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ARLOW, JACOB (1912-2004)

Jacob A. Arlow, American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, was born September 3, 1912 in New York, where he died May 21, 2004.

The youngest of three children, he was raised in modest circumstances in Brooklyn, New York. Subject to frequent childhood illnesses, he spent much time in reading and reflection. With his encyclopedic knowledge and superb intellectual endowment, he found his way to Freud's writings in his adolescence. Graduating from New York University at the age of twenty, he then earned his M.D., also from NYU. While in the United States Public Health Service, training in psychiatry, he planned his study of psychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. He was appointed a training and supervising analyst soon after his graduation in 1947. In 1960 he was elected president of the American Psychoanalytic Association and was elected Chairman of its Board of Professional Standards from 1967-1969. From 1963 to 1967 he served as treasurer of the International Psychoanalytic Association.

Jacob Arlow's teaching, presentations, lectures, seminars, and writing illuminated the different areas of psychoanalytic theory, technique, and applied analysis. His teaching was known for its clarity, consistency, and the force of his ideas. Emphasizing methodology and the importance of evidence, he advocated the objective marshaling and organizing of data after careful listening and contemplation. Arlow emphasized the close correlation of observation and inference with critical evaluation. His analytic ideas were lucidly expressed with attention to sound and silence, with apt metaphor. He regarded metaphor as central to clinical psychoanalysis. Arlow had an intense interest in the arts and humanities, and published many relevant psychoanalytic papers. Well versed in Jewish history, he was fluent in biblical Hebrew, a student of the Bible and its psychoanalytic interpretation.

The scope and depth Arlow achieved in his work are remarkable. He was the author of more than two hundred papers and a classic volume on structural theory, co-authored with Dr. Charles Brenner. He is regarded as one of the architects of American ego psychology, extending the concept of ego functions far beyond defense as originally formulated. Affects and moods were not simple drive derivatives, but had important regulatory functions, already indicated by Freud in the concept of signal anxiety.

In his later work he demonstrated a growing interest in psychoanalytic developmental theory. He contributed importantly to the psychoanalytic concept of unconscious fantasy and its clinical application. For Arlow unconscious fantasy was a compromise formation, which encompassed elements of both the internal world and external reality, including identifications with external objects. Unconscious fantasies could undergo alteration during different developmental phases, which would then effect changes in symptoms and character. Transference and counter-transference could best be understood in terms of their underlying unconscious fantasies. Arlow's papers included significant expositions of myth and the interrelationship of myth and culture. Myth was described as not only related to infantile unconscious fantasy, but also as a facilitator of the child's fitting into the particular cultural society in which he was reared.

Arlow's original contributions have left a permanent influence and in many respects transformed North American psychoanalytic theory and technique.

Harold P. Blum

See also: Allergy; Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association ; Ego psychology; New York Psychoanalytic Institute; Silence; Therapeutic alliance.


Arlow, Jacob A. (1961). Ego psychology and the study of mythology. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 9, 371-393.

. (1962). Conflict, regression and symptom formation. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 44, 12-22.

. (1969). Unconscious fantasy and disturbances of conscious experience. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 38, 1-17.

. (1979). The genesis of interpretation. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Supplement, 27, 193-206.

Arlow, Jacob A., and Brenner, Charles (1964). Psychoanalytic concepts and the structural theory. New York: International Universities Press.

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Arlow, Jacob (1912-2004)

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