Joseph Weiss, 80, a San Francisco psychoanalyst whose research and theory deepened the understanding of how people change through psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, died Nov. 7 at his home of complications from lung cancer.
Weiss' interest in the psychoanalytic process began when he noticed that his mother cried at happy endings of movies instead of during the movie when painful situations were unfolding.
This observation led him to develop ideas that were central to his control mastery theory, which held that patients enter psychotherapy with an unconscious desire to replay their neuroses and test within the safe haven of the therapist's office the notions that led to their symptoms.
Weiss, who formed the theory with Dr. Harold Sampson, believed that if the therapist responded in ways that were counter to the patient's grim expectations, he or she would experience psychological growth.
He and Sampson also founded the Mount Zion Psychotherapy Research Group, now called the San Francisco Psychotherapy Training Center and Clinic.
Weiss moved to San Francisco in 1950 after graduating from Harvard in 1945 with a degree in mathematics and completing medical school at the University of Cincinnati.