The Privacy of the Self

The Privacy of the Self: Papers on Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique by M. Masud R. Khan, 3/5

The amount of material in these papers that I didn’t understand could fill a book…and it did.  Since I only had The Privacy of the Self for a one-week interlibrary loan, I didn’t have the luxury of pondering and re-reading any of it (though it is somewhat debatable to what degree more time would actually have helped my comprehension). At any rate, I could only gain the most cursory understanding of the main points, leaving behind many difficult sentences such as the following classic: “The dissociation of such a primitive ego-ideal system, with its primitive id cathexes and archaic object-relationships, precludes ‘the process of integration and generalization’ (ibid., 1962), that is essential for the formation of a healthy ego-ideal” (197).

Despite the difficulty of much of the material, there were bits I was able to understand at some level and the case studies were interesting.  Perhaps the best thing I got out of the book (besides the meaning of the fantastic word “aetiology”) was a better understanding of Freud’s value in a historical sense.  I have always been deeply repulsed by Freud’s theories and reading his The Ego and the Id made me think of him even more as a human-shaped pile of bullshit.  This opinion contrasted with Khan’s evident respect and admiration for the man.  It was interesting to learn that Freud invented the very framework of the analytic setting and to understand that his attempts at self-analysis (whether successful or not) were both intellectual and admirable.

My main complaint about this book is that Khan quotes excessively from previously published sources and seems to have little to contribute that is original.  The Privacy of the Self comes across as a sort of vain, self-published affair, that does not fit in the categories of scholarly writing or academic research.  Perhaps this is an inevitable reflection of the controversial scientific standing of the whole theory of psychoanalysis.


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