The Wisdom of the Ego: Sources of Resilience in Adult Life

The Wisdom of the Ego: Sources of Resilience in Adult Life


By (author) George E. Vaillant

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  • Format: Paperback | 408 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 234mm x 28mm | 557g
  • Publication date: 21 July 1998
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 0674953738
  • ISBN 13: 9780674953734
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: 17 tables, 5 figures
  • Sales rank: 283,214

Product description

One of America's preeminent psychiatrists draws on his famous Study of Adult Development to give us a 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.

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Author information

George E. Vaillant is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Review quote

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 American Journal of Psychotherapy 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 Boston Sunday Globe 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. American Journal of Psychiatry Mental health, social fitness, creativity, self-deception, success and failure are documented with uplifting humor and nobility. Medical and psychiatric understanding is eruditely conveyed with the good taste of a fine after-dinner story. Canadian Medical Association Journal A stimulating presentation of theory and research on ego development. Choice

Table of contents

* Introduction *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? * Notes * Acknowledgments * Credits * Index