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January 1972

On the Incapacity to Love: A Psychotherapeutic Approach to the Problem in Adolescence

Author Affiliations

From the Institute for Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Research and Training, Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, Chicago.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972;26(1):3-7. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1972.01750190005002

A series of adolescent patients complained of a feeling of being unable to adequately love and thereby miss out on something. The thesis is that these patients were indeed missing something, but it more properly was to be considered a missing bit of psychic structure; other people were used primarily as specific psychological structures rather than loved for their own qualities. Treatment of these narcissistic individuals focuses on delineation of their narcissism in a nonjudgmental way utilizing the transference to demonstrate the use of the therapist as a regulator of self-esteem. Psychotherapy is effective with the acceptance of a relative paucity of object love and a necessary use of others. It is suggested that more narcissistic problems may be seen currently because periods of rapid social change do not allow for phase-specific nontraumatic disillusionment in overidealized parents, and old aspects of grandiose behavior thereby persist.

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