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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.
Vaillant tells us that ego defenses are not pathological formations or symptoms of mental illness. They are ingenious self-deceptions that serve adaptation...He is to be commended for bringing certain unconscious processes into focus and for illuminating the various ways in which ego defenses contribute to a person's adaptation to life.
— Louise J. Kaplan
The rumor of the death of Ego Psychology is greatly exaggerated. As long as George Vaillant writes his engaging books extolling the wisdom of ego psychology it is destined to remain part of our theoretical landscape...The Wisdom of the Ego is written with the author's vivid, sometimes witty and consistently clear style, happily interspersed with numerous examples both from his longitudinal studies, as well as from biographies of well-known people...One need not agree with all of Vaillant's premises to appreciate and enjoy this colorful and many-faceted book. I cannot think of a better, more absorbing book to introduce clinical graduate students and clinicians in general to an up-dated version of the best ideas of ego psychology.
— Sophie Freud
The thesis of The Wisdom of the Ego is most persuasively developed by the use of life histories, some of which derive from subjects in Vaillant's study groups but many of which are derived from life histories of famous individuals. The reader gets delicious insights into the way that life experiences shaped the ego's defensive repertoire and how these defenses then shaped the careers of characters as diverse as Beethoven and Emily Dickinson, Tolstoy and Henry Ford, and Gandhi and Josef Mengele...The illustrations offered by these famous lives result in a book that is entertaining and memorable.
— John G. Gunderson, M.D.