Heinz Kohut and Otto Kernberg
Heinz Kohut and Otto Kernberg are both psychoanalysts and professors of psychiatry. With their theories, they have greatly influenced the past and current psychoanalytic believes. Both are inclined to the observation and treatment of patients that were generally believed that they could not appropriately fit the analytic therapy. They both deal with persons with narcissistic, borderline, and psychotic psychopathology. Despite their concern and same interests in fighting these abnormalities, their perspective regarding causes, psychic arrangements, and treatment of these abnormalities is different. From the general outlook Kohut is described as a self-theorist who essentially emerged from Sigmund’s Freud conjectural conceptualizations aiming seriously on people’s need for self-organization and self-appearance. In contrast, Kernberg stand firm to the Freudian meta-psychology, focusing mostly on individual’s struggle between love and hate (Mitchell & Black 1995).
The two theorists also differed greatly on the explanation of various theories. Some of the theories that they differed most include the relationship between narcissistic personality and borderline personality. According to Kernberg (Clarkin et. al, 1999), the protective structure of narcissistic person is equal to that of the borderline individual because the narcissistic has a fundamental borderline characteristic arrangement that turns normal when one observes the process of dividing and projective recognition. He relates constitutional together with environmental factors as the main source of disturbance for these individuals by emphasizing the beneficial duty of the mother surrogate up bring the child on the basics with little considerations to his/her feelings and desires. Kohut (Consolini, 1999), on the other side observes borderline characteristics as completely different from the narcissistic one and reduced ability to gain from the analytic treatment. Equivalently, narcissistic characteristic is more appropriate to investigation because it is symbolized by an extra durable self. Kohut further claimed that the environment is main cause of problems to these individuals. In addition, they both concentrate on the idea of grandiose self that reveals the fixation of an archaic normal primitive self (Consolini, 1999). Whereas, Kernberg described it as a pathological enlargement, that is different from the normal narcissism. Kohut still stressed that treatment is focused on encouraging the patient’s narcissistic feelings, needs, and expectations to feel free during the stages of transition. While for Kernberg, the mode of treatment should be confrontation planning to develop the patient’s internal fragmented world uprightness (Clerkin et. al 1999).
Normal against pathological narcissism is the other issue that brought controversy between the two theorists. Kohut believed that narcissism is a case of developmental failure brought about by unsatisfied needs of one’s wishes, goals, and objectives by parental community. The grandiose self is in fact an archaic state, which intelligently needs to be normal self but if it proclaims in the opposite side then, pathological narcissism occurs. He argues that there are secondary forces that like libidinal drive that cause etiology and hence one should be able to differentiate between narcissistic drive and ordinary aggression. Kernberg, in contrast insists that narcissistic character is brought about by pathological development in which the hostility move acts as the central role claiming that hostility move cannot be investigated differently from the libidinal one, stressing that the study of vicissitudes of normal pathology go hand in hand with the study of development of the internal objects in reference to libidinal and aggressive drive options (Mitchell & black, 1995).
In addition, the relationship between narcissistic idealization and grandiose theory was the other factor that caused differences between the two. While Kohut left the fundamental Freud view that proposed that some patients could not be examined due to the lack of strength for transition. He hypothesized that narcissistic patient have the strength for transition but different from that of other patients. Kernberg was still adamant and stick to his belief that idealizing transition is no more than pathological type created as a counter attack to the significant instigation of grandiose self in transition (Alcorn 1997).
Lastly, the two psychiatrists differed in psychoanalytic techniques, they regarded each other styles as none productive, and each tried to justify his method as the best. Kernberg approach was considered as an assault to patients, self-psychology termed kernberg as crafting narcissism instead of curing it, and from kernberg point of view, Kohut’s approach was short lived and could not yield any result. With these contradictions, there was actually no one who could help treat the patient and had it not for Mitchell to intervene and put forward and an integrated approach then the two psychiatrists theories could not have gone far (Mitchell & Black 1995).
Alcorn, M. (1997). Narcissism and literary libido: Rhetoric, Text, and Subjectivity. New York:
Clarkin, J., Yeomans, F. and Kernberg, O. (1999). Psychotherapy for Borderline Personality.
New York: J. Wiley and Sons
Consolini, G. (1999). Kernberg versus Kohut: A (Case) Study in Contrasts. Clinical Social Work
Journal, US: Oxford university press.
Mitchell, S., and Black, M. (1995). Freud and beyond: A history of modern psychoanalytic
thought. New York: Basic Books