The Wisdom of the Ego

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One of America's preeminent psychiatrists draws on his famous Study of Adult Development to give us an exhilarating look at how the mind's defenses work. What we see as the mind's trickery, George Vaillant tells us, is actually healthy. What's more, it can reveal the mind at its most creative and mature, soothing and protecting us in the face of unbearable reality, managing the unmanageable, ordering disorder. And because creativity is so intrinsic to this alchemy of the ego, Vaillant mingles his studies of ...

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Overview

One of America's preeminent psychiatrists draws on his famous Study of Adult Development to give us an exhilarating look at how the mind's defenses work. What we see as the mind's trickery, George Vaillant tells us, is actually healthy. What's more, it can reveal the mind at its most creative and mature, soothing and protecting us in the face of unbearable reality, managing the unmanageable, ordering disorder. And because creativity is so intrinsic to this alchemy of the ego, Vaillant mingles his studies of obscure lives with psychobiographies of famous artists and others—including Florence Nightingale, Sylvia Plath, Anna Freud, and Eugene O'Neill.

One of America's preeminent psychiatrists gives us an exhilarating look at how the mind's defenses work, how they evolve and change, and so, change us. In compelling portraits of obscure and famous lives, Vaillant charts the evolution of the ego's defenses, from the psychopathic to the sublime and from the mundane to the most ingenious.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Draws on the Study of Adult Development, based at Harvard U., to show how the mind's defenses work and how they evolve and change, how the maladjustments of adolescence can evolve into the virtues of maturity, and how creativity is intrinsic to this alchemy of the ego. Portraits of obscure and famous lives illustrate the themes of resilience and evolution. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674953727
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.47 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

George E. Vaillant is Professor of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Why Praise the Human Ego? 6
2 A Matter of Definition 28
3 Self-Deceptions of Everyday Life 76
4 Necessary Questions 96
5 How Can We Prove That Defenses Exist? 118
6 The Ego and Adult Development 141
7 Life Histories 175
8 The Ego and Creativity 203
9 Sylvia Plath: Creativity and Psychotic Defenses 231
10 Anna Freud: Mature Defenses 248
11 Eugene O'Neill: The Maturation of Defenses 266
12 Disadvantage, Resilience, and Mature Defenses 284
13 How Does the Ego Mature? 326
Notes 365
Acknowledgments 383
Credits 385
Index 387
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