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 othersincluding Florence Nightingale, Sylvia Plath, Anna Freud, and Eugene O'Neill.
George E. Vaillant is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Table of Contents
1. Why Praise the Human Ego?
2. A Matter of Definition
3. Self-Deceptions of Everyday Life
4. Necessary Questions
5. How Can We Prove That Defenses Exist?
6. The Ego and Adult Development
7. Life Histories
8. The Ego and Creativity
9. Sylvia Plath: Creativity and Psychotic Defenses
10. Anna Freud: Mature Defenses
11. Eugene O’Neill: The Maturation of Defenses
12. Disadvantage, Resilience, and Mature Defenses
13. How Does the Ego Mature?
What People are Saying About This
A richly textured, elegantly written, and humane book by the person who is becoming the Anna Freud of his day. Vaillant's sympathetic treatment of the defenses is itself wise and creative. Robert Kegan, Harvard University and the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
John C. Nemiah
This is a brilliant, not to say unique, book. It brings to the study of the ego the same clarifying empiricism, animating passion, and illuminating insight that so strikingly characterized the pioneering investigations of the dynamic unconcious a hundred years ago. Behind The Wisdom of the Ego lies the wonderful wisdom of George Vaillant. John C. Nemiah, Darmouth Medical School
George W. Goethals
This is a remarkable synthesis of the best current thinking on ego psychology as well as a many-faceted picture of what Robert White would call 'lives in progress.' It makes on its own not only a highly innovative contribution to ego psychology but an equally original and impressive contribution to longitudinal research. A remarkable and many-faceted work. George W. Goethals, Harvard University