From Psychoanalysis to Group Analysis: The Pioneering Work of Trigant Burrow

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This volume gathers a selection of psychoanalytic and group analytic essays by Trigant Burrow (1875-1950), precursor of group analysis and co-founder of the American Psychoanalytic Association. They show the development of the relational orientation in psychoanalysis, and the origin and evolution of group analysis, namely, from drive to the relation and the group processes as the person's structure.The events that led Burrow from psychoanalysis to group analysis, the censorship of the psychoanalytic orthodoxy, the silence of group analysis and the distortions of historiography are reported in the editors' introductory essay.The book presents the richness and originality of the theoretic, clinical, and methodological themes developed by Burrow either in the psychoanalytic or the group analytic fields. Such themes are still questioned and the object of study, among which stands out for its topicality the Principle of Primary Identification of the infant with the mother which Burrow connected to the study of narcissism, homosexuality, and incest, besides the relativity of consciousness which implies the abrogation of the absolutistic conception inherent in the observation as a mirror of reality, and the observer-analyst's neutral position.The book represents a work of significant value on the historical, epistemological, theoretic-clinical-methodological, and social aspect, as it evidences the relevancy and topicality of Burrow's research, from which one may draw new clinic-theoretic proposals to face the unsolved problems of our time.

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Chapter One - Psychoanalysis and Life (1913)



Psychoanalysis and life*

“Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness”

(Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of
Immortality from Recollections of
Early Childhood)

The rudiments of the mental life lie in the organic reactions of the unborn child. At first merely vegetative, later physiological, or functional, as we say, there finally occurs in the developing embryo a gradual unification of the scattered elements within the organism, representing a synthesis of function which we might call the primary, organic, mental life. It is organic because the psychic life of an organism, which is nothing more than a register of sensations that inhere within itself, being purely passive, receptive, and afferent, belongs upon a very low evolutionary plane. It is primary because the state of consciousness in this embryonic stage of development is simple, elemental, and homogeneous, the mental life in this early organic mode representing the primary matrix of consciousness. Here, then, in this mode which I shall call the “preconscious”, is presented a phase of development in which the psychic organism is at one with its surrounding medium. Here, consciousness is in a state of perfect poise—of stable equilibrium. Here, at its biological source within the maternal envelope, this organic consciousness is so harmoniously adapted to its environment as to constitute a perfect continuum with it.


Chapter Two - Character and the Neuroses (1914)



Character and the neuroses*

When we consider the sentiments, the interests, the general attitude of mind, the qualities of heart—in brief, the personality of the individual who, choosing to live his span of days within the cramped and gloomy walls of his self-appointed cell, has set around himself the barriers constitutive of the system of defence which we know as the neurosis, we find certain broad characterological trends that are of interest in their logical relation to that central factor which the fundamental principle of Freudian psychology assumes as basic in the production of neurotic disorders: the factor of an inherent mental conflict.

Whatever clauses of amendment students and co-workers with Freud might, in the cumulative light of investigation, deem it wise to add to the theoretical principles underlying the psychoanalytic system of psychotherapy, whether they lean to the conception of repression or regression, of infantile fixation or contemporary maladaptation, of congenital predisposition or of a primary Inzest-Trieb, this essential factor of an inherent disquiet and inner unrest, of a mind distraught with irreconcilable dissension, will still remain the permanent and indisputable basis of the neurosis.


Chapter Three - The Genesis and Meaning of “Homosexuality” and its Relation to the Problem of Introverted Mental States (1917)



The genesis and meaning of “homosexuality” and its relation to the problem of introverted mental states*

Negative or latent homosexuality enters so universally into the repression that underlies neurotic disorders as to be practically synonymous with a neurosis. Positive or manifest homosexuality, on the other hand, may exist quite apart from a neurosis. Here, the homosexuality, being applied, attains completion in its object. For, in manifest homosexuality, the libido is released, free and untrammelled. In the present study, however, we shall regard quite indifferently the homosexuality which is entirely latent and the homosexuality which is in part manifest, but devote ourselves for the most part to the phenomenon of repressed, unconscious homosexuality and its subsequent implications as regards the neuroses.

In considering the subject of negative or latent homosexuality, let us from the outset not forget that we have to do with a psychological situation. It might seem superfluous to remind an audience of psychoanalysts of the need of adhering to a strictly psychological interpretation of the problem at issue, and yet, from the very nature of life, such is our enforced adaptation to external and objective criteria that even we, whose sphere is so essentially psychological, incline too often toward an external, mechanical method, and so are prone to bring objective bias to the solution of even the most subtly subjective of problems.


Chapter Four - Notes with Reference to Freud, Jung, and Adler (1917)



Notes with reference to Freud, Jung, and Adler*

Among the psychoanalysts who have dissented from the teachings of Freud, the most prominent and significant figure is Jung, and next in importance, Adler. More than any others, these two writers have contributed to check the necessarily difficult progress of the Freudian tide. But, for all the criticism and defection that these deprecating voices have aroused in the professional and lay mind, I hold that their positions are not essentially irreconcilable with Freud.

That which is subsumed under the term “Freud” is a scientific observation relative to the genus man. It denotes the tabulation of a phenomenon. It marks a discovery. I am speaking now of Freud entirely from the point of view of the dogma of science. The question as to whether Freud is humanly acceptable with respect to his observations is not in order. This is not the concern of the scientific observer. It is the man who is advocating a cause, expounding a theory, or exploiting a doctrine, who has to be “right” in this sense. But Freud is merely observing a fact, and the man who observes a fact is preserved in his integrity by virtue of his fact.


Chapter Five - The Origin of the Incest-Awe (1918)



The origin of the incest-awe*


“They put their finger on their lip,
The Powers above:
The seas their islands clip,
The moons in ocean dip,
They love, but name not love”


If it were asked which of the manifold items that psychoanalysis has unearthed had been shown to be the most vitally important factor, the answer would be, without hesitation, the mental revolt against the sexual implication involved in the primary relation of the infant in respect to the maternal organism—the reaction recognised under the name of the Incest-Awe (Inzest-Scheu).1

Because of the basic significance of this factor in relation to disordered mental states, perhaps no subject can engage the study of the psychopathologist with larger offers of reward than this of the genesis of the incest horror, the reaction technically known as the Oedipus complex.

Referring to this moral repugnance inherent in the idea of incest, W. G. Frazer says that “the origin of incest is a mystery”. I do not believe it. I do not believe that this biological phenomenon is beyond the range of comprehension. I believe that if we will follow to their ultimate conclusion the genetic data of consciousness which have been made accessible through the dynamic psychology of Freud, we shall not only reach a solution of the innate repugnance represented by the incest-awe, but we shall find that the solution of this phenomenon possesses an almost self-evident simplicity.


Chapter Six - social Images versus Reality (1924)



Social images versus reality*


Thinking is a biological process, its manifestation is a function of the social organism. Thought and action are coterminous and the measure of consciousness is its productivity. The builded piles we construct into cities with all their intricate mechanism and design are the outward expression of a concomitant thought process. With the widening relationships of men and our closer national contacts, man's thought has come to encircle the earth and simultaneously it receives outward demonstration in the physical activity of the radiogram. Today, through the genius of the relativists, the consciousness of man has predicted the course of the remotest light waves, and in the motion of the stars his calculations have been vindicated to an infinitesimal measure. Man's thought tends, thus, to dispose the universe but is by it in turn disposed. This agreement in terms between mental processes and the physical universe is explicable only on the basis of the organic accord between those processes and the physical world about us.


Chapter Seven - A Relative Concept of Consciousness. An Analysis of Consciousness in its Ethnic Origin (1925)



A relative concept of consciousness. An analysis of consciousness in its ethnic origin*

In presenting a psychological discussion that presupposes the altered basis of the relativists, I am under no illusion as to the wide disparity between the mathematical conception of the relativists in regard to the universe and the clinical preoccupations of a psychoanalyst. It is now conceded, however, that the theory of relativity is not without its revolutionary influence upon our scientific thought processes generally. And so, though I am not competent to an appreciation of the theory of relativity in the objective sense of the physicists, I hope I shall not seem presumptuous in attempting a discussion of consciousness that demands as its basis a viewpoint that is analogous to theirs.1

As I understand it, the inadequacy of the Newtonian system of astronomy is its autogenous exclusion of data requisite to a principle which presupposes a basis of universal applicability. Assuming an unqualified absolute to reside within the limits of its own circumscribed area, it posits a principle which fails to take account of factors operating within the larger constellation wherein its own system is but a contributory element. So that in estimating the components requisite to a more inclusive scale of computation, the Newtonian postulate omits to reckon with the principle of the time–space element constitutive of the extension intrinsic to itself and, hence, mathematically indispensable in an encompassment of the universal and all-inclusive astronomical purview with respect to which its own system becomes but relative and extrinsic.


Chapter Eight - Psychoanalytic Improvisations and the Personal Equation (1926)



Psychoanalytic improvisations and the personal equation*

“‘Tis with our judgments as with our watches,—none Go just alike, yet each believes his own”

(Alexander Pope)

There are two grand divisions of psychoanalysts. There are the psychoanalysts proper, that is, those who have attempted to enter understandingly into the intimate processes of individual life, and there are the psychoanalysts who have been too proper for any such intimate undertaking. In the latter class may be counted the great majority of psychiatrists. They probably got an inkling of things in early life and decided that curiosity was a propensity not to be lightly encouraged. But the psychoanalysts proper were of a more adventurous spirit. Of course, they did not suspect what they were adventuring upon—but that is the element that makes adventure. And, accordingly, the mess so commonly substituted for human life presented no terrors to them. The rosy apple of our human curiosity tempted them and they did eat, whereupon the trouble began to brew. The problem now, it seems to me, is for the psychoanalyst proper to realise the mess in which unconsciously his overweening curiosity has embroiled him and to get out of it, and for the psychiatrist to realise the mess from which his habitual apathies have unconsciously preserved him and to get into it.


Chapter Nine - Psychoanalysis in Theory and in Life (1926)



Psychoanalysis in theory and in life*


Now that the excitement following the inundation of psychoanalysis has died down and the clinical territories most affected have been once more built up and restocked, it is interesting to witness the changes wrought in different quarters as a result of the general havoc to habitual prepossessions. There is no question, as we stand amid the debris of past conceptions, but that the sudden descent upon us of Freud's postulates has destroyed many old landmarks that shall not be restored and that it has brought in a wealth of new material that has altered no little the configuration of the old.

As I happen to have been of those who were carried in upon the current of the general onsweep of new interpretations ushered in by Freud, my experience forms the record of a reaction to that movement that is internal because from the vantage ground of a participant in it.

As the position to which I have gradually come differs today so essentially from the followers of Freud, as well as from his dissenters, some account of the development through which my conceptions have passed might be of interest to others who, like myself, have earnestly tried to bring order and a permanent coherence out of the large mass of conceptions that cluster about Freud's dynamic idea, so many of which are of epoch-making significance in their envisagement of mental disharmonies, so many of which, in being immature and unsound, only obstruct the passage that Freud has contributed so splendidly to open.


Chapter Ten - Speaking of Resistances (1927)



Speaking of resistances*

The chief inconsistency in our psychoanalytic basis is the lack of a broad biological definition of what that basis is. In the absence of such a definition, there is lacking on our own part a clear concept of our own basis. In this situation, a helter-skelter vernacular has come to take the place of sober formulations such as should stand for a scientifically accepted concept, and with this loose tendency in our basic conceptual usage, our psychoanalytic super-structure must necessarily be loose also.

The basis of psychoanalysis is the individual's resistance, and an entire system of psychology has been built around this phenomenon of resistance. But just what a resistance is biologically, we have not yet enquired. In response to this question, we psychoanalysts have, in effect, merely replied, “A resistance is an objection to my interpretation of your reaction.” This is certainly not a position calculated to give edification to our scientific confrères in other fields of biological investigation, for, in this position, we advocate a system of psychology based upon presumably definite elements, although upon enquiry, it turns out that we have never yet thought it necessary to define in clear, biological terms what these elements are.1 This quite esoteric, non-biological definition of a resistance is, I think, inseparable from our present individualistic and uncontrolled basis of interpretation. The private, individualistic basis is, it seems to me, necessarily un-biological, and yet this position represents, in the present stage of our psychoanalytic evolution, the position of us all. We might not like this. It might cause us to feel very uncomfortable, but the fact remains that this circumstance is significant, and that as psychoanalysts, it becomes our special function to analyse the significance of just such lapses in our own mental processes. For it is only too apparent that in not defining a resistance, we have been ourselves the dupes of the very resistances which it was our business to define.


Chapter Eleven - The Problem of the Transference (1927)



The problem of the transference*1


For some time I have wanted to discuss the problem of the transference. My reason for wishing to do so is not only that I regard the phenomenon of transference as the major problem in psychopathology, but that I do not think that throughout the field of psychopathology there exists any other problem except the transference phenomenon. In short, it is my view that the neurosis and the transference are one.

This position calls for explanation. It calls for it the more because a right account of this wider acceptation of the transference affords also a right account of the essential basis of group analysis—a basis upon which my entire position in psychoanalysis rests.2

As technically described, the transference is the unconscious response with which the neurotic patient reacts toward persons of his environment and specifically toward the personality of the psychoanalyst. This response (attraction or repulsion) represents a replacement for early affectional memories, most particularly for the early impressions that cluster about the parent. Once a relationship of close confidence is established toward his physician, these early impressions surge back to the patient and automatically fixate his emotional interest upon the analyst. But, under conditions of group analysis, one finds this description far too narrow for the scope of the phenomena embraced under it. One can only attribute so restricted a definition to the limited tendency of interpretation to which one is necessarily confined upon an individualistic basis of analysis. As the presumable therapeutic efficacy of the transference and its axiomatic conditioning of the analysis grow precisely out of this restricted conception of it, it is the more urgent that we expand our outlooks and define more broadly the phenomenon of the transference.


Chapter Twelve - The Laboratory Method in Psychoanalysis: Its Inception and Development (1926)



The laboratory method in psychoanalysis, its inception and development*

With the new basis of thought and procedure that emanated from the evolutionists, there was introduced into scientific method a new instrument for the determining of scientific processes. This instrument is the scientific laboratory. The distinction of the scientific laboratory is its precision of judgement with respect to the data under investigation. In order to understand the meaning of the laboratory as applied to our own subjective processes, we shall be helped if we will first demand of ourselves that we understand more clearly what is the meaning of the laboratory as applied to its commonly accepted objective materials—if we will ask ourselves just what the mind requires of itself and determine definitely what are its criteria in entering upon the method of the laboratory. Until we recognise the processes of mind that determine the function of this instrument of precision we shall not be able to adhere to the uncompromising criteria that everywhere characterise the discipline of laboratory procedure.


Chapter Thirteen - Our Mass Neurosis (1926)



Our mass neurosis*


Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have as yet confronted but the half of their real problem. In confining their study to the individual's unconscious, they have entirely neglected the mass or social unconscious of which the individual is a part. This conclusion is not based upon abstract theory, but is the outcome of definite experiment in the study of social reactions through the analysis of individuals in groups.1 Supplementing the analysis of the individual's complexes and repressions with sessions devoted to the collective analysis of the social mind, the view is experimentally warranted that nervous disorder and insanity are not restricted alone to the isolated individual, but that the actual presence of demonstrable disordered mental states exists unrecognised within the social organisations that form our present day civilisation.2

It is futile to attempt to remedy mental disease occurring within the individual mind as long as psychiatry remains blind to the existence of mental disease within the social mind. The invariable factor that characterises mental disturbance in the particular patient is the presence of division or conflict within the personality. Experiments in the analysis of the social mind, as collectively represented in group assemblage, make clear the presence of this same inner discord and conflict within the mind of society as a whole. It is the paradox of mental disorder in our patients that repression and concealment are its telltale. Likewise, the examination of the expressions of the social personality indicates that concealment and repression are no less the secret witness of its disordered condition.


Chapter Fourteen - The Group Method of Analysis (1927)



The group method of analysis*1

A paper that sets out with a paradoxical title can hardly be expected to invite one's confidence unless we can somehow get square with this initial misnomer. An analysis presupposes, of course, the isolation and examination of a part or element representing the structure of a system, combination, or group of elements. But, biologically, a group represents a synthesis and only its parts are susceptible of analysis, so that a group method of analysis is, of its nature, self-contradictory. One could as consistently speak of a synthetic method of analysis as of a group method of analysis. And yet, there is, in fact, the group material to be confronted and there is, as I see it, only the analytic method of confronting it. And so, in attempting to reconcile processes that are so obviously opposed (the one group or synthetic, the other individual or analytic), there is clearly some consistent explanation called for. It is this explanation for which it is difficult for me to find words. If, however, as far as may be, you will participate with me in this endeavour, I think that we may together arrive at some common interpretation that will reconcile this seeming contradiction—a contradiction that has for a long time, I confess, been too little clear in my own mind.


Chapter Fifteen - The Basis of Group Analysis, or the Analysis of the Reactions of Normal and Neurotic Individuals (1928)



The basis of group analysis, or the analysis of the reactions of normal and neurotic individuals*1

Mental disorder is an industrial problem—a problem in how to get along. It is also an organic physiological problem—a problem in biological economy. The biological economy of an organism is the functional integrity of its parts. Mental conflict and insanity, industrial conflict, and crime are disorders of economy or of adaptation that lie within us as integral parts, not outside of us as detached onlookers. They present problems not of ourselves as isolated individuals, but of ourselves as a community. They are problems in community living, in how to get along with others. These problems are physiological and economic, biological and social.

Group or social analysis is the analysis of the immediate group in the immediate moment. A social group or community consists of persons each of whom is represented under the symbol he calls “I” or “I, myself”. This proprietary symbol is socially accepted by the individuals of the group. It is the basis of their intercommunication. But the “I” that is socially accepted is socially elusive of analysis. The group composed of individual “I's” is equally elusive of social analysis. The sum of impressions symbolised as “I” would centre attention everywhere else than upon the sum of impressions thus symbolised. Group analysis is the objective analysis of this subjective symbol as represented in the immediate group in the immediate moment.


Chapter Sixteen - The Autonomy of the “I” from the Standpoint of Group Analysis (1928)



The autonomy of the “I” from the standpoint of group analysis*

With your permission I should like, in the moment, to approach the problems of our human conduct from a background that calls for the tentative adoption among us of a basis of observation that is, individually, neither yours nor mine according to our habitual acceptations. This might seem to you a strange proposal. But my hope is that, in proportion as it appears strange to you upon a casual view, it may prove the more interesting in its application as a direct method of experimentation. And so I am taking the liberty of inviting you to participate with me in a purely experimental adventure.1 In the absence of certain preliminary experience such as provides the better facility for our undertaking, I must ask your utmost patience in my effort to initiate you into this quite fresh basis of endeavour.

As our procedure will deal with the reactions of human beings in their personal and social relationships as experienced also by ourselves, we shall be assisted if, preliminary to our enquiry, we shall recall certain biological considerations first brought to the attention of science through the investigations of Darwin. I have in mind the observations of Darwin respecting the interreactions of the individuals of a species in their group or societal function. You will recall that, contrary to popular assumption, Darwin did not base his principle of the survival of the fittest entirely upon the special equipment of the individual. He based it also upon this instinct of racial solidarity which, operating within the species as a whole, tends to unite and preserve the individuals composing it as a concerted biological unit or group.2


Chapter Seventeen - So-Called “Normal” Social Relationships Expressed in the Individual and the Group and their Bearing on the Problems of Neurotic Disharmonies (1930)



So-called “normal” social relationships expressed in the individual and the group and their bearing on the problems of neurotic disharmonies*1, 2



This audience is probably aware that anything I might have to say on the relatedness of the two sciences of sociology and psychiatry will be presented from the background of the group or phyletic approach to the individual neurosis.3 As a physician and psychiatrist, my work has confronted me with problems having definite sociological implications, but, needless to say, as a technician, I am a complete stranger to the science of sociology, so that, in accepting an invitation to present a paper before this sociological group, I hope you will appreciate something of the limitations of my position. I must ask, too, that you bear patiently with me in the presentation of a thesis that must, of necessity, be limited to only its broadest aspects and which, therefore, might seem too sweeping in theory and programme. But when I recall that sociology as a science is committed to a programme that deals with nothing less than those principles which underlie our entire human society as a condition in evolution, I feel confident that an audience of sociologists can hardly be inhospitable to a phyletic approach to our common human problem.



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