Anda di halaman 1dari 13

Why the Self Is Empty

Toward a Historically Situated Psychology


Philip Cushman California School of Professional Psychology,
Berkeley~Alameda

ABSTRACT: This article presents a contextualized treat- reproduce in an article of this size. I realize that this ap-
ment of the current configuration of self, some of the pa- proach will be considered imprecise by some psycholo-
thologies that plague it, and the technologies that attempt gists, but after much debate, I have decided that it is, with
to heal it. Of particular interest is the historical shift from all its flaws, the best approach for such an elusive subject.
the Victorian, sexually restricted self to the post-World Even with these limits, I think the study of the self
War H empty self. The empty self is soothed and made across time and cultures is an essential topic for psy-
cohesive by becoming "filled up" with food, consumer chology. If psychologists do not recognize the ethnocentric
products, and celebrities. Its historical antecedents, eco- nature of psycholngy's discourse about the current West-
nomic constituents, and political consequences are the fo- eva self, we commit several errors. In particular, we par-
cus of this article. The two professions most responsible ticipate in a culturally disrespectful and damaging psy-
for healing the empty self, advertising and psychotheral~, chological imperialism abroad and at the same time per-
find themselves in a bind: They must treat a psychological petuate the discourse of self-contained individualism and
symptom without being able to address its historical its attendant miseries at home.
causes. Both circumvent the bind by employing the life- By the selfI mean the concept of the individual as
style solution, a strategy that attempts to heal by covertly articulated by the indigenous psychology of a particular
filling the empty self with the accoutrements, values, and cultural group, the shared understandings within a culture
mannerisms of idealized figures. This strategy solves an of"what it is to be human" (Heelas & Lock, 1981, p. 3).
old problem but creates new ones, including an oppor- The self embodies what the culture believes is human-
tunity for abuse by exploitive therapists, cult leaders, and kind's place in the cosmos: its limits, talents, expectations,
politicians. Psychology's role in constructing the empty and prohibitions. In this sense the self is an aspect of what
self, and thus reproducing the current hierarchy of power Heidegger (1962/1977) called the horizon of shared un-
and privilege, is examined. derstandings or "the clearing" carved out by the particular
practices of a particular culture. There is no universal,
transhistorical self, only local selves; no universal theory
From its beginnings, modern psychology has had difficulty about the self, only local theories.
developing a historically situated perspective on its dis- Studying the self of a particular era in this way allows
course and practices. Nowhere is this ahistorical tendency us to operationalize a basic tenet of ontological herme-
more obvious than in the debate on individualism. Many neutics: The process of studying humans is not the same
researchers have treated self-contained individualism as as "reading" persons as "texts" (Gergen, 1988), but more
an unquestioned value and the current concept of self-- like standing behind them and reading over their shoulder
the bounded, masterful self--as an unchangeable, trans- the cultural text from which they themselves are reading
historical entity. In opposition to a decontextualized ap- (Sass, 1988a, p. 250). In an earlier article (Cushman,
proach, I will argue that cultural conceptualizations and 1987), I suggested that all elements of the clearing, in-
configurations of self are formed by the economies and eluding psychological theories about the self, are cultural
polities of their respective eras. By studying the self in artifacts and can be examined as elements of the cultural
this way, psychologists will be better able to understand text.
the current era and psychology's place within that era. That is what I am attempting to do when I describe
I have drawn from the insights of hermeneuticists the current configuration of self: Read over our shoulders.
such as Faulconer and Williams (1985), Gadamer (1979), The self is a difficult concept on which to get a perspective,
Heidegger (1962/1977), Morawski (1984), Rabinow and precisely because it is such a central aspect of the horizon.
Sullivan (1987), Stigliano (1989), and the authors in the As Sass (1988a) explained, "The horizon's concealment
book edited by Messer, Sass, and Woolfolk (1988) in order is intimately or intrinsically connected with the condition
to develop an approach characterized by historical and of being visible . . . . its presence is almost too obvious,
ontological concerns. The argument is at times speculative too self-evident" (p. 242). It is therefore difficult for us
and nonempirical. It depends in part on a survey of the to imagine the self as other than the way it is in our era
opinions of other social scientists and on the arguments or to consider it a legitimate subject for study. But as
of historians whose qualitative data is far too detailed to difficult as it is, the study of the self is also a crucial ele-

May 1990 * American Psychologist 599


C~p!~ht 1990by the AmG~can~ k ~ i t ~ l Association,Inc. 0003-066X/90/$00.75
Vet. 45, No. 5, 599-611
ment in interpreting an era. By studying the configuration corresponding kinds of psychopathology. Sampson's work
of the current self, we will come to have an enlarged per- in particular has emphasized the political antecedents and
spective on the forces that shape it, the discourse that consequences of the current self.
justifies it, the consequences that flow from it, the illnesses My understanding of their historical interpretations
that plague it, and the activities responsible for healing is that an increasingly bounded, masterful self was con-
it. These things come in packages; unraveling one helps structed after the collapse of feudalism. It emerged at the
reveal them all. same time that the modern state was faced with the ne-
cessity of developing justifications and techniques for
The Emergence of the Empty Self controlling a modern populace. During the beginnings of
Many authors have described how the bounded, masterful the modern era in the 16th century, the Western world
self has slowly and unevenly emerged in Western history. began to shift from a religious to a scientific frame of
This is a self that has specific psychological boundaries, reference, from an agricultural to an industrial means of
an internal locus of control, and a wish to manipulate production, from a rural to an urban setting, and from
the external world for its own personal ends. I believe that a communal to an individual subject. These vast changes
in the post-World War II era in the United States, there were coincident with and some say responsible for the
are indications that the present configuration of the dual triumph of the concept of Montaigne's subjective
bounded, masterful self is the empty self. By this I mean individual and the method necessary to study it, Des-
that our terrain has shaped a self that experiences a sig- cartes's objective empiricism (Taylor, 1988). Culminating
nificant absence of community, tradition, and shared with the Victorian era, the concept of the deep, secret,
meaning. It experiences these social absences and their instinct-driven, potentially dangerous self was used by
consequences "interiorly" as a lack of personal conviction the state to justify its role as official controller of selves.
and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, Over the course of the 20th century, it has become ap-
undifferentiated emotional hunger. The post-World War parent to cultural historians such as Susman (1973) and
II self thus yearns to acquire and consume as an uncon- Lears (1983) that Americans have slowly changed from
scious way of compensating for what has been lost: It is a Victorian people who had a deeply felt need to save
empty. money and restrict their sexual and aggressive impulses.
One can see evidence of the empty self in current Americans in the post-World War II era seem to have
psychological discourse about narcissism and borderline become a people who have a deeply felt need to spend
states, the popular culture's emphasis on consuming, po- money and indulge their impulses.
litical advertising strategies that emphasize soothing and The thesis of this article is that the current self is
charisma instead of critical thought, and a nationwide constructed as empty, and as a result the state controls
difficulty in maintaining personal relationships. Broad its population not by restricting the impulses of its citi-
historical forces such as industrialization, urbanization, zens, as in Victorian times, but by creating and manip-
and secularism have shaped the modern era. They have ulating their wish to be soothed, organized, and made
influenced the predominant psychological philosophy of cohesive by momentarily filling them up. The products
our time, self-contained individualism; constructed the of the social sciences, and of psychology in particular,
current configuration of the bounded self, the empty self; have often worked to the advantage of the state by helping
and developed the professions that I believe are most re- to construct selves that are the subjects of control and to
sponsible for rifling and healing the empty self, advertising develop techniques that are the means of control. In the
and psychotherapy. Thus, the ideologies, subjects, and early modern period, Bentham's innovative prison, the
businesses of modern psychology have historical ante- Panopticon (Foucault, 1979), and in the current era, po-
cedents, economic constituents, and political conse- litical polling strategies (Ginsberg, 1986) are prominent
quences. They do not float suspended in time and space: illustrations of the political utility of the social sciences.
They have a context. This article supports Foucault's and Sampson's line
Unfortunately, throughout the ongoing debate on of political reasoning and follows it into the realm of the
the meaning and value of individualism, it has become economy. I believe that the construction of the post-World
increasingly clear that many researchers have made the War II middle-class American self is a good illustration
fundamental mistake of decontextualizing the subject. of how the economy and the power structure impact on
Gergen, (1973, 1985), Giorgi (1970), Harr6 (1984, 1986a, personality. Since the end of World War II the configu-
1986b), and Sampson (1977, 1981, 1983, 1988) have tried ration of an empty self has emerged in the middle classes.
to reorient psychology's perspective. Others, such as Fou- It is empty in part because of the loss of family, com-
cault (1980) and Levin (1987b) also have argued that munity, and tradition (Levin, 1987a; Rieff, 1966; Zar-
each era produces a particular configuration of self and etsky, 1976). It is a self that seeks the experience of being
continually filled up by consuming goods, calories, ex-
periences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathic
I would like to thank Edward Sampson, Jane Burka, Jules Burstein, therapists in an attempt to combat the growing alienation
Donald ~ , TerenceO'Hare, LindaRiebel,KarenCushman,Stanley and fragmentation of its era. This response has been im-
Messerand fiveanonymousreviewersfortheirhelpin shapingthisarticle.
Correspondenceconcerningthisarticleshouldbe addressedto Philip plicitly prescribed by a post-World War II economy that
Cushman, 5480 CollegeAve.,Oakland,CA 94618. is dependent on the continual consumption of nonessen-

600 May 1990 • American Psychologist


tial and quickly obsolete items and experiences (Zinn, example, the Western self has gone through many per-
1973, pp. 89-119). In order for the economy to thrive, mutations over the course of the last 2,500 years. We
American society requires individuals who experience a would do well to remember Foucault's (1970; Hutton,
strong "need" for consumer products and in fact demand 1988) warning that the changes undergone by the Western
them (Henry, 1963). Such an economy requires individ- self are not developmental changes brought on by an inner
uals who have an uninterrupted flow of money and a logic, the unfolding of a secret genetic code, or the peeling
continual motivation to spend it. The complex interre- of layers of enlightenment. The self has undergone ex-
latedness of social change, political forces, and cultural treme, erratic, often discontinuous change because it is
forms has somehow accomplished this through the dual part of the larger sociohistorical fabric of its time. The
creation of easy credit (Malabre, 1987) and a gnawing self must function within a particular cultural pattern:
sense of emptiness in the self (Kohut, 1977). matching, maintaining, and replicating it.
Psychotherapy is one of the professions responsible For instance, the communal, outward looking, non-
for healing the post-World War II self. Unfortunately, sexually conflicted self of Aeschylus' Oresteia (458BC/
many psychotherapy theories attempt to treat the modem 1953) looks vastly different from the tortured, confused,
self by reinforcing the very qualities of self that have ini- "inner" self of Augustine's Confessions (397/1986). The
tially caused the problem: its autonomous, bounded, self of the early Middle Ages was an immortal soul en-
masterful nature (Sampson, 1985). The patient is diag- closed in the shell of a mortal body. It looked vastly dif-
nosed as empty and fragmented, usually without ad- ferent from the cynical, confused, increasingly nihilistic
dressing the sociohistorical predicament that caused the self of the 1920s. To get the sense of this contrast, imagine
emptiness and fragmentation (Bordo, 1988; Levin, a conversation between Roland, the French knight in the
1987c). Thus, through the activity ofhelping, psychology's twelfth century epic The Song of Roland, and Zelda Fitz-
discourse and practices perpetuate the causes of the very gerald, the quintessential 1920s "flapper."
problems it is trying to treat. During the last 2,000 years in Western society the
self has become increasingly more individualistic, more
The Self Is a Social Construct
subjective, and "deeper" (Logan, 1987; Meyer, 1986;
This article is based on the type of social constructionist Morris, 1972). Some scholars (e.g., Dreyfus & Rubin,
argument recently developed by Geertz (1973), Gergen 1987; Taylor, 1988) believe this individual depth was first
(1985), Harr~ (1986a), Morawski (1988), and Sampson expressed by Augustine's mistrust of self. It was later in-
( 1983, 1988). Humans do not have a basic, fundamental, fluenced by Europe's incremental steps toward capitalism
pure human nature that is transhistorical and transcul- and then developed by the Renaissance, the Enlighten-
tural. Humans are incomplete and therefore unable to ment, and the Romantics (Baumeister, 1986, 1987;
function adequately unless embedded in a specific cultural Greenblatt, 1980; Trilling, 1971) into the hypertrophied,
matrix. individual self. Finally, the Western self took a major
Culture "completes" humans by explaining and in- complicating turn during the ascendancy of the Victorian
terpreting the world, helping them to focus their attention bourgeoisie with the overt articulation of its "hidden"
on or ignore certain aspects of their environment, and sexual and aggressive content (Lowe, 1982). The individ-
instructing and forbidding them to think and act in cer- ual, bounded, communally isolated self is a modem phe-
tain ways (Heiddeger, 1962/1977). Culture is not indig- nomenon (Rieff, 1966; Zaretsky, 1976), roughly paral-
enous clothing that covers the universal human; it infuses leling the development of industrialization and the rise
individuals, fundamentally shaping and forming them of the modern state. The belief in objective empiricism
and how they conceive of themselves and the world, how was based in part on the Enlightenment's search for the
they see others, how they engage in structures of mutual universal laws of a "pure" human nature, accomplished
obligation, and how they make choices in the everyday by studying the decontextualized individual. Lowe (1982)
world. has shown how the particular qualities of bourgeois per-
The material objects we create, the ideas we hold, ception objectified and quantified everything. Taylor
and the actions we take are the consequences or "prod- (1988) described how the subject-object and mind-body
ucts" of the social construction of each particular era. splits led to an increasing interest in, and the eventual
They are cultural artifacts. However, these artifacts are hegemony of, the empirical social sciences. The social
not only the expression of an era. They are also the im- sciences thus developed at the same time as the emergence
mediate "stuff" of daily life, and as such they shape and of the isolated, individual self and the modem state's need
mold the community's generalized reality orientation in to control it through study and calculated manipulation
subtle and unseen ways. Consequently, they inevitably (Foucault, 1979; Trigg, 1985).
reinforce and reproduce the constellations of power,
wealth, and influence within their respective societies.
The Sexually Conflicted Victorian Self
The Many Shapes of the Western S e l f More specifically, the bounded, masterful, middle-class
The self, as an artifact, has different configurations and self has emerged in Western society during the last 200
different functions depending on the culture, the historical years. The bourgeois self of the Victorian era in Europe
era, and the socioeconomic class in which it exists. For reflected the impact of the Enlightenment and the in-

May 1990 ° American Psychologist 601


dustrial and French revolutions. The economy's need for the product with happy, dean, vigorous models (Lears,
an industrial labor force caused traditional rural com- 1981, pp. 4-58, 300-312; 1983, p. 19).
munRies to be uprooted, populations to become urban-
ized, and work to become increasingly compartmental- The Early 20th Century American Self
ized and alienating. The percentage of Americans living During the last 90 years, psychological discourse and
in urban settings had grown from 3.4% in 1790 to 33% practice in relation to the middle-class self have changed
in 1900 (Blum et al., 1973, p. 441). Researchers such as from a focus on the Victorian, sexually restricted self to
Flexner (1959), Schiebinger (1987), Smith-Rosenberg the post-World War II empty and fragraented self. The
(1981), and Welter (1966) have shown that in the late seeds of this change slowly began developing in the United
18th and 19th centuries in general and the Victorian era States in the early decades of the 20th century. For in-
in particular, gender roles in the middle and upper classes stance, the tactics, products, and successes of therapeutic
took on a polarized and restrictive cast unique to that businesses such as the advertising and self-improvement
time regarding both social privilege and economic func- industries changed from a proaccupation with restriction
tion. to an inclination for indulgence.
Lowe (1982) convincingly argued that the Victorian Susman ( 1973, pp. 271-285 ) has demonstrated how,
bourgeois self was a secular, rational, subjective, divided, especially in America, the quest for developing a secular
sexually conflicted, linear self that viewed the world as personality came to take precedence over building reli-
objectifiable and quantitative. The "unknown" was once gious character. Unlike character, which is centered on
thought to reside in the external world. Slowly, as the personal moral integrity, advice manuals of the time
modern age dawned and developed, the self became the taught that personality was synonymous with becoming
container for that which could be hidden from others and liked by others. The self was conceived of as capable of
from oneself (Baumeister, 1986, pp. 36-50). Trilling personal change; impressing others and gaining their ap-
(197 l) described this as the concern for sincerity preoc- proval became an important aim in life, far outstripping
cupation. Foucault (1979) argued that the modern state the value of doing the morally correct act, which was
exploited this conception of the self in order to justify its dictated by one's character. Riesman, Glazer, and Denny
new, restrictive powers (see also Sass, 1987). By the (1953) and Fromm (1955) have also described the inner-
triumph of the Victorian bourgeoisie, the unknown was directed, self-reliant rugged individualist who began to
understood to be unequivocally interior (see also Brandell, give way to the outer-directed, socially sldlled salesperson-
1979; Taylor, 1988) and potentially dangerous. Freud type of individual.
(1953, 1961) postulated a self with an interiorized un- After the turn of the century, popularized forms of
conscious that contained primitive drives--sex and psychology and religion began to offer advice on how to
aggression--that had to be restricted in order for nor- impress others, become popular, and achieve monetary
mative bourgeois society to function. Early psychoanalysis success and peace of mind. Advertising began developing
reflected these trends, describing and further constructing a highly effective strategy: By identifying the product with
the modern self. an "imaginary state of being" (Lears, 1983, p. 19), the
Some authors, such as Drinka (1984) and Van den ads sought to allay the customer's personal fears and feel-
Berg (1961), have suggested that as a consequence of the ings of inadequacy. "By the 1920s," Marchand (1985)
attempts to control "dangerous" impulses, new mental explained, "advertisers had come to recognize a public
problems developed in the middle and upper classes, most demand for broad g u i d a n c e . . , about taste, social cor-
notably hysteria and neurasthenia. Many other writers rectness, and psychological satisfaction . . . . Advertising
(e.g., Bernheimer & Kahane, 1985) have also suggested men had now become broader social therapists who of-
that the particular Victorian construction of gender and f e r e d . . , balms for the discontents of modernity" (pp.
identity, especially the conflict between the growing ethic 347, 360).
of modernity and the restrictiveness of women's roles, In the 1920s and 1930s, psychology began to forge
was prescriptively linked to the outbreak of hysteria. Sus- an alliance with business management that appeared to
man (1973) and Lears (1983) also argued that in the aid psychology's emergence as an independent social sci-
United States the strain of acting in a proper bourgeois ence discipline. As Brammel and Friend (1981) and Gil-
manner took a toll on spontaneity and expressiveness. lespie (1988) have suggested, the famous Hawthorne
What Leafs (1983) referred to as the therapeutic ethos experiments (Mayo, 1933; Whitehead, 1938) on worker
came into being in order to alleviate derealization and productivity led the way for an alliance that has not always
reintegrate seWnood in the upper classes (pp. 11-17). New been as scientifically objective as historians depicted. Asch
business roles developed, such as the preacher-therapist, (1983) and Scheibe (1988) have intimated that this alli-
who attempted to cure these new diseases by using the ance has led to laboratory psychology's quick rise to power
ideology that Meyer (1980) called positive thinking. The in American academia. As big business became increas-
advertising industry, which Lears thought was another ingly interested in using psychology to boost profits,
manifestation of "the therapeutic," attempted to cure by maximize worker productivity, and influence consumers,
implying that products would magically "transform" the new subfields of academic psychology emerged. Applied
customer's life. In order to do that, ads became progres- psychology was used in advertising, marketing, and per-
sively less informative and more evocative, associating sonnel work.

602 May 1990 • American Psychologist


The trend toward the waning of Victorian values, satisfied (Sampson, 1977, 1985). For this self there are
which began and increased in the first three decades of supposed to be no limits to achievement and enjoyment.
the century, appeared to have slowed somewhat during Middle-class Caucasians born in the baby boom era di-
the economic depression of the 1930s and World War II. rectly following World War II were told that they were
The concrete economic problems of unemployment and the privileged generation of the most privileged and pow-
hunger took precedence over the cynical and reckless self- erful country in the world (Marin, 1979).
absorption of the 1920s. Then, World War II effectively For the United States, one of the tasks of the 1950s
ended the Depression and provided an inescapable sense was to convert its powerful, international war machine
of realness. For a moment the ennui of the upper classes, into a viable, international peacetime economy. This was
which the therapeutic ethos had tried to cure, receded. not an easy task, and at times the country floundered in
Slowly, the fortunes of war began to change as the recessions (Goldman, 1960). Eventually it found a way
managers of big business and government learned how into postwar prosperity through the creation and use of
to develop and focus America's industrial power for the universal, easy credit (see Friedman, 1988; Malabre,
war effort. There began to emerge in the national con- 1987). Credit made the new economy go: personal credit,
sciousness a sense of the power and affluence that the business credit, and government credit. But credit for
United States would generate in the unknown postwar what?
future (Goldman, 1960). A new era was about to dawn. The increasingly powerful print and electronic media
The Post'WorM War H Era and Its Economy unleashed a flood of opinions about how post-World War
II families should spend their money. Countless ads, radio
In the decades immediately following World War II, the shows, and TV situation comedies portrayed a nation of
United States developed an economy that depended on postwar families that needed new homes. Indeed, large
the continual production and consumption of nones- suburban housing developments began transforming the
sential and quickly obsolete products, celebrities, and countryside. Advertisements portrayed a nation of new
experiences (Lowe, 1988). A new era with a new self families that needed modern, electronic "conveniences"
was beginning to emerge. Although the roots of this new in order to stay scientific and modern (see the popular
world reach back into the earlier decades of the 20th comic strip Gasoline Alley in 1949 for a good example
century, its distinctive character became fully formed in of these themes; e.g., the Los Angeles Times, particularly
the decades following the war (Goldman, 1960; Zinn, February 27, 1949; also January 2, 1949, and January 6,
1973). Authors such as Blum et al, (1973) have described 1949). New appliances appeared on the market and
an America that became highly urbanized and indus- transformed household chores. Because the homes and
trialized. In 1940 the urban population comprised 77% products were so expensive, young middle-class families
of the whole; by 1970 it comprised 95% (Blum et al., could not save enough cash to purchase them. Thus, credit
1973, pp. 441,808). In the post-War era writers such as became indispensable. The percentage of after-tax income
Fromm (1955) and Lasch (1984, 1978) have described that Americans have saved has decreased from a high of
a world in which flash .is valued over substance, oppor- 25.5% in 1944 to less than 2% by 1986 (Malabre, 1987,
tunism over loyalty, selling ability over integrity, and pp. 4, 21). In contrast, the Japanese rate is currently at
mobility over stability. The car transformed urban living, 30% of after-tax income. During that same span of time,
and postwar industrialization brought with it new busi- the volume of consumer installment loans rose from 5%
ness capacities and new technologies. The movie and of personal income in 1949, to 15% in 1979, to a record
music businesses became dominant, producing a new 20% by 1987 (Malabre, 1987, p. 27).
kind of star; not a hero, but a celebrity (Susman, 1973,
pp. 282-284). The Post-Worm War I I Era and the Empty Self
More and more the focus has come to rest on the I believe that after the war the configuration of the empty
individual (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton, self coalesced and finally became predominant as a con-
1985; Levin, 1987b; Zaretsky, 1976). People are living sequence oftbe loss of community and in order to match
ever more secluded and secular lives, foresaking even the the needs of the new economy. Without this particular
shrinking nuclear family. The percentage of American self, America's consumer-based economy (and its char-
households of seven or more persons declined from 35.9% ismatically oriented political process) would be incon-
in 1790, to 20.4% in 1900, to 5.8% in 1950. At the same ceivable. New discourses and practices such as the ad-
time, households with only one person rose from 3.7% vertising industry and the field of psychology were mod-
in 1790 to 9.3% in 1950--and to 18.5% in 1973. House- ified in order to respond to and further develop the new
holds with two persons rose from 7.8% in 1790 to 28.1% configuration of self (Ewen, 1989; Fox & Lears, 1983).
in 1950 (Kobrin, 1978, p. 71). Coincident with the decline Practitioners in both fields are placed in the position of
of the large, extended family unit, the individual self came being responsible for curing the empty self without being
to be seen as the ultimate locus of salvation: the evolving, allowed to address the historical causes of the emptiness
constantly: changing self, on a never-ending search ,for through structural societal changes.
self-actualization and "growth" (Liflon, 1968). Personal Authors such as Gendlin (1987), Lasch (1978), Leafs
fulfillment is seen to reside within the purview of the (1983), Liflon (1968), Rieff (1966), Susman (1973), and
individual, who is supposed to be self-sufficient and self- Taylor (1988) have observed that Americans in the post-

May 1990 • American Psychologist 603


World War II era came to need self-improvement in a of the self(i.e., narcissistic and borderline personality dis-
form and to a degree unknown before. As the individual's orders) are one of the more popular diagnoses of our time.
growth, enjoyment, and fulfillment became the single Heinz Kohut (1971, 1977, 1984) developed an entire the-
most valued aspect of life (Baumeister, 1987), several in- ory of psychotherapy based on the empty, fragmented
dustries grew up to minister to this newly created need. self. His theory was an attempt to explain how the self is
The cosmetics industry, the diet business, the electronic developed in the individual and how to treat it in order
entertainment industry, preventive medical care, and the to alleviate or lessen the effects of emptiness and frag-
self-improvement industry (containing mainstream psy- mentation. In a crucial aspect of psychological develop-
chology, pop psychology, and pop religion) all came into ment in Kohut's self psychology, the parent is psycho-
prominence. The technological advances in these fields logically "taken in" by the child and used to develop a
have been astronomical, as has their increasing power to self. He used the term selfobject to describe the undiffer-
influence and control the mainstream of American life entiated nature of the parent-child relationship. In anal-
(Lasch, 1978; Lears, 1983). ysis it is the therapist, functioning as a selfobject, who
But how does this new self-improvement industry initially fills the emptiness. Later in the treatment, the
work? What makes this network possible? Why do Amer- process Kohut (1977) called transmuting internalizations
icans "need" these items and experiences now when they is said to fill the emptiness by building the self of the
never did before? Again, I am speculating that it is the patient.
formation of the empty self that has made this situation The other major psychodynamic theory that has re-
possible; a sense of meaninglessness and absence feeds cently come to prominence is object relations theory
these businesses. The Western world and America in par- (Kernberg, 1975; Masterson, 1981). In general, object re-
ticular constructed a new type of bounded self that was lations theory posits the prominent self of our era, the
the perfect complement to the postwar economy built on bounded, masterful, individuated self, as has Kohut. But
a system of universal, worldwide credit. Credit is only for object relations theorists what fills the emptiness of
necessary when the individual's wish to buy outstrips his the self is not the selfobject experience but rather a whole
or her capital. Individuals do not wish to buy if they do cast of psychological introjects: representations of others
not perceive a need for a product. But with an empty self (their thoughts, feelings, and needs) and representations
people always need. of the thoughts, feelings, and needs of one's self at various
Inner emptiness may be expressed in many ways, stages of development (Ogden, 1986). The representations
such as low self-esteem (the absence of a sense of personal interact with one another and with the external world,
worth), values confusion (the absence of a sense of per- creating various dramas. What is important to note for
sonal convictions), eating disorders (the compulsion to the purposes of this article is that for object relations
fill the emptiness with food, or to embody the emptiness theorists the interior of the self is also an emptiness. It is
by refusing food), drug abuse (the compulsion to fill the a space partially filled by the stable self-representation
emptiness with chemically induced emotional experi- (the "true self") and by external "part-objects" brought
ences), and chronic consumerism (the compulsion to fill into the empty self through the psychological mechanism
the emptiness with consumer items and the experience of introjection.
of "receiving" something from the world). It may also Kohut's method of treatment in particular can be
take the form of an absence of personal meaning. This interpreted as an attempt to undo the historical circum-
can manifest as a hunger for spiritual guidance, which stances of our current isolation, to create a different con-
sometimes takes the form of a wish to be filled up by the text in which the growing self in the adult patient has a
spirit of God, by religious "truth," or the power and per- more nurturing environment. Kohut's work implies that
sonality of a leader or guru (Cushman, 1984). For in- our era needs this kind of therapy because children do
stance, one of the most au courant of New Age therapies not get enough empathic attention in the postwar world.
is channeling, an experience in which an individual is Why is it that we currently need this particular kind of
said to be entered by the soul or spirit of another "entity," parenting, one that has previously been rare or perhaps
usually thought to be a god, who then speaks "important nonexistent in Western history (Kessen, 1979, p. 815)?
truths." The wish to be spiritually filled up and guided In this less communal and certain world, perhaps signif-
can make the individual vulnerable to the deceptive prac- icantly more empathy and accurate reflecting is needed
tices of restrictive religious cults (Cushman, 1986), char- from parents because more traditional sources of guid-
ismatic political leaders (Kohut, 1976; Strozier, 1978), ance have been lost.
unethical psychotherapists (West & Singer, 1980), or even The construction of the empty self is, in fact, a prod-
highly authoritarian and controlling romantic partners uct of a central cultural paradox (Sampson, 1985). The
(Boulette & Anderson, 1986). self of our time is expected to function in a highly au-
tonomous, isolated way. To accomplish this it is thought
Psychoanalytic Theory and the Empty Self that the individual must develop an ability to be self-
The empty self has become such a prevalent aspect of soothing, self-loving, and self-sufficient (Fromm, 1956;
our culture that much contemporary psychotherapeutic Sampson, 1985). And yet in order to develop this type of
theory is devoted to its treatment. Levin (1987c) and self, many psychologists argue that one must have a nur-
Lasch (1978) among others have suggested that disorders turing early environment that provides a great deal of

604 May 1990 • American Psychologist


empathy, attention, and mirroring (Homer, 1984; Mas- cepted a therapeutic role by stepping into "a vacuum of
terson, 1981; Stem, 1985). Who is to provide this envi- advice . . . . created by new social and technological
ronment? If adults are self-serving, highly ambitious, complexities" (p. xxi). Writers such as Lears (1983) and
heavily bounded individuals, why would they choose to Modleski (1986) have argued that ads sell by convincing
undergo the self-sacrifice and suffering necessary to be the public that a certain product is indispensable to their
nurturing parents? Even with the best of intentions, em- well-being or by implicitly addressing or exacerbating a
pathic parenting is difficult to accomplish because many personal fear in the customer that could be reassured or
of the requisite traits have been constructed out of the soothed by purchasing the product.
self. According to Miller (1981), one possible result of Because emptiness is, in part, an absence of com-
this historical situation could be a group of parents in- munal forms and beliefs, individuals in the postwar era
adequate to such a demanding role and, thus, a generation are thus particularly vulnerable to influence from cultural
of offspring who have been narcissistically wounded. forms such as advertising that emanate authority and
Furthermore, this situation creates a significant gap certainty. A good case could be made that many current
between society's expectations of high self-sufficiency and advertisements (e.g., regarding body odor, hair color, or
the lessened ability of narcissistically wounded individuals life insurance) are less a type of benign guidance and
to achieve it. The awareness that they are falling short of more a kind of coercive attack. Ads seem to criticize and
society's central expectation is a further wound to the condemn the average consumer while glorifying the
self-esteem of young adults, increasing the dichotomy be- model, extolling a standard of beauty and mastery im-
tween their outward presentation of self and their internal possible to achieve. Advertising certainly does not address
sense of self. This dichotomy exacerbates a characteristic itself to the political causes of the customer's problems
symptom of narcissism, a sense of personal fraudulence (e.g., alienation and the loss of community); therefore, it
described as a "false self" that masks the frightened, hid- must turn to the refuge of what I will refer to as the life-
den "true self" (Masterson, 1981; Miller, 1981; Winni- style solution. Unable to effect lasting change by devel-
tort, 1965). Thus, even the current dichotomy between oping political solutions to the problems of modem life,
expectation and experience appears to be used in service advertising must offer an illusory cure. One prominent
of constructing the empty self. type of ad offers the fantasy that the consumer's life can
Although some of these observations are informed be transformed into a glorious, problem-free life--the
by Kohut's theory, I do not want to leave the impression "life" of the model who is featured in the ad. This can
that self psychology is somehow immune from the critique be accomplished by purchasing and "ingesting" the
developed in this article. I use Kohut's theory to interpret product, which will magically transfer the life-style of the
the current era because, like any popular psychological model to the consumer. By surrounding themselves with
theory, it is an artifact that both illuminates and distorts the accoutrements of the model, by ingesting the proper
the social world it purports to describe (Cushman, 1987). liquid while wearing the proper clothing, all the while
The criticisms that follow, especially the notion that psy- exhibiting the proper shape, customers seek to "become"
chological discourse not only describes but also actively the model. The customer's problems will simply disappear
prescribes the empty self, apply to Kohut as well as other when the magical transfer takes place.
contemporary theorists (Ehrlich, 1985; Sass, 1988b). The paraphernalia of a commercial model are, of
More specifically, Kohut has seemed particularly course, a poor substitute for the tools traditional cultures
vulnerable to charges that his belief in the natural, un- use for curing the sick. Geertz (1973) has described these
folding program of each unique self valorizes the indi- tools as the web of meaning, the array of stories, songs,
vidual's inner world at the expense of the external, ma- beliefs, rituals, ceremonial objects, costumes, and potions
terial world. Sass (1988b) has explained how Kohut's that heal by teaching and readjusting the society's cultural
thought is part of the Counter-Enlightenment and Ro- frame of reference. Because advertising cannot cure by
mantic traditions of the expressivist form of modem hu- invoking a workable web of meaning, I believe ads sub-
manism (p. 579). This branch of humanist thought has stitute the concept of life-style: the experiences and ma-
perpetuated what Taylor (1988) called a radical reflexivity. terial possessions that are identified with the celebrity or
The danger, according to Sass (1988b, p. 589), is that model.. It is a kind of mimicry of traditional culture for
such an extreme preoccupation with the inner self causes a society that has lost its own. In this way life-style is used
the social world to be devalued or ignored except to the as a pseudoculture--a pseudoculture that promises an
degree that it mirrors and thus becomes appropriated by instant, illusory cure, a "transformation."
the self. The social thus loses its impact as a material This hope of substituting one identity, one life, for
force, and social problems lose their relation to political another is used as the sales strategy for many products
action. Hence one sees the bumper sticker "Visualize today. Ewen (1989) has referred to this as "the consumable
World Peace." life, the buyable fantasy" (p. 85). Examples are numerous:
the yuppie Lowenbrau models who lift their bottles and
Advertising and the Life-Style Solution
say "Here's to good friends"; the working-class Old Mil-
In the second half of the century the empty self has made waukee drinkers who maintain "It doesn't get any better
it much easier for advertising to exert influence and con- than this"; the upper-class version that portrays a yacht-
trol. Marchand (1985) demonstrated how advertising ac- ing/equestrian "Cadillac style," or the ad that asks "What

May 1990 • American Psychologist 605


kind of a man reads Playboy?"; cigarette ads that feature cannot fully alleviate the symptoms unless it can treat
the Marlboro Man, Camel's man-beast who is a "smooth the cause (i.e., the political and historical constellations
character," or the Virginia Slims's model who has "come that shape the era), and yet that cause is the exact subject
a long way, baby"; and of course toothpaste and deodorant psychology is not allowed to address. Psychological ide-
ads that transform models with instant sex appeal and ology ignores it, and job descriptions exclude it.
popularity. These customers buy life-style in a vain at- Psychology, therefore, is caught in a historical bind
tempt to transform their lives because their lives are un- from which it cannot escape, a bind similar to that in
satisfying and (without massive societal change) ultimately which advertising is caught. I believe the feld's current
unfixable. But without the option of providing a viable solution to this bind is a creative adaptation of the same
solution through the vehicle of structural change, adver- life-style solution advertising uses. Psychotherapy prac-
tising can only offer the illusory exchange of one life for tices have subtly attuned to the empty self of our era by
another. unconsciously allowing or encouraging patients to incor-
This is a powerful illusion. And what fuels the il- porate the personal characteristics of the therapist, in-
lusion, what impels the individual into this illusion, is eluding his or her mannerisms, behavioral style, and per-
the desperation to fill up the empty self. Currently, the sonal values. Advertising uses the life-style solution in
self is not only suffering from feeling unreal, and thereby order to sell products; psychotherapy uses it in order to
somewhat passively hoping for a cure, as it did at the turn initiate patients into alternative cultural practices.
of the century. It is also aggressively, sometimes desper- Because psychotherapy grew out of the late 19th-
ately, acquisitive. It must consume in order to be soothed century scientific tradition, its ideology is built on the
and integrated; it must "take in" and merge with a self- foundation of a mechanistic, rationalistic biological model
object celebrity, an ideology, or a drug, or it will be in (Taylor, 1988) and the bounded, masterful Victorian self
danger of fragmenting into feelings of worthlessness and (Dreyfus & Wakefield, 1988; Rieff, 1966). Current psy-
confusion. choanalytic practice maintains this tradition through
This is why the life-style solution has become such ideas such as the abstinence principle, the concept of the
an efficient form of advertising, particularly in political economy of the libido, the self-object split, and the over-
campaigns. Kohutian social critics would argue that the riding importance of tracing the "genetic'" (i.e., original
life-styles portrayed in advertising have become larger- internal) causes of a symptom. Other psychotherapeutic
than-life, glamorous selfobjects. For those despairing and modalities, even those far removed from psychoanalytic
hopeless about their real lives, the wish to consume and theory such as Primal Therapy, Transactional Analysis,
take in a new identity, a new life, can he very compelling. and Bioenergetics, also share some of these tenets.
By using the right toothpaste or identifying with the most Although much psychotherapy discourse advocates
reassuring or powerful politician, consumers are thus co- the objective, scientistic uncovering and "working
vertly promised a magically different, transformed self. through" of genetic roots and traumatic causation within
The late 20th century has thus become an advertising the self-contained individual, I believe a strong case can
executive's dream come true: Life-style has become a be made that psychotherapy practices necessarily deviate
product that sells itself, and the individual has become a from that theoretical stance (Dreyfus & Wakefield, 1988,
consumer who seeks, desperately, to buy. p. 274; Kohut, 1977, pp. 251-261; 1984, pp. 106-110;
Singer, 1981). Let me suggest that, without the therapist
Psychotherapy and the Life-Style Solution being aware of it, practice deviates from normative dis-
Researchers such as Lears (1983), Wilson (1983), and course by allowing the therapist to function as a model
Susman (1973) have demonstrated that the same histor- for the patient, by providing corrective emotional expe-
ical context that gave rise to the advertising industry in riences of care, respect, and understanding, and by allow-
the United States has also shaped the field of psychology. ing the patient to "'take in" the therapist's ideas, values,
By using a mode of analysis similar to that which was and personal style. Some theories do explicitly refer to
applied to advertising, psychotherapy appears to be less this as the patients modeling themselves after, temporarily
a "scientific" cure and more a covert vehicle for cultural merging with, or introjecting the therapist. The objective
guidance and transmission. Individuals in the postmodern uncovering of genetic causation and the goal of individ-
era, without a cohesive community, are struggling to find uation are still the t~asic, consciously enacted activities of
sense and meaning in a confusing world, There is little much current psychotherapy. But an alternative inter-
to guide them, and they stumble and feel despair. Failure pretation of what happens behind the behavioral surface
is manifested in the particular mental problems of modern is that not only does the uncovering or understanding of
life, catalogued by the current psychiatric nosology (i.e., trauma and distortion occur, but that functions such as
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disor- modeling, guiding, and relatedness also occur and are
ders-Revised [DSM-III-R]; American Psychiatric As- indeed primary factors in the healing aspects of the mod-
sociation, 1987). em therapeutic hour.
Psychology is the social science most responsible for In 1966 Rieff suggested that historically there are
treating these illnesses. But the argument presented earlier commitment therapies that cure by returning individuals
has shown that psychology is also a product of the larger to their community's sacred forms, and analytic therapies
historical context that causes these illnesses. Psychology that cure by a detached, intellectual analysis of individuals

606 May 1990 ° American Psychologist


who are bereft of a viable communal tradition. I believe part by that particular formulation and by the political
that during the last 25 years the two therapeutic strategies and economic arrangements that construct it.
somehow have been combined. It is a particular combi- If this analysis is correct, therapy is helpful when it
nation of analytic and commitment therapy to which I deviates from the dominant discourse of the past and
am referring as the life-style solution. Most psychother- adheres to the life-style solution--not because of the nor-
apies claim they are healing by applying a detached, mative, scientistic psychotherapy discourse but in spite
scientistic analysis that has little to do with the trans- of it. The life-style solution carries out a small but nev-
mission of cultural guidance. But, by unconsciously of- ertheless subversive activity (i.e., compensating for cul-
feting the personal values and behavior of the therapist tural deficiencies through teaching and modeling); how-
as a model to be imitated by and incorporated into the ever, psychology undermines its helpful practices when
empty self of the patient, psychotherapy actually functions it wraps itself in the ideology of the status quo. Not only
as a substitute for more explicit, institutional forms of is this actually less than honest, but it undermines the
cultural transmission that have been lost or devalued. most therapeutic aspects of its practice because it does
Consequently, the most important function of cur- not acknowledge that they exist. Although therapy suc-
rent psychotherapy is that it offers an alternative attitude ceeds because it compensates for cultural absences in our
toward life (one of confidence and hope), alternative cul- society, it usually does not admit to doing so. In fact, by
tural values (respect for an individual's feelings and for outwardly adhering to the practices of an objective tech-
the importance of understanding, empathy, and psycho- nology and the ideology of self-contained individualism
logical insight), and alternative social practices (listening and the bounded self, writers such as Prilleltensky (1989),
to others, assertiveness, and honesty). Sometimes this Sampson (1988), Sass (1988a), and Taylor (1988) have
emphasis on guiding and modeling is overt (e.g., health argued that it perpetuates the social problems that caused
psychology emphasizes proper exercise and nutrition, and the patient's wounds in the first place. This paradoxical
many cognitive and family therapists make straightfor- situation undermines the helpful work of the therapy be-
ward behavioral assignments). Sometimes the emphasis cause it is unempathic (the therapist is choosing adherence
is covert (e.g., when and with what level of emotion a to an ideology over the needs of the patient), harmful (it
Rogerian therapist ventures a reflective formulation or a inflicts on patients the discourse by which they have pre-
psychoanalyst delivers a carefully thought-out interpre- viously been harmed), and ultimately counterproductive
tation). for our society as a whole (it reproduces the present power
The central point of my argument is that in a world hierarchy and economic structure that have caused our
sorely lacking in community and tradition, the most ef- present suffering).
fective healing response would be to address those ab- Second, the difference between discourse and prac-
sences through structural societal change by reshaping tice in the life-style solution is dangerous to the patient
political relationships and cultural forms and reestablish- because it increases the possibility of psychological, sex-
ing the importance of their transmission. Because that ual, and political abuse within the therapeutic setting and
avenue is closed for normative psychology, psychologists ultimately in society as a whole. The wish to overidealize
can only provide guidance and caring within the thera- and psychologically merge with an admired figure or the
pist-patient dyad. I think that this is done by employing experience of grandiosity and the pull to exhibit before
the life-style solution. Disorders of the self are thought and please the admired figure are exceedingly powerful
by theorists such as Atwood and Stolorow (1984), Homer psychological motives (Bollas, 1987; Kohut, 1977). These
(1984), Kohut (1977), and Miller (198.1) to be caused by impulses are regressive and destructive of critical thought.
an interpersonal environment that is disrespectful, psy- Under the best of circumstances in the therapy setting
chologically avoidant, unempathie, and punitive. The these urges can be discussed, understood, and ultimately
modeling of respect, psychological courage, and empathy used during transference analysis in service of the healing
therefore helps patients imitate, practice, and finally in- process. However, in the hands of poorly trained or power
ternalize the qualities they most need. Kohut has written hungry therapists, these urges can be encouraged, and the
extensively that disorders of the self produce a powerful power they give the therapist can be misused.
wish to psychologically merge with admired figures, to In the post-World War II era, the potential for the
take them into the empty self; if this is accurate, then this misuse and abuse of the selfobject-patient merger is high.
narcissistic wish greatly enhances the teaching-incorpo- Patients with disorders of the self are empty and hungry
rating aspects characteristic of the life-style solution. So for idealizing and merging and thus are in a highly sug-
the fit is a good one. gestible and vulnerable state. Their wish to be guided and
taken care of is one that can easily be exploited. This is
Abuse in Psychotherapy
particularly true when therapists have not been trained
However, there are some serious, perhaps dangerous, to recognize and understand narcissistic transference re-
problems inherent in this situation. As discussed earlier, actions, when their own needs for understanding and ap-
most psychotherapy discourse uses the dominant ideology preciation are so great that they try to elicit them from
of its era (the value of individualism and the transhistor- their patients, or when they themselves have been so
ical nature of the bounded, masterful, fully individuated wounded that they want to dominate and abuse their pa-
self) even though the patient's suffering is caused in large tients (Kohut, 1976).

May ' 1990 • American Psychologist 607


When these conditions are present, I believe the life- tendencies and the wish to be taken care of, loved, and
style solution becomes a tool of abuse. Therapists who guided. In this way well-conducted psychodynamic ther-
are hungry for adulation and power can easily create apies do in part guard against exploitive forms of the life-
overidealization and submission (whether it be psycho- style solution.
logical, sexual, or political) within the therapeutic setting. I am not arguing that an ethical use of the life-style
There are certain aspects of theory and practice that in- solution is wrong. I am arguing that it exists and that it
crease the likelihood of an abusive dynamic: extreme exists precisely because, given our historical moment, it
forms of the decontextualization of the individual provides some aid and comfort to a beleaguered people
(Sampson, 1981), the devaluation of and disrespect for in one of the few ways the present power structure tol-
the patient (Kohut, 1984; Wile, 1984), a belief in a uni- erates. However, even in its more helpful forms, the life-
versally "true" theory and a "perfect" technology (Riebel, style solution does not solve the larger historical bind in
1979), and the encouragement of overidealization and which psychology is caught. In fact, by ignoring the bind
compliance by misusing the transference (Cushman, and outwardly accepting society's expectations and psy-
1984). These techniques can be used to create or exac- chology's normative discourse, the life-style solution co-
erbate a patient's narcissistic crisis in order to use it in operates in further constructing the empty self, which
service of dominance and exploitation. The occurrence ultimately exacerbates the current broken historical mo-
of sexual exploitation of the patient within the therapy ment and reproduces the current political and economic
setting (Bouhoutsos, Holroyd, Lerman, Forer, & Green- arrangements of power and privilege.
berg, 1983; Holroyd & Brodsky, 1977) could be explained Where does this leave us? The task of this article
through this dynamic. The occurrence of emotional and was not to devise the "correct" therapeutic technology
financial exploitation and psychiatric damage within re- but to do what Furumoto (1988) has suggested, to inter-
ligious cults (Clark, 1983; Cushman, 1986; Singer, 1979) pret the collective mentality of our era. Perhaps other
and mass marathon psychology trainings (Cushman, studies will be able to devise more historically situated
1989; Haaken & Adams, 1983; Hochman, 1984; Ofshe and explicit therapeutic solutions to the problems of our
& Singer, 1986; Temerlin & Temerlin, 1982) could be time. Heidegger's concept of the clearing offers intriguing
similarly understood. possibilities. Boss (1963/1982), and more recently Ches-
Patients who experience an exploitive life-style ther- sick (1986), Dreyfus and Wakefield (1988), and Sass
apy or cult training feel as though they have been "trans- (1988a) have made promising steps in that direction.
formed." Rather than seeing themselves as historical
beings, embedded within the larger communal matrix
Conclusion
and their own personal history, they usually devalue their We are witnessing an important shift in the content of
communal ties and believe themselves to be "emanci- the bounded, masterful self of the 20th century, a shift
pated" from their earlier lives and former beliefs. This from a sexually restricted to an empty self. At the same
reproduces the isolation and moral confusion that are time there has been a shift from a savings to a debtor
among the greatest problems of our time. These ills must economy. The dual shift has not been a coincidence. It
then, somehow, be treated. By substituting an artificially is a consequence of how the modern nation state must
loving community and an authoritarian, self-sealing doc- currently regulate its economy and control its populace:
trine, restrictive groups and exploitive therapists soothe not through direct physical coercion, but rather through
the problems they have created or exacerbated. Thus, the construction of the empty self and the manipulation
exploitive forms of the life-style solution that promise of its needs to consume and ingest. Three beneficiaries
personal transformation should be recognized for what of this narcissistic dynamic are the modem state, the ad-
they are: iatrogenic illnesses. vertising industry, and the self-improvement industries
Fortunately, the vast majority of therapists do not (including psychotherapy). All three perpetuate the ide-
misuse the therapeutic setting in this way. But any amount ology of the empty self, and all three profit from it.
of abuse is too much abuse. The point is that because the One of the disquieting results of this constructionist
life-style solution is a covert and culturally syntonic so- perspective is the realization that our current era has con-
lution, the problems inherent in it, especially the oppor- structed a self that is, fundamentally, a disappointment
tunity for exploiting the patient, remain too often hidden, to itself (Sampson, 1983). We could also say that about
unacknowledged, and thus unaddressed. Because we our nation as a whole. The dynamic of our society revolves
cannot straightforwardly talk about the life-style solution, around a fundamental paradox. We are a nation whose
we cannot completely guard against its misuse. ethical idealism has often informed its actions, and yet
The emphasis placed on: drawing out and analyzing we are a nation that struggles with conflicting and mu-
the transference in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic tually exclusive ideals. From slavery to manifest destiny
psychotherapy can be interpreted as a way of addressing to Vietnam to the struggle over reproductive rights, we
some of the hidden aspects of the life-style solution, thus are often a nation at odds with itself. Now a new paradox
making them less dangerous and more easily guarded has arisen: One of the wealthiest nation on earth is also
against. The patient's secret wishes for the therapist as one of the emptiest.
parent, romantic partner, or mentor can be analyzed and Let us hope, as Sampson (1988) has, that in the years
deconstructed in order to more easily uncover idealizing ahead we can construct a society that is less in need of

608 May 1990 • American Psychologist


suffering and a self that is less a sacrifice to the nihilistic Foucauh: Reflections on resistance (pp. 87-117). Boston, MA: North-
economics and politics o f our time. But such changes eastern University Press.
Boss, M. (1982). Psychoanalysis and daseinanalysis. Jersey City, NJ:
would require developing a distance f r o m the current Da Capo. (Original work published 1963)
normative intellectual discourse regarding individualism, Bouhoutsos, J., Holroyd, J., Lerman, H., Fore~ B., & Greenbew, M.
the self, and the g o o d life. Psychology has been one o f (1983). Sexual intimacy between psychotherapists and patients.
the foremost contributors to that discourse. The field's Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14, 185-196.
historical insistence on a scientistic epistemology has ob- BoUleUe, T, & Anderson, S. (1986). "Mind control" and the battering
ofwomon. The Cultic Studies Journal, 3, 25-35.
scured the political nature o f its discourse. Psychology Brammel, D., & Friend, R. (1981). Hawthorne, the myth of the docile
has continued to decontextualize the individual, exam- worker, and class bias in psychology.American Psychologist, 36, 867-
ining the patient as an isolated entity without considering 878.
the larger sociohistorical causes o f personal distress. As Brandell, G. (1979). Freud: A man of his century Atlantic Heights, NJ:
Harvester Press.
a result, cultural absences and political wounds are "in- Clark, J. (1983). On the further study of destructive cultism. In D. A.
teriorized" (i.e., located in the self) and thus " b l a m e d " Halperin (Ed.), Psychodynamic perspectives on religion, sect, and cult
on the victim (Ryan, 1971). While psychologists have been (pp. 363-368). Boston, MA: John Wright PSG Ltd.
treating the e m p t y self, they have, o f necessity, also been Chessiek, R. (1986). Heideggerfor psychotherapists. American Journal
constructing it, profiting f r o m it, and not challenging the of Psychotherapy, 40, 83-95.
Cushman, P. (1984). The politics of vulnerability: Youth in religious
social arrangements that created it. cults. Psychohistory Reviev~, 12, 5-17.
Could psychology now become a helpful force, as- Cushman, P. (1986). The self besieged: Recruitment-indoctrination
sisting in the development o f a perspective on the mas- processes in restrictive groups. Journal for the Theory of Social Be-
terful, b o u n d e d self in opposition to the current system? havior, 16, 1-32.
Cushman, P. (1987). History, psychology,and the abyss: A construc-
Given the history o f the Western self, and the role o f tionist-Kohutian proposal. Psychohistory Review, 15, 29-45.
psychology within that history, it is doubtful. In order to Cushman, P. (1989). Iron fists/velvetgloves:A study of a mass marathon
accomplish this shift, psychology would have to acknowl- psychology training. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, &
edge the historically and culturally situated nature o f its Training, 26, 23-39.
discourse and the political and e c o n o m i c consequences Dreyfus, H., & Rubin, J. (1987, November). Augustineof Hippo. Paper
presented at the workshop, Inventing the modern self. Berkeley, CA.
o f its practices. We psychologists would have to rethink Dreyfus, H., & Wakefield, J. (1988). From depth psychologyto breadth
the entire way in which, to use Hales's (1986) phrase, we psychology:A pbenomenologiealapproach to psychopathology.In S.
c o n d u c t "the business o f psychology." Rethinking would Messer, L. Sass, & R. Woolfolk(Eds.), Hermeneutics andpsycho!ogical
necessitate a profound critique o f our field and our society, theory: Interpretive perspectives on personality, psychotherapy, and
psychopathology (pp. 272-288). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Uni-
and most o f us do not have the training to attempt such versity Press.
a task. But the integrity o f our profession, and possibly Drinka, G. (1984). The birth of neurosis: Myth, malady, and the Vic-
the viability o f o u r society, m a y depend on our success torians. New York: Simon & Schuster.
or failure. Ehrlich, R. (1985). The social dimension of Heinz Kohut's psychology
of the self. Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 8, 333-354.
~ N ~ Ewen, S. (1989). Advertising and the development of consumer society.
In I. Angus & S. Jhally (Eds.), Cultural politics in contemporary
Aeschylus. (1953). Oresteia (R. Lattimore, Trans.). Chicago: University America (pp. 82-95). New York: Routledge.
of Chicagu Press. (Original work produced 457 BC) Faulconer, J., & Williams, R. (1985). Temporality in human action: An
American Psychiatric Association. (1987). Diagnostic and statistical alternative to positivism and historicism. American Psychologist, 40,
manual of mental disorders (rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 1179-1188.
Asch, M. (1983). The self-presentation of a discipline: History of psy- Flexner, E. (1959). Century of struggle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni-
chology in the United States between pedagogy and scholarship. In versity Press.
L. Graham, W. Lepinies, & P. Weingart (Eds.), Functions and uses Foucault, M. (1970). The order of things: An archeology of the human
of disciplinary histories (pp. 143-189). Boston, MA: Reidel. sciences. New York: Random House.
Atwood, E., & Stolorow,R. (1984). Structures of subjectivity:Explorations Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and punishment: The birth of the prison.
in psychoanalytic phenomenology, HiUsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. New York: Vintage/Random House.
Augustine. (1986). Confessions (R. S. Pine-Coffin, Trans.). New York: Foucault, M. (1980). The history of sexuality. VolumeI: An introduction.
Dorset Press. (Original work produced 397) New York: Random House.
Baumeiste~ R. (1986). Identity: Cultural change and the struggle for Fox, R., & Leafs, 1".(Eds.). (1983). The culture of consumption: Critical
self. New York: Oxford University Press. essays in American history, 1880-1980. New York: Pantheon Books.
Baumeister, R. (1987). How the selfbecame a problem: A psychological Freud, S. (1953). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In J. Stracbey
review of historical research. Journal of Personality and Social Psy- (Ed. & Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological
chology, 52, 163-176. works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 7, pp. 231-243). London: Hogarth
Bellah, R., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. (1985). Press. (Original work published 1905)
Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life. Freud, S. (1961). Civilization and its discontents (J. Strachey, Trans.).
Berkeley: University of California Press. New York: Norton. (Original work published 1930)
Bernheimer, C., & Kahane, C. (Eds.). (1985). In Dora's case; Freud- Friedman, B. (1988). Day of reckoning: The consequences of American
hysteria-feminism. New York: Columbia University Press. economic policy under Reagan and after. New York: Random House.
Blum, J., Morgan, E., Rose, W., Schlesinger, A., Stampp, K., & Wood- Fromm, E. (1955). The sane society. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Books.
ward, C. (1973). The national experience: A history of the United Fromm, E. (1956). The art of loving: An inquiry into the nature of love.
States (3rd ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. New York: Harper & Row.
BOUas,C. (1987). The shadow of the object: Psychoanalysis of the an- Furumoto, L. (1988, August). The new history ofpsycholog£. Paper pre-
thought known. New York: Columbia University Press. sented as part of the B. Stanley Hall Lecture Series at the meeting of
Bordo, S. (1988). Anorexia nervosa: Psychopathologyas the crystalli- the American PsychologicalAssociation, Atlanta, GA.
zation of culture. In I. Diamond & L. Quinby (Eds.), Feminism and Gadamer, H. G. (1979). The problem of historical consciousness. In P.

M a y 1990 • A m e r i c a n Psychologist 609


Rabinow & W. Sullivan (Eds.), Interpretive social science: A reader Kohut, H. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: lntematienal
(pp. 103-160). Berkeley: University of California Press. Univ~ities Press,
Gecrtz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New Yore Basic Books. Kohut, H. (1984). How does analysis cure?Chicago: University of Chicago
Gendlin, E. (1987). A philosophical critique of the concept of narcissism: Press.
The significance of the awareness movement. In D. Levin (Ed.), Pa- Lasch, C. (1978). The culture of narcissism: American life in an age of
thologies of the modern self: Postmodern studies on narcissism, diminishing expectations. New York: W. W. Norton.
schizophrenia, and depression (pp. 251-304). New York: New York l.asch, C. (1984). The minimal self: Psychic survival in troubled times.
University Press. New York: Norton.
Gergen, K. (1973). Social psychology as history. Journal of Personality Leafs, T. (1981). No place of grace: Antimodernism and the transfor-
and Social Psycbology, 26, 309-320. mation of American culture, 1880-1920. New York: Pantheon.
Gergen, K. (1985). The social constructionist movement in modern psy- Leafs, T. (1983). From salvation to self-realization: Adverting and the
chology. American Psychologist, 40, 266-275. therapeutic roots of the consumer c~tlture, 1880-1930. In R. Fox &
Gergen, K. (1988). If persons are texts. In S. Messer, L. Sags, & R. T. Leafs ~ . ) , The culture of consumptiom Criticalessays in American
Woolfolk (Eds.), Hermeneutics and psychological theory: Interpretive history, 1880-1980 (pp. 1-38). New York: Pantheon Books.
perspectives on personality, psychotherapy, and psychopathology (pp. Levin, D. (1987a). Clinical stories: A modem self ifi~the fury of being.
28-51). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. In D. Levin (E&), Pathologies of the modern self: PoStmodern studies
Gillespie, R. (1988). The Hawthorne experiments and the politics of on narcissism, schizophrenia, and depression(pp. 479-537). New York:
experimentation. In J. Morawski (Ed.), The rise of experimentation New York University Press.
in American psychology (pp. i 14-137). New Haven: Yale University Levin, D. (Ed.). (1987b), Pathologies of the modern self."Postmodern
Press. studies on narcissism, schizophrenia, and depression. New York: New
Giorgi, A. (1970). Psychology as a human science. New York: Harper York University Press.
&Row. Levin, D. (1987c). Psychopathology in the epoch of nihilism. In D.
Giusberg, B. (1986). The captive public: How mass opinion promotes Levin (Ed,), Pathologies of the modern se~ Postmodern studies on
state power. New York: Basic Books. narcissism, schizophrenia, and depression (pp. 21-83). New York:
Goldman, E. (1960). The crucial decade--and after: America, 1945- New York University Press.
1960. New York: Vintage Books. Lifton, R. (1968). Protean man. Partisan Review, 33, 13-27.
Greenblatt, S. (1980). Renaissance self-fashioning. Chicago: University Logan, R. (1987). In K. Yardley & T. Honess (Eds.), Self and identity:
of Chicago Press. Psychosocial perspectives (pp. 13-26). Chichester, England: Wiley.
Haaken, J., & Adams, R. (1983). Pathology as "personal growth": A Low¢, D. (1982). History of bourgeois perception. Chicago: University
participant observation study of Lifespring training. Psychiatry, 46, of Chicago Press.
270-280. Lowe, D. (1988). Capitalism and the body. Unpublished manuscript.
Hales, S. (1986). Epilogue: Rethinkingthe business of psychology.Journal Malabre, A. (1987). Beyond our means: How reckless borrowing now
for the Theory of Social Behavior, 16, 57-76. threatens to overwhelm us. New York: Vintage Books.
HarrY, R. (1984). Personal being: A theory for individual psychology Marchand, R. (1985), Advertising the American dream: Making wayfor
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. modernity, 1920-1940. Berkeley: University of California Pres~
Hart6, R. (Ed.). (1986a). The social construction of emotions. Oxford: Matin, P, (1979, February). Spiritual obedience. Harper's, pp. 43-58.
Basil BlackweU. Masterson, J. E (1981). The narcissistic and borderline disorders: An
Harr6, R. (1986b). Social sources of mental content and order. In J. integrated developmental approach. New York: Bruner/Mazel.
Margolis, P. Manicas, R. H a r ~ & P. S¢cord (Eds.), Psychology: De- Mayo, E. (1933). The human problems of an industrial civilization. New
signing the discipline. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. York: Macmillan.
Heelas, P., & Lock, A. (Eds.). (1981). Indigenous psychologies: The an- Messer, S., Sass, L., & Woolfolk, R. (Eds.). (1988). liermeneutics and
thropology of the self. London: Academic Press. psychological theory: lnterprative perspectives on personality, psycho-
Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology and other therapy, and psychopathology. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
essays. New York: Harper & Row. (Original work published 1962) Press.
Henry, J. (1963). Culture against man. New York: Vintage Books. Meyer, D. (1980). Positive thinkers: Religion as pop psychology from
Hochman, J. (1984). latrogenic symptoms associated with a therapy Mary Baker Eddy to Oral Roberts (2nd ed.). New York: Pantheon
cult: Examination of an extinct "new psychotherapy" with respect to Books.
psychiatric deterioration and "brainwashing." Psychiatry, 47, 366- Meyer, J. (1986). Myths of socialiTation and of personality. In T. Heller,
377. M. Sosna, & D. Wellhery (Eds.), Reconstructing individualism: Au.
Holroyd, J., & Brodsky, A. (I 977). Psychologists' attitudes and practices tonomy, individuality, and the self in Western thought (pp. 208-22 l).
regarding erotic and nonerotic physical contact with patients. American Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,
Psychologist, 32, 843-849. Miller, A. (1981). Prisoners of childhood: How narcissistic parents form
Homer, A. (1984). Object relations and the developing ego in therapy. and deform the emotional lives of their gifted children. New York:
New York: Jason Aronson. Basic Books.
HuRon, P. (1988). Foncault, Freud, and the technologies of the self. In Modleski, T. (1986). Studies in entertainment: Critical approaches to
L. Martin, H. Gutman, & P. Hutton (Eds.), Technologies of the self." muss culture. Indianapolis: Indiana University Prem.
A seminar with Michel Foucault (pp. 120-144). Amherst, MA: Uni- Morawski, J. (1984). Historiography as a metatheorefical text for social
versity of Ma_~_ehusetts Press. psychology. In IL Gergen & M. Gergvn (Eds.), Historical social psy-
Kemberg, O. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. chology (pp. 37-60). Hillsdale, NJ: Erllmum.
New York: Aronson. Morawski, J. (1988). Impossible experiments and practical constructions:
Kessen, W. (1979). The American child and other cultural inventions. The social basis of psychologists' work. In J. Morawski(Ed.),The rise
American Psychologist, 34, 815-820. of experimentation in American psychology (pp. 37-60). New Haven:
Kobrin, E (1978). The fall in household size and the rise of the primary Yale University Press.
individual in the United States. In M. Gordon (Ed.), The American Morris, C. (1972). The discovery of the individual, 1050-1200. London:
family in social-historical perspective (pp. 69-81). New York: St. Camelot Press.
Martin's Press. Ofshe; R., & Singer, M. (1986). Attacks on periphta'al versus central
Kohut, H. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International elements of self and the impact of thought reforming techniques. Cultic
Universities Press. Studies Journal, 3, 3-24.
Kohut, H. (1976). Creativity, charisma, group psychology: Reflections Ogden, T. (1986). The matrix of the mind: Object relations and the
on the self-analysis of Frend. In J. Gedo & G. Pollock (Eds.), Freud: psychoanalytic dialogue. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Thefusion of science and humanism, PsychologicalIssues (Monograph prilleltensky, I. (1989). Psychology and the status quo. American Ps3~
34/35). New York: International Universities Press. chologist, 44, 795-802.

610 May 1990, A m e r i c a n Psychologist


Rabinow, P., & Sullivan, W. (1987). The interpretive turn. In P. Rabinow Brug~r (Ed.), Our selves~our past: Psychological approaches to
& W. Sullivan (Eds.), Interpretive social science: A second look (pp. American history (pp. 205-227). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins
1-30). Berkeley: University of California Press. Uniwnsity Press.
Riebel, L. (1979). Faisifiability, self-sealing doctrines, and humanistic The song of Roland (W. Merwin, Trans.). (1963). In Medieval epics (pp.
psychology. Humanistic Psychology Institute Review, 2, 41-59. 86-203). New York: Random House.
Rieff, P. (1966). The triumph of the therapeutic: Uses offaith after Freud. Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. psychoanalysis and developmentalpsychology. New York: Basic Books.
Riesman, D., Glazer, N., & Denny, R. (1953). The lonely crowd:A study Stigliano, A. (1989). Hermenentical practice. Saybrook Review,, 7, 47-
of the changing American character. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. 69.
Ryan, W. (197 l). Blaming the victim. New York: Vintage. Strozi¢~ C. (1978). Heinz Kohut and the historical imagination. Psy-
Sampson, E. E. (1977). Psychology and the American ideal. Journal of chohistory Review, 7, 36-39.
Personality and Social Psychology,, 32, 309-320. Susman, W. (1973). Culture as history: The transformation of American
Sampson, E. E. (198 I). Cognitive psychology as ideology.American Psy- society in the twentieth century. New York: Panthcxm Books.
chologist, 36, 730-743. Taylor, C. (1988). The moral topography of the self. In S. Messer, L.
Sampson, E. E. (1983). Justice and the critique of pure psychology. New Sass, & R. Woolfolk (Eds.), Hermeneutics and psychological theory:
York: Plenum. Interpretive perspectives on personality, psychotherapy,, and psycho-
Sampson, E. E. (1985). The decentrali~tion of identity: Towardsa revised pathology (pp. 299-320). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgexs University
concept of personal and social order. American Psychologist, 40, 1203- Press.
1211. Temerlin, M., & Temerlin, J. (1982). Psychotherapy cults: An iatro~nic
Sampson, E. E. (1988). The debate on individualism: Indigenous psy- perversion. Psychotherapy: Therapy, Research, and Practice, 19, 131-
chologies of the individual and their role in personal and societal 141.
functioning. American Psychologist, 43, 15-22. Trigg, R. (1985). Understanding social science: A philosophical intro-
Sass, L. (1987). Schreber's panopticism: Psychosis and the modern soul. duction to the social sciences. New York: Basil Blackwell.
Social Research, 54, 101-145. Trilling, L. (1971). Sincerity and authenticity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Sass, L. (1988a). Humanism, hermeneutics, and the concept oftbe human University Press.
subject. In S. Messer; L. Sam, & R. Woolfolk (Eds.), Hermeneutics Van den Berg, J. (1961). The changing nature of man: Introduction to a
and psychological theory: Interpretive perspectives on personality, psy- historical psychology. New York: W. W. Norton.
chotherapy, and psychopathology (pp. 222-271). New Brunswick, NJ: Welter, B. (1966). The cult of true womanhood. American Quarterly,
Rutgen University Press. 16, 151-174.
Sass, L. (1988b). The self and its vicissitudes: An archeological study of West, L., & Singer, M. (1980). Cults, quacks, and non-professional psy-
the psychoanalytic avant-garde. Social Research, 55, 551-607. chotherapies. In H. Kaplan, A. Freedman, & B. Sadock (F_As.),Com-
Scheibe, K. (1988). Metamorphoses in the psychologist's advantage. In prehensive textbook of psychiatry (Vol. 3). Baltimore, MD: Williams
J. Moraw~dd(Ed.), The rise of experimentalism in American psychology & Williams.
(pp. 53-71). New Haven: Yale University Press. Whitehead, T. (1938). The industrial worker (2 vols.). Cambridge, MA:
Schiebinger, L. (1987). Skeletons in the closet: The first illustrations of Harvard University Press.
the female skeleton in eighteenth-century anatomy. In C. Gallagher Wile, D. (1984). Kohut, Kernberg, and accusatory interpretations. Psy-
& T. Laquenr (F_As.),The making of the modern body: Sexuality and chotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, & Training, 22, 353-364.
society in the nineteenth century (pp. 42-82). Berkeley: University of Wilson, C. (1983). The rhetoric of consumption: Mass-market magazines
California Press. and the demise of the gentle reader, 1880-1920. In R. Fox & T Leats
Singer, M. (1979, January). Coming out of the cults. Psychology Today, (Eds.), The culture of consumption: Critical essays in American histo~
pp. 72, 75-76, 79-80, 82. 1880--1980 (pp. 41.-64). New York: Panthenn.
Singer, M. (1981, November). A brief history of therapeutic common Winnicott, D. (1965). The maturational process and the facilitating en-
sense. Paper presented at the workshop, The Active Therapist, Uni- vironment. New York: International Universities Press.
versity of California Extension, Berkeley, CA. Zaretsky, E. (1976). Capitalism, thefamily, and personal life. New York:
Smith-Rosenberg, C. (1981). The use and abuse ofillne~ in the James Harper & Row.
family circle: A view of neurasthenia as a social phenomenon. In R. Zinn, H. (1973). PostwarAmerica: 1945-1971. New York: Bobbs-Merrill.

M a y 1990 * A m e r i c a n Psychologist 611