Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst

By Chuck Strozier

Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst

This biography shows Heinz Kohut (1913-1981) as a paradigmatic figure in American intellectual life; a charismatic man whose ideas embodied the hopes and confusions of a country still in turmoil after war and Holocaust.  Kohut stood at the center of the mid-twentieth-century psychoanalytic movement and then transformed it in the next two decades.  Born in Vienna, Kohut was raised in an assimilated Jewish family, imbued with European high culture. He trained in medicine at the University of Vienna before being forced to emigrate in 1939 after the Nazis took over.  Kohut settled in Chicago where he made his life for the next four decades.

Kohut’s life invited complexity.  He obfuscated his identity as a Jew, negotiated a protean sexuality, and was surprisingly secretive about his health and other matters.  His story made him fit uneasily into the world of psychoanalysis as Freud constructed it.  His project became that of changing the theory in order to find a place for himself in it.

Kohut’s “self psychology” re-imagined psychanalysis as a theory and practice based on empathy.  Many had flailed at the stout walls of classical ego psychology.  It took someone from the inside, a man who at first had firmly embraced orthodoxy, to think things from the ground up, discard the debris but recover what remained valuable in its clinical insights for the next century.  Kohut may well have saved psychoanalysis from itself. 

What the Critics Say

“This impeccably researched book, written in a clear, elegant stuyle that clarifies even complicated ideas, carries us along like an exciting novel.  Heinz Kohut is a magnificent contribution to the history of psychology, and beyond that, the history of ideas.  Strozier has admirably succeeded in his goal of writing a biography that seeks to ‘discover, illuminate, and disclose.’”

Sophie Freud, American Journal of Psychotherapy

 

“Strozier brings an extraordinary combination of empathy and breadth to this masterful biography.”

Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors, Death in Life, and many other books.

 

“This striking story of a single man is also a history of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century.  Strozier has turned a light on post-Freudian psychoanalysis as he has illuminated the life of its most distinguished member.”

Arnold Goldberg, M.D., author of Being of Two Minds and editor of the series Progress in Self Psychology.

 

“It is an impressive work of scholarship that reveals both Kohut’s flaws and genius.”

Douglas Kirsner, The Australian Journal of Psychotherapy

 

“Strozier’s biography accomplishes everything that I could expect of it.  Strozier tells Kohut’s life story, explicates his work and its relationship to classical psychoanalysis, and gives the reader a sense of what Kohut was like as a person.  Strozier does all this while providing a readable, energetic narrative.”

James William Anderson, Contemporary Psychology

 

“The book explains the concepts of self psychology, including the ‘self,’ the selfobject, and the idealizing and mirroring transferences, in clear English.”

Peter Loewenberg, The Journal of American History

 

“The author recounts the gripping, moving, and instructive story of this driven, creative, cultural intellectual, who was much respected as a teacher and therapist but disliked for his arrogance.  Too important to leave to professionals, this accessible work is recommended for all libraries.”

Library Journal

 

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