Heinz Hartmann

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Heinz Hartmann

Heinz Hartmann (November 4, 1894 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary – May 17, 1970 in Stony Point, New York), was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He is considered one of the founders and principal representatives of ego psychology.


Hartmann was born to a Jewish family[1] known for producing writers and academics. His own father was a professor of history, and his mother was a pianist and sculptor. After completing secondary school he entered the University of Vienna, where he received his medical degree in 1920. His interest was in Freudian theories.

The death of Karl Abraham prevented Hartmann from following the training analysis he had envisioned with him, and instead he undertook a first analysis with Sándor Radó. In 1927 he published Grundlagen der Psychoanalyse (The Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis) foreshadowing the theoretical contributions to ego psychology he would later make.[2] He also participated in the creation of a manual of medical psychology.

Sigmund Freud offered him free analysis if he stayed in Vienna just as he was offered a position at the Johns Hopkins Institute. He chose to enter into analysis with Freud and was noted as a shining star amongst analysts of his generation, and a favourite pupil of Freud's.[3]

In 1937, at the Viennese Psychological Society, he presented a study on the psychology of ego, a topic on which he would later expand on and which became the foundation for the theoretical movement known as ego-psychology.

In 1938 he left Austria with his family to escape the Nazis. Passing through Paris and then Switzerland, he arrived in New York in 1941 where he quickly became one of the foremost thinkers of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. He was joined by Ernst Kris and Rudolph Loewenstein, with whom he wrote many articles in what was known as the ego-psychology triumvirate.[4]

In 1945 he founded an annual publication The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child with Kris and Anna Freud; while in the 1950s he became the president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) and after several years of his presidency, he received the honorary title of lifetime president.

Writings and influence[edit]

1922 saw the publication of Hartmann's first article, on depersonalization,[5] which was followed by a number of studies on psychoses, neuroses, twins, etc.

In 1939, Hartmann, in what Otto Fenichel called "a very interesting paper, tried to show that adaptation has been studied too much from the point of view of mental conflict. He points out that there is also a 'sphere without conflict' "[6] – something that would be repeatedly emphasized in ego-psychology. In the same year, in "Psychoanalysis and the Concept of Health", he made an impressive contribution to defining normality and health in psychoanalytic terms.[7]

The subsequent development of ego-psychology within psychoanalysis, with its shift from instinct theory to the adaptive functions of the ego has been seen as allowing psychoanalysis and psychology to move closer to each other.[8] Ego-psychology became in fact the dominant psychoanalytic force in the States for the next half-century or so, before object relations theory began to come to the fore.[9] It formed the basis and starting-point for the self psychology of Heinz Kohut, for example, which both opposed and was rooted in Hartmann's theory of libido.[10]


Jacques Lacan focused much of his ire on what he called "'ego psychology' à la Hartmann...as a repudiation of psychoanalysis"[11] – taking issue with its stress on the conflict-free zone of the ego and on adaptation to reality.[12]

Nevertheless, it is clear all the same that ego psychology has a genuine Freudian ancestry, even if it cannot be seen as its sole heir.[13]

Select bibliography[edit]

  • Heinz Hartmann, Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation (1939)
  • Heintz Hartmann, Essays on Ego Psychology (1964)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abraham Ascher, A Community Under Siege: The Jews of Breslau Under Nazism, Stanford University Press (2007), p. 40
  2. ^ Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (London 1988) p. 540.
  3. ^ Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (Penguin 1964) p. 651.
  4. ^ Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (London 1988) p. 4.
  5. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 623
  6. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 52.
  7. ^ Fenichel, p. 581.
  8. ^ Richard Gregory, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Mind (Oxford 1987) p. 211.
  9. ^ Gregory ed., p. 270–271.
  10. ^ Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (London 1993) p. 107.
  11. ^ Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection (London 1997) p. 238 and p. 127.
  12. ^ David Macey, "Introduction", Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (Penguin 1994) p. xxi.
  13. ^ Macey, p. xxi.

External links[edit]