertz does so at Fordham University in New York City, as well as editing the Journal of Phenomenological Psychology. Robert Romanyshyn has been especially instrumental in developing an accessible and rich phenomenological psychology which addresses the fundamental problems of psychology in a technological culture -- and his work has carried on at Pacifica after many years at the University of Dallas, where he provided an organic influence upon the emergence of James Hillman's Archetypal psychology. Other Duquesne graduates include James Brennan, Paul Colaizzi, Robert Coufal, Michael DeMaria, Eric Dodson, Robert Fessler, Edwin Gantt, Mark Johansson, Anne Johnson, Stanton Marlan, Donald Moss, and Robert Sherry, to name a few, all of whom continue in their post-graduate work to contribute to the tradition of existential-phenomenological psychology. This is a tradition which I am proud to belong -- as a current and future proponent of existential-phenomenological psychology and as a student of Duquesne's doctoral program in Clinical Psychology-- and a tradition which I endeavor to continue, along with the help of my co-editors and staff at Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology, and the Arts (which I co-edit with Victor Barbetti and Claire Cowan-Barbetti).

The traditions of psychoanalytic theory and existential-phenomenology, I would argue, are closely related. I do not think it is a coincidence that Husserl's turn to the life-world and Wittgenstein's turn to everyday language games emerge concurrently with the birth of psychoanalysis. Like phenomenology and the linguistic tradition, psychoanalysis can be understood as a movement toward returning the human being to the world and to language, which, as Martin Heidegger has shown, are deeply intertwined.

As Robert Romanyshyn (1990) has pointed out, both phenomenology and psychoanalysis are related to a fundamental rejection of the "style of vision," the "way of experiencing the world" characterized by the new physics of nature and the new physiology of the body of Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. Such an experiencing of the world, per Romanyshyn, is exemplified by linear perspective as the metaphor of the seeing eye as a camera became literalized -- a vision which allows for the Cartesian cogito's primacy over the social and historical dimensions of existence. And, in general, the modern paradigm, which gives primacy to deductive reasoning over the rhetorical, is, on the whole, characterized by the general literalization of its metaphorical activity. In the case of phenomenology, there is a move to return "humanity to the world from that distance, infinite in the ideal, from which we practice a scientific vision." To do so, one must de-literalize the metaphors which give rise to such a vision. The task of a depth psychology, then, is such a de-literalization of the image.

As Romanyshyn (1990) writes:

"Psychoanalysis has sensitized us to our own multiplicity. It has cautioned us never to assume the who or the what of experience. It has taught us to suspend the claim of the ego to be the locus of action and to suspend the claim of the past to be an empirical history. As a science of remembering, it brackets the prejudice of the ego as the agent of psychology life, and the prejudice of fact...as the datum of psychological life. In doing so it recovers the multiple figurations of psychological life...; it also recovers the historical past as an imaginal story that one creates or makes in re-membering it as much as it is a story already made, waiting to be discovered."

In this sense, both phenomenology and psychoanalysis are a cultural therapeutics: an effort to return the subject to the world -- and, ultimately, to the breadth and depth of being-in-the-world.

See: The Psychology-Rhetoric Relationship: A Brief Historical Sketch by Brent Dean Robbins

The many people who have contributed to existential-phenomenological psychology has been too numerous to credit here. Some of those names who have been neglected, but which may be further explored by following the link to their pages, can be found here.

See my on-line writings for more detailed applications of existential-phenomenology to psychological theory and practice.



Carl Jung (1875-1961) is truly one of the great minds of psychology. As mentioned above, Jung was a close colleague of Freud -- in fact, Freud himself considered Jung to be his theoretical heir, thus casting himself in a father-like role with Jung as the crowned prince of psychoanalysis. With Freud's theory of the Oedipus complex, he should have known better, for their Oedipal rivalry led to a harsh and traumatic split. Jung, it seems, had gone too far afield in his reconceptualization of Freud's original insights. Yet, these very insightful innovations of Jung were truly brilliant, foreshadowing the "third force" movement in psychology. In many ways, Jung can be considered the 'father' of humanistic and transpersonal psychology.

Along with Freud's "personal unconscious," Jung felt that he had discovered evidence for a "collective unconscious" shared by all human beings. While the personal unconscious is organized by complexes (i.e., Oedipal complex), the collective unconscious is characterized by "archetypes," "instinctual patterns of behavior and perception," which can be traced in dreams and myths. Joseph Campbell, influenced by Jung, traced archetypal patterns in the mythologies of all cultures. Jung, in general, placed less emphasis on the sexual drives, since he felt the unconscious is driven by the process of "individuation," a drive toward wholeness and balance between the contrary forces of the psyche through the "transcendent function." Like the humanistic psychologists would argue, Jung felt that the unconscious is also a source of health and vitality rather than simply pathological forces. However, Jung also felt that the unconscious holds the potential for evil as well as good.

For Jung, the structures of the psyche are organized by unseen archetypal forces. He used many of the same terms as Freud, such as ego and unconscious, but they hold a different meaning when considered in the light of Jung's whole theory. The major structures of the psyche for Jung include the ego, which is comprised of the persona and the shadow. The persona is the 'mask' which the person presents the world, while the shadow holds the parts of the self which the person feels ashamed and guilty about. In men, the anima represents the feminine aspects of the psyche, while the animus represents the masculine aspects of the psyche in women. The whole of the archetypal organization of the person, for Jung, is called the Self, the unity of the whole towards which the individuation process strives for balance and harmony.

Of the followers of Jung in the Analytic psychology tradition, one of the most influential and innovative has been Marie-Louise von Franz.



James Hillman's Archetypal Psychology is inspired by Jung, yet Hillman, in the spirit of Jung himself, moves beyond him to develop a rich, complex, and poetic basis for a psychology of psyche as "soul." In my opinion, Hillman's writings are of the most innovative, provocative and insightful of any psychologist this century, including Freud himself. What makes Hillman's work so important is its emphasis on psychology as a way of seeing, a way of imaging, a way of envisioning being human. His work is truly originary and involves a radical "re-visioning" of psychology as a human science. Hillman's roots are mostly classical, but in the service of retrieving what has been lost to psychology and, thus, in the service of psychology's future in the service of "psyche" or "soul." The power of Hillman's thought, however, has more to do with how he approaches phenomena rather than what he has to say about it. Soul-making is a method, a way of seeing, and this cannot be forgotten. Hillman's roots include Renaissance Humanism, the early Greeks, existentialism and phenomenology. His thought is rhetorical in the best sense of the word; thus, imaginative, literary, poetic, metaphorical, ingenius, and persuasive. If nothing else, one cannot read Hillman without being moved.

Hillman's work is "soul-making" and, in this sense, psychological (the "logos" of the "psyche") in the truest sense of the word. Hillman listens to the saying of the soul, and it speaks in his writing through him. Of Hillman's use of the term "soul," Thomas Moore writes:

"Hillman likes the word for a number of reasons. It eludes reductionistic definition: it expresses the mystery of human life; and it connects psychology to religion, love, death, and destiny. It suggests depth, and Hillman sees himself directly in the line of depth psychology, going all the way back to Heraclitus, who observed that one could never discover the extent of the soul, no matter how many paths one traveled, so profound in its nature. Whenever Hillman uses the forms psychology, psychologizing, and psychological, he intends a reference to depth and mystery."

For Hillman, "soul" is about multiplicity and ambiguity, and about being polytheistic; it belongs to the night-world of dreams where the lines across the phenomenal field are not so clearly drawn. Soul pathologizes: "it gets us into trouble," as Moore writes, "it interferes with the smooth running of life, it obstructs attempts to understand, and it seems to make relationships impossible." While spirit seeks unity and harmony, soul is in the vales, the depths.

In his magnum opus, Re-Visioning Psychology, Hillman writes of "soul":

"By soul I mean, first of all, a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment -- and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground.

It is as if consciousness rests upon a self-sustaining and imagining substrate -- an inner place or deeper person or ongoing presence -- that is simply there even when all our subjectivity, ego, and consciousness go into eclipse. Soul appears as a factor independent of the events in which we are immersed. Though I cannot identify soul with anything else, I also can never grasp it apart from other things, perhaps because it is like a reflection in a flowing mirror, or like the moon which mediates only borrowed light. But just this peculiar and paradoxical intervening variable gives on the sense of having or being soul. However intangible and indefinable it is, soul carries highest importance in hierarchies of human values, frequently being identified with the principle of life and even of divinity.

In another attempt upon the idea of soul I suggest that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance of soul makes possible, whether in love or in religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, fantasy -- that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical."

Anyone who takes the discipline of psychology seriously should listen closely to what Hillman has to say and mostly to how he says it. Hillman's work has been furthered and popularized in the writings of Thomas Moore. Robert Sardello, Robert Romanyshyn, and Michael Sipiora have all organically contributed to the development of the movement.



While Hillman's Archetypal psychology attends to "soul," the vales, transpersonal psychology is concerned with the peaks, "spirit." In general, transpersonal psychologists are concerned with developing a psychology which integrates the wisdom of the world's spiritual traditions. As the term suggests, 'trans'- personal psychology attempts to place the individual within the greater cosmos beyond the self in which he or she is embedded. Like Jung, most transpersonal psychologists feel that religiosity and the "perennial philosophy" speak to a wisdom of the spiritual reality in which we participate and of which we are a part and product. It is an outgrowth of the humanistic movement and is influenced by its forerunner, Abraham Maslow, who felt that "self-actualization" involves a greater awareness of a spiritual dimension to existence.

Brant Cortright has written of eight basic assumptions of transpersonal psychology:

1. "Our essential nature is spiritual."

2. "Consciousness is multidimensional."

3. "Human beings have valid urges toward spiritual seeking, expressed as a search for wholeness through deepening individual, social, and transcendent awareness."

4. "Contacting a deeper source of wisdom and guidance within is both possible and helpful to growth."

5. "Uniting a person's conscious will and aspiration with the spiritual impulse is a superordinate health value."

6. "Altered states of consciousness are one way of accessing transpersonal experiences and can be an aid to healing and growth."

7. "Our life and actions are meaningful."

8. "The transpersonal context shapes how the person/client is viewed."

As Rolf von Eckartsberg and Robert Romanyshyn have emphasized, psychological and spiritual traditions are primarily metaphorical; they describe and organize human experience. Theory, then, is a map which should not be confused with the territory, and yet such maps are necessary for understanding. Transpersonal psyschology then is a way of seeing that is "spiritual", which aims to integrate and to unify, an effort to synthesize many different traditions into one coherent system. This is its strength as well as its weakness. A spiritual way of seeing can often do a disservice to soul-making by neglecting the complexities and ambiguities -- and, above all, the differences -- between such traditions. It tends to paint in broad strokes, which can lead to missing the subtle nuances that give each tradition its unique character and integrity. The good news is that transpersonal approaches are a way to develop a common language for such traditions to dialogue. However, within this framework, there is always a danger of totalizing the "Other" -- that is, Western spiritual assumptions often tend to consume and appropriate other systems to suit its own needs. Thus, we must guard against a transpersonal psychology which can become an intellectual version of the Crusades. A healthy dose of Levinas, particularly as articulated by Alphonso Lingus, helps to remind us of this potential danger of the transpersonal approach.

The spiritual approach of integrating the many wisdom traditions of the world has its roots, for example, in Aldous Huxley's "Perennial Philosophy" (see my Perennial Philosophy page). Huston Smith has also contributed greatly to this endeavor. Several common ways of understanding spirituality are evident in this approach. For one, there is a tendency to see the spiritual dimension as both transcendent and immanent. There also tends to be an approach to human existence which emphasizes a hierarchy of psychological-spiritual development. Such a hierarchy is viewed from the perspective of a particular cosmology. Huston Smith's cosmology, for example, includes the four dimensions of existence: the territorial (physican senses and mind), the intermediate (psychic), the celestial (personal divine), and the infinite (impersonal divine). Spiritual and psychological health within these systems is typically understood to involve a process of achieving a higher or greater awareness of these realms of existence. In the extreme, this can appeal to a kind of narcissism in which a person believes he or she is "god." A healthy dose of existentialism can help the typical "new ager" from going psychotic from trying to achieve an all-knowing, all-powerful god-like nature -- which is foolish and lacks humility. This is another potential danger of this movement.

An important lesson for transpersonal approaches to psychology comes from Dante as described by Allen Tate. Allen Tate differentiates between the "symbolic imagination" and the "angelic imagination." While the angelic imagination "tries to disintegrate or to circumvent the image in the illusory pursuit of essence," the symbolic imagination "conducts an action through analogy, of the human to the divine, of the natural to the supernatural, of the low to the high, of time to eternity." The symbolic imagination begins within the human place, and through the soul-making of de-literalizing the image, the poet works to show the traces of the Divine in the concrete description of the mundane. The poet who imagines symbolically cultivates the dwelling-place of the human, and she does not mistake herself for a god. With the imaginative description of the thing, the poet both witnesses and participates in the dance, and she finds herself within a deeper, richer, more human place. The angelic imagination, however, is the mode of understanding that fueled the foolish Tower of Babel project. Tate writes:

"When human beings undertake this ambitious program, divine love becomes so rarefied that it loses its human paradigm, and is dissolved in the worship of intellectual power, the surrogate of divinity that worships itself. It professes to know nature as essence at the same time that it has become alienated from nature in the rejection of its material forms."

Tate reminds us that an approach to the Divine is best served through concrete, poetic, soul-ful articulation of human existence, and the attempt to transcend the human can result in disaster, a project represented in the image of Icarus, who flew too high, too soon, and plummeted to his death.

Ken Wilber's spectrum model represents one of the most influential transpersonal models today. Wilbur must  be credited as a pioneer who first embarked upon the effort to integrate a theoretical core for a transpersonal approach. One of Wilbur's most interesting and provocative insights is the "pre-trans fallacy." Wilbur argues that traditional psychology has tended to see transpersonal experience as a regression to prepersonal, primitive states of consciousness. He argues, on the contrary, that transpersonal states of consciousness are more mature levels of consciousness which from a personal perspective only appears to be regression.

Michael Washburn has developed a transpersonal model patterned after Jung's analytic approach. Washburn is especially critical of Wilbur's "pre-trans fallacy" argument. For Washburn the pre-personal and transpersonal share with each other the experience of the dynamic, collective, spiritual ground of existence; however, with the transpersonal consciousness, this is expressed through a well-integrated ego. In general, Washburn's approach is from a Western, theistic perspective compared to Wilbur's more nondual, Eastern approach to consciousness. Most importantly, it develops a transpersonal model which does away with the sense of a hierarchy of consciousness in Wilbur's model.

Robert Assaglioli's psychosynthesis theory has had a great influence on the transpersonal movement. Like Wilbur, he argues for a psychology of the height as well as the depths.

Another influence, Hameed Ali's Diamond Approach draws especially from the Sufi tradition which, compared to Jung, Washburn, Wilbur and Assaglioli, places a greater emphasis on the body; however, his concept of "essence" has striking similarities to Jung's concept of the "archetype."

A review of the transpersonal movement in psychology would be incomplete, of course, without mention of Stanislov Grof's Holotropic Model. Grof is known for his work studying the effects of LSD, which helped him to develop his method of therapy as well as a transpersonal theory of consciousness that takes account of spiritual realms of existence.

An exciting outgrowth of the transpersonal movement is the body-centered transpersonal approach, largely influenced by Wilhelm Reich. The many different approaches to transpersonal body-work include: Hakomi, John Pierrakos' Core Energetics, Bodydynamics, the Lomi school, Eva Reich's work, Jack Rosenburg's work, rebirthing, Eugene Gendlin's focusing-oriented psychotherapy, and Charlotte Selver's sensory awareness. (See below under Reichian tradition).

Other influences in Transpersonal psychology include: Otto Rank, Sri Aurobindo, Howard Clinebell, Ram Dass, Meister Eckhart, Riane Eisler, Jack Engler, Mark Epstein, Victor Frankl, Daniel Goleman, St. John of the Cross, Jonn Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Krishnamurti, R. D. Laing, Timothy Leary, Wilhelm Reich, Ronald S. Valle, Charles T. Tart, Sri Krishna, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Ramana Maharshi, Franklin Merrill-Wolff, David Lukoff, John Nelson, Plotinus, Salvador Roquet, Donald Rothberg, Elbert Russell, Kirk Schneider, Kathleen Speeth, John Suler, Anthony Sutich, St. Teresa of Avila, Chogyam Trungpa, Thich Nhat Hahn, Francis Vaughn, Roger Walsh, John Welwood, Bryan Wittine, Robert Frager, Teilard de Chardin, William James, Susan Schneier, Ralph Metzner, William Blake, Morris Berman Han F. DeWit, Marcea Eliade, Anodea Judith, Sharon Salzberg, D. T. Suzuki, Karlfired Graf von Durckheim, Charlotte Joko Beth, Pema Chodron, A. H. Almaas, Frederick Franck, Natalie Goldberg, Allen Ginsberg, Mildred Chase, Denise Taylor, Eugen Herrigel, Takuan Soho, Carla Needleman, Jeane Martine, Paul Gorman, Karen Kissel Wegela, Stephen Butterfield, Marc David, Stephen Levine, Deena Metzger, Joanna Macy, Ken Jones, Chagdud Tulku, Monica Furlong, Fran Tribe, Dainin Katagiri, Rolf von Eckartsberg and many others.



Buddhist psychology and other Eastern influences have had a profound impact on psychoanalytic thought in general, as well as in Western philosophy. The transpersonal psychologists have been more explicit about its influences, but the influences of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism are wide-spread today in our intellectual climate. To summarize the influences from the East in this brief forum is simply impossible, for it is a tradition which encompasses another culture's entire spiritual tradition since the dawn of history. Most notably, Abraham Maslow, Carl Jung, Erich Fromm, Karen Horney, William James, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Thomas Merton and Joseph Campbell have been core psychological thinkers who were directly influenced by Eastern thought.

For the sake of brevity, I will focus instead on Mark Epstein's Thoughts Without a Thinker, which attempts to describe psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective. According to Epstein, "Buddhism has something essential to teach contemporary psychotherapists: it long ago perfected a technique of confronting and uprooting human narcissism, a goal that Western psychotherapy has only recently begun even to contemplate." I think this is essential for an understanding of Buddhist psychology and philosophy in general. As I mentioned above, the problem of "perennial philosophy" and transpersonal psychology is the emphasis upon what is common among all spiritual traditions, and, as such, it has often done a kind of violence to the richness and subtlety of the Buddhist doctrines.

In Buddhism, the neurosis which psychotherapy attempts to cure is inevitable. According to the Buddha, the First Noble Truth is that suffering is part of the human condition. As Epstein shows, the Buddha's first insight is that, as human beings, we must be humiliated by the limitations of our bodily existence. "No matter what we do..., we cannot sustain the illusion of our self-sufficiency. We are all subject to decay, old age, death, to disappointment, loss, and disease. We are all engaged in a futile attempt to maintain ourselves in our own image." Rather than escape from this realization, the Buddhist invites the seeker of liberation to contemplate this condition, to deepen one's awareness of our humility through meditative practice. In James Hillman's terms, this is "soul-making." If we are to be happy, says the Buddha, we must first acknowledge that as long as we are attached to the narcissistic ego, we will never come to terms with the oppressive and inescapable humiliations of life.

The Buddha's Second Noble Truth demonstrates, therefore, that the cause of our suffering is attachment to the ego which manifests itself in craving and desire. As Alan Watts has said, this is the desire for permanence in an ever-changing, impermanent existence -- the anxiety in the face of our finitude, as the existentialists would say. It is the attachment to a desire for a stable "identity," one could say. Liberation for the Buddhist, therefore, does not come from a greater or larger self -- an incorporation into a grotesquely indulgent, narcissistic ego which never stops craving -- or even, as Heidegger, Laing or Winnicott would suggest, from the uncovering of a more genuine self, but rather from the lack of a self, or emptiness. This lack is not a craving for lack, however, but rather an absence of craving for either existence or nonexistence -- call it, for the sake of simplicity: acceptance, letting-go, releasement. It is not the craving of eros or thanatos, but rather the absence of craving as emptiness. The Buddha's Third Noble Truth however promises that liberation is possible, and this is articulated by the Buddhas's Fourth Noble Truth. The Buddha's way is the Middle Path, which avoids the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification (or, as Epstein translates into psychoanalytic terminology, idealization and denial). Rather, liberation is found in the Eightfold Path: The ethical foundations of Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood, the meditative foundation of Right Concentration and Right Mindfulness, and the Right View foundation of Right Understanding and Right Thought.

How can one possibly trace the lengthy history of Buddhism in the East and its reception in the West? Or, for that matter, early Taoist and Confucian philosophy prior to Buddhism? Or Hinduism, as well? It is not possible, of course, and, thus, I invite you to explore some of the masters who have introduced such thought to our Western minds:

Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Erich Fromm, Arthur Schopenhauer, Joseph Goldstein, Suzuki Roshi, Nyanaponika Thera, Mahasi Sayadaw, A. Sujata, Paul Reps, Walpola Rahula, Nyanatiloka, Tarthang Tulku, Chogyam Trungpa, Thomas Merton, J. Krishnamurti, Jack Kornfield, Stephen Levine, D. T. Suzuki, Sharon Salzberg, Hermann Hesse, Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Han, W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Graham Parkes, J. L. Mehta, Otto Poggeler, Joan Staumbaugh, Paul Shi-yi Hsaio, Neiji Nishitani, Yasuo Yuasa, Akihiro Takeichi, Kohei Mizoguchi, Tetsuaki Kotoh, Hwa Yol Jung, David Michael Levin, Dalai Lama, Lama Thubteu Yeshe, Rodney Smith, Bhikku Nyanasobhano, Gomo Tulku, Matthew Flickstein, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Lama Surya Das, Janet Gyatso, Maurice Walshe, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Steve Hagen, Bernie Glassman, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, Jan Chozen Bays, China Galland, Pat Enkyo O'Hara, Joe Loizzo, Stephen Butterfield, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Pema Chodron, Charlotte Joko Beth, Diana St. Ruth, Stephen Batchelor, Jeffrey Rubin, Robert Thurman, John Daido Loori, Allan Bennett, Stephen Prothero, Daniel Goleman, Ursula K. Le Guin, James H. Austin, Robert Aitken, Larry Rosenberg, Natalie Goldberg, Gary Snyder, Peter Mathiessen, Joanna Macy, Yvonne Rand, Reb Anderson, David Whyte, Ed Brown, and many more.



Heinz Kohut (1923-1981) developed his Self Psychology theory with influences from ego psychology, object relations theory, and humanistic psychology, but, for the most part, his insights were derived from his initial work with patients with narcissistic disorders. Kohut works as a therapist in a way that is actually very phenomenological. Using what he calls "empathic immersion" and "vicarious introspection," Kohut endeavors to understand the experience of the patient from the patient's point of view rather than from the perspective of dogmatic psychoanalytic categories. In doing so, like Rogers, Kohut made empathy the most central and vital ingredient of his work with patients. Using this approach, Kohut came to develop a sensitivity to the experience of the narcissistic patient. He saw in the narcissistic the exhuberance, vitality and expansiveness of the child, not mere regression, and he took great pains to preserve the patients healthy sense of omnipotence; in fact he utilized it to bolster the fragile ego of the narcissist. And most importantly, this is a process which occurs in the transference between client and therapist which is slow and gradual, yet has powerful and lasting effects.

From this initial work with narcissistic patients, Kohut developed a theory of various types of transference which develop in almost all therapies: mirroring transference, idealizing transference, and alter ego or twinship transference. In each case, the patient is made to re-experience early object relationships within the therapeutic relationship in such a way that the patient is permitted to meet essential, unmet psychological needs from early development. Such an emphasis on the patient re-experiencing as a part of therapy had already been emphasized by Merton Gill, for example. Also, as in the humanistic tradition, Kohut felt that the patient acts from a basic, vital motivation toward growth which is present in the narcissistic omnipotence and idealization, but which, over time, can be adequately frustrated naturally in the therapy without the need for the therapist to overtly frustrate the needs of the client. In this sense, Kohut's work finds an early influence with Winnicott's approach. In short, Kohut's work is, in many ways, the logical conclusion to over a century of research and practice in psychotherapy among all the various schools of thought mentioned above, and, thus, Kohut is in many ways a great synthesizer of various psychoanalytic traditions, as well as being a sensitive, caring, empathic therapist who knew who to learn from his patients.

The work of self psychology has been carried on by theorist-practitioners such as: Daniel Stern, Robert Stolorow, Michael Kahn, Arnold Goldberg, George Atwood, Paul H. Ornstein, Joseph D. Lichtenberg, Martin Gossman, and David Wolf.



The Frankfurt School was a tradition of continental philosophy which emerged in the mid-1920's and consisted of Leftist intellectuals who formed the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany. The philosophy of the Frankfurt School is "critical theory" in the tradition of Kant and Marx, respectively. Kantian critique is "an analysis of the conditions of possibility and the limits of rational faculties undertaken by reason itself: assuming a self-reflective or 'transcendental' posture, reason analyzes and criticizes itself in the process of world-constituting 'legislating activity'" (Piccone). Critical theorists also integrated Hegelian critique of Kant with an increasing focus on a critique of historical reason. The Marxian element of ideological critique, however, is the major thrust behind the Frankfurt School's critical theory, and, like Marx following Hegel, the critical theorists took issue with Kant's assumption of the given "facticity" and "positivity" of existing sciences. Critical theory is a liberatory movement -- its chief aim is emancipation. In the flowering of the Frankfurt School, psychoanalytic theory became the well-spring which thinkers such as Marcuse, Adorno, and Fromm drew in order to move beyond the limitations of Marxism in the wake of Stalinism. In this sense, the Frankfurt School is the arena in which philosophy first felt the impact of psychoanalysis. For the critical theorists, Freud's theory and practice of psychoanalysis held the promise of liberation, fundamentally, as being in the service of the unconscious -- and this is clearly the promise of Freud in that repression is a social phenomena, and, thus, ultimately political in nature.

While Erich Fromm ultimately ventured away from the circle of Frankfurt scholars, his Neo-Freudian theory remains closely tied to the influence of critical theory. In turn, Fromm returned to psychoanalysis the influences of critical theory even as critical theory became informed by psychoanalysis. Like Freud, Fromm paints a portrait of the human being as torn between nature and the social world. And, following Marx, Fromm also sees the human being as, when most healthy, growing toward balance, growth and liberation rather than imbalance, decay and alienation. In this sense, Fromm is both a Freudian and a socialist humanist, a reflection of his influences from the Frankfurt School. Fromm's major criticism of Freud, however, is Freud's predominate focus on parental influences. Instead, Fromm focused on the influence of society -- of which the parents are also impacted -- upon the child. Fromm's description of neurosis is more accurately understood as 'sociosis,' our personalities shaped by the values of one's culture. It follows, then, that Fromm's psychoanalysis necessarily includes an essential element of social criticism; thus, he expends much energy in critiquing Western society in his work.

Herbert Marcuse remained more closely tied to the original project of the Frankfurt School compared to Fromm. In 1950, he delivered a series of lectures at the Washington School of Psychiatry where, for the first time, he articulated his long-time consideration of Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Karen Horney, incidently, was in the audience at the time. Over the next four years, he wrote his famous Eros and Civilization which secured his place in history as a proponent of the radical left which emerged in the 1960's New Left. Marcuse's work was an integration of Freud, Marx and Hegel, cultivated also by Marcuse's influences from Heidegger's existential-phenomenology, and which was heavily influenced by his colleague, Horkheimer, of the Frankfurt School. Eros and Civilization served less as an overt criticism of Freud as much as a consideration of the place of Freud's thought in the history of Western rationality. As such, Marcuse's evaluation of Freud sought those places of potential liberation in Freud's thinking which were often neglected, or even denied, by Freud himself. Marcuse locates Freud's thought in the historical-philosophical process originally named by Horkeimer and Adorno "the dialectic of Enlightenment." This "dialectic of Enlightenment" consists of a historical movement toward liberation from irrationalism which, ironically, results in a new form of domination in late industrial civilization which undermines itself. In this sense, Freud's theory of psychoanalysis, while in the service of accommodating itself to the actuality of repressive civilization, it also released forces that cannot be contained within the framework of existing ideas and institutions. For Marcuse, Freud's meta-psychology held out the promise of a social and political critique in the service of the instincts -- the id! -- as the incorruptible governors of a realm in which the laws of gratification are rigidly enforced. Like Fromm, Marcuse came to the recognition that "The reality which shapes the instincts a well as their need and satisfaction is a socio-historical world."

Marcuse was critical of Fromm, as well as other neo-Freudians, for giving primacy to secondary, environmental factors; instead, he felt that priority must be given over to the powerful role of the instincts. "Whereas Freud, focusing on the vicissitudes of the primary instincts, discovered society in the most concealed layer of the genus and individual man," Marcuse wrote, "the revisionists, aiming at the reified, ready-made form rather than at the origin of societal institutions and relations, fail to comprehend what these institutions and relations have done to the personality that they are supposed to fulfill." In other words, when a radical, critical theory is in the service of the status quo, it is weakened and rendered ideological. In short, Marcuse provides a compelling argument that psychoanalytic theory holds the potential for a radical social critique in the service of Eros -- a potential, though unrealized, project at the heart of Freud's meta-psychology.

Aside from Fromm and Marcuse, other Frankfurt School thinkers include: Max Horkheimer, Otto Kirchheimer, Friedrich Pollock, Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Leo Lowenthal.


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Copyright 1999, Brent Dean Robbins

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