Penn State

Kenneth N. Levy - associate professor of psychology, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Attachment and Loss: Attachment Volume 1

Author: John Bowlby

Book Description:

It was difficult to choose a single book that has special meaning to me because so many books and journal articles have influenced my thinking and the course of my work. I thought about choosing Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams or Psychopathology of Everyday Life because these were my first forays into exploring the inner workings of the mind. Or maybe Freud’s Collected Works because then I could write about the importance of his visionary manuscript entitled Mourning and Melancholia. In my senior year of my undergraduate studies, I read an article by the Viennese-born, South American-raised, now American psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg on the depressive character. His rich and thorough description of the dynamics of depression excited me to no end. Kernberg's writing combined the complexity of the psychodynamic tradition with the rigor and description of Krapelinian psychiatry, both of which appealed to me (although how to integrate them eluded my limited skills at the time). Kernberg provided a model for such a complex integration, which I have tried to emulate in my own work. Kernberg’s article led me to read a number of his books including Severe Personality Disorders, Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism, and Internal World and External Reality. All three books were central in shaping my intellectual development. Around this time, I was also exposed to Sid Blatt’s work (a Penn State graduate in 1950 and 1952) on personality, depression, and mental representations in a classic article published in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Sid’s work set my mind afire.

However, it was John Bowlby’s book titled Attachment and Loss: Attachment, Volume 1 (the first in a trilogy) introduced to me by Phil Shaver, which may have provided the most far reaching influence on my work. In Attachment and Loss Bowlby provided not only a theory of motivation that integrated the basic tenets of psychoanalysis with contemporary science, but it also supplied a comprehensive conceptual and modern empirical framework for testing psychoanalytic ideas and hypotheses. Bowlby’s attachment theory allowed me to integrate ideas articulated by Kernberg and Blatt with contemporary social, developmental, and intervention science. Both my master’s thesis and my dissertation examined an integration of Blatt, Shaver, and Bowlby’s work and my current research integrates Bowlby’s attachment theory with that of Kernberg. I am grateful to Bowlby, Shaver, Blatt, and Kernberg for providing such rich and vital ideas for examination and to build upon.

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