Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought

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A volume of six public lectures given in 1956 as part of the celebrations of the centenary of Freud's birth, organised by the British Psycho-Analytical Society.

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1. Psycho-Analysis and the Sense of Guilt

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By DONALD W. WINNICOTT, F.R.C.P.

IN this lecture I shall reach to no more profound statement than that of Burke who wrote two hundred years ago that guilt resides in the intention. The intuitive flashes of the great, however, and even the elaborate constructs of poets and philosophers, are lacking in clinical applicability; psycho-analysis has already made available for sociology and for individual therapy much that was previously locked up in remarks like this one of Burke.

A psycho-analyst comes to the subject of guilt as one who is in the habit of thinking in terms of growth, in terms of the evolution of the human individual, the individual as a person, and in relation to the environment. The study of the sense of guilt implies for the analyst a study of individual emotional growth. Ordinarily, guilt feeling is thought of as something that results from religious or moral teaching. Here I shall attempt to study guilt feeling, not as a thing to be inculcated, but as an aspect of the development of the human individual. Cultural influences are of course important, vitally important; but these cultural influences can themselves be studied as an overlap of innumerable personal patterns. In other words, the clue to social and group psychology is the psychology of the individual. Those who hold the view that morality needs to be inculcated teach small children accordingly, and they forgo the pleasure of watching morality develop naturally in their children, who are thriving in a good setting that is provided in a personal and individual way.

 

2. Psycho-Analysis and Child Care

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By JOHN BOWLBY, M.A., M.D.

PERHAPS no other field of contemporary thought shows the influence of Freud’s work more clearly than that of child care. Although there had always been those who had known that the child was father to the man and that mother-love gave something indispensable to the growing infant, before Freud these age-old truths had never been the subjects of scientific inquiry; they were therefore readily brushed aside as unvalidated sentimentality. Freud not only insisted on the obvious fact that the roots of our emotional life lie in infancy and early childhood, but also sought to explore in a systematic way the connection between events of early years and the structure and function of later personality.

Although, as we all know, Freud’s formulations have met with much opposition—as recently as 1950 eminent psychiatrists were telling us that there was no evidence that what happens in the early years is of relevance to mental health—today many of his basic propositions are taken for granted. Not only do we find popular journals like Picture Post telling its public that ‘the unhappy child becomes the unhappy neurotic adult’ and that what is important is ‘the behaviour of those amongst whom a child grows up; … and, in the earliest years, especially the behaviour of the mother’ (1); but these views are echoed in the publications of Whitehall. The Home Office in describing the work of its Children’s Department notes that ‘A child’s past experiences play a vital part in his development, and continue to be important to him …’ and advises that ‘The aim should be to secure as far as possible that each baby is cared for regularly by the same person’. (2) Finally there is a report (3) prepared by a committee appointed by the Minister of Education which deals comprehensively with all the problems of the maladjusted child. It bases its recommendations uncompromisingly on such propositions as ‘Modern research suggests that the most formative influences are those which the child experiences before he comes to school at all, and that certain attitudes have by then taken shape which may affect decisively the whole of his subsequent development’, and ‘Whether a child is happy and stable in this period (later childhood), or unhappy and out of step with society or with his lessons, largely depends on one thing—the adequacy of his early nurture’. In celebrating the centenary of the birth of the founder of psycho-analysis it is fitting that we should record this revolution in contemporary thought.

 

3. Psycho-Analysis and the Teacher

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By ILSE HELLMAN, PH.D.

WHEN in this lecture I try to show the part psycho-analysis can play for the teacher, it will not be done with the conviction that knowledge of psycho-analytic theory is indispensable for good teaching. There have been wonderful teachers throughout the ages, and there are wonderful teachers today, who have no knowledge of psycho-analysis; just as there have been parents at all times who were able to give their children what they needed without having to learn about their needs first. Equally, progress in educational theory and practice has taken place long before the age of psycho-analysis. Right through the history of education the process can be traced which has slowly led to the view that the teacher’s work is not confined to imparting knowledge of certain facts and skills. All of the famous educators of the past, however differently they may have approached the task or expressed themselves, have had the aim of convincing teachers that the child himself must be the centre of the educational process.

 

4. Psycho-Analysis and Art

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By MARION MILNER, B.SC.

WHAT is art? And what is genius in art? When I set out to prepare this lecture I intended to try to select out of writings on art, both by analysts and non-analysts, whatever might point the direction towards an answer to these questions. I read many books and technical papers on both sides. On the non-analysts’ side, for instance, I read Berenson, Kenneth Clarke, William Empson, Gombrich, Susanne Langer, Maritain, Andre Malraux, and Herbert Read. On the analysts’ side I read Freud, Ernest Jones, Ella Sharpe, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Balint, Fairbairn, Kris, Hanna Segal, Rycroft, and many others. I also read two who are not analysts but who are identified with the analytic approach— Ehrenzweig and Adrian Stokes. Of course I soon found what an enormous task of digestion I had set myself. Instead of my mind being full of ideas about what art is, it felt a complete blank, so that it seemed quite impossible to achieve any sifting of the various ideas presented by all these writers. Gradually, however, after many weeks, instead of fighting the blankness I became able to accept it. And then I found that certain ideas about what I had read began to emerge of their own accord.

 

5. Psycho-Analysis and Philosophy

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By R. MONEY-KYRLE, M.A., PH.D.

MOST sciences have their roots in philosophy, and academic psychology is no exception to this rule. It was, in fact, the last to break away and become an independent discipline. But psycho-analysis—that new science created by Freud— sprang from medicine rather than from academic psychology. Probably for this reason, philosophers and psychoanalysts have so far taken little interest in each other’s work. And what interest there was at the beginning tended to be more hostile than co-operative. Of course there were always exceptions; but, on the whole, philosophers, so far as they took notice of psycho-analysis at all, condemned its basic concepts as muddled and self-contradictory. And analysts silently responded by dismissing philosophy, or at least classical philosophy, as a symptom of obsessional neurosis. I think both criticisms exaggerate an element of truth which each side has gradually become more able to admit. If so, perhaps the time is ripe for more co-operation. I believe philosophy can be useful to the analyst—particularly in his attempts to reconstruct the development of the child’s picture of the world. And a psycho-analytic approach to some problems of classical philosophy could be of interest to the philosopher. So I should like to say something— if only tentatively—about both, beginning with the second.

 

6. Psycho-Analysis and the Current Economic Crisis

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By ELLIOTT JAQUES, M.A., M.D., PH.D.

THE centenary of Sigmund Freud comes at a time of perplexing economic uncertainty. We have the spectacle of apparently irrational and self-destructive economic impulses at work causing inflation. This state of affairs would surely have attracted Freud’s scientific attention. Despite government exhortation, wage spiralling continues. And despite the fact that each wage increase no longer means any very real consequent gain in standard of livings there is no immediate sign of abatement of wage pressure.

One of the very important factors causing self-control of our economic relations to elude us is the perpetual conflict between rival wage-earning groups and between economic classes. The outcome of this conflict is to restore an unrecognised and unspecified, but nevertheless very delicate, balance in the level of our money-incomes relative to each other. The potency of this rivalry between us, arising in one region after another because of repeated disturbances in the pattern of real money differentials between groups, has become a menace to our economic survival.

 

7. A Character Trait of Freud's

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By JOAN RIVIERE

ALWAYS one of the most interesting things to me about Freud was his writing; I met him first in his writings before I knew him. You get an impression of the man from them, quite apart from the impression their content makes on you. As is well known, his style and presentation are very different from that of most scientific writers. (Actually, Freud’s writings do vary and are of more than one description, but I am speaking now of the style which predominates and characterises the main volume of his work.) Its general character is not only direct and plain-spoken—simple statements without padding—but in particular it conveys vividly an awareness of his readers or hearers, as if he were speaking directly to them, and were concerned to put forward his views in a form intelligible to them. The structure of his argument is not built up in a vacuum, as it were; it has a direct reference to the reader; he is addressing you. There is a personal quality, a personal relation, implicit in his style. When I came to know Freud himself, however, I found that he did not appear especially interested in impressing himself on people or in seeking to convince others of his views. We know that he needed the support of an outside recognition and the acceptance of his work; he hoped for it, but in everyday life he appeared to take no direct steps to obtain it. There seemed to be a paradox here: on the one hand he had no strong impulse to influence others, to teach or convince them—not even in fact a marked interest in curing them, as he has told us; the aim of impressing himself on people seemed to be lacking or minimal in him. Yet he had developed this special capacity for presenting his conclusions as if he were bent on enabling the reader to take them in—so much so that it colours his whole style and gives the presentation a simplicity and lucidity (often when the content is obscure) that is peculiar to him and most rare in such work.

 

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