By Dr. Robert W. Firestone
Early in my life, I decided that I wanted to make an important contribution to humankind and be of value to others. I have sought to realize this goal through my involvement in the field of psychology. As I said in the Introduction, for fifty years I have been absorbed in developing my understanding of resistance in psychotherapy and of people’s resistance to a better life in general. I have studied this subject in various populations ranging from extreme psychotics to neurotic patients in psychotherapy to a normal population of comparatively high-functioning individuals. The theory and methodology that have emerged from this work are at the core of my legacy. My contribution to the psychological literature is multi-faceted.
I developed my own theoretical approach, Separation Theory, which integrates psychoanalytic and existential concepts in psychology in a manner that lends itself to an effective approach to psychotherapy. In the process, my associates and I have contributed to an understanding of how social structures and cultures are formed from individual psychological defenses against both interpersonal pain and death anxiety. I have described how the denial of death and various other illusions and self-protective adaptations to death anxiety lead to limitations in living. In the course of my investigations, I have identified the basic defense mechanisms that adversely affect personal relationships, society and issues of morality in everyday life.
Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, author, and artist, has established a comprehensive body of written work that is focused on the concept that defenses formed by individuals early in life tend to impede the individuation process, often impair their ability to sustain intimate adult relationships, and can have a damaging effect on their children. The primary emphasis of Dr. Firestone’s theory development has centered on the study of resistance in psychotherapy and combines a challenging blend of psychoanalytic and existential ideas. His complete body of work is a valuable contribution to the field of psychology and, taken as a whole, is a fully realized “paradigm” of what it means to be fully human.
R.W. Firestone was born in Brooklyn in 1930, the son of a doctor and a fashion designer. In those two sensibilities one can trace the beginnings of his diverse interests. From his father, the community G.P., on call at all hours of the day and night, he received his first exposure and appreciation for a life devoted to service. The comings and goings of the myriad of patients through his father’s home office was certainly a spark in Firestone’s lifelong interest and commitment to people. His mother’s career as fashion designer in New York was an early important influence on his developing artistic sensibilities.