The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child: Volume 37

The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child: Volume 37


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300029093
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 09/10/1982
Series: The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child Series
Pages: 562
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child

By Albert J. Solnit

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2000 Albert J. Solnit, Peter B. Neubauer, Samuel Abrams, and A. Scott Dowling
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-300-08371-8

Chapter One

K. R. Eissler: A Preface to the Papers

Over the course of a lifetime passionately dedicated to psychoanalysis, K. R. Eissler made important contributions to nearly every aspect of our field. The two papers included here, never before published, demonstrate amply the qualities that have marked his work throughout: a restless curiosity that inevitably discovers something novel in whatever it scrutinizes, and a natural profundity of perspective, informed by an immense erudition.

"Living in History and Ego Strength" is actually the first chapter of a long and fascinating manuscript on the psychology of war, based on Eissler's experiences and observations while a member of the U.S. Army during World War II. "On Hatred" is also an excerpt from a larger work, in this case a "memoir" which is not at all a memoir in the traditional sense but rather a reflective investigation of the critical aspects of individual and group psychology, with which Eissler wrestled over the course of his life.

I have reason to hope that both manuscripts from which these essays are drawn will be published in full in the not-too-distant future.

To the urgent task of collecting and making generally accessible Eissler's writings, published and unpublished, which is essential to an adequate comprehension of his ideas, I am most happily committed. Emanuel E. Garcia, M.D.

In Memoriam: Dr. K. R. Eissler, 1908-1999


K.R. Eissler, M.D. PH.D., for many years a close friend of the Anna Freud Centre, died peacefully on 17 February 1999 at the age of 90. He was not only one of the most distinguished psychoanalysts of his generation, but has left behind a body of writing of permanent value to present and future practitioners. A Freud scholar and historian of distinction, he was tireless in the defense of basic Freudian principles.

Kurt Eissler was born in Vienna on 2 July 1908. He studied psychology at the University, and in 1934, under Professor Karl Buher, was awarded his Ph.D. His M.D. followed in 1937 and, after training at the Psychoanalytic Institute, he joined the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society. There he worked as an assistant to August Aichhorn, a pioneer in teenage delinquency whose book, Wayward Youth, became a classic. In 1938, following the Anschluss, he left for Chicago and obtained the American Board of Psychiatry diploma.

In 1943 he volunteered for the U.S. army as a Captain in the Medical Corps, and directed a Consultation Service at a training camp for ground forces. In the autumn of that year his brother Erik was killed in a concentration camp, though he knew of this only later.

When the war ended he moved to New York, taking up permanent residence and establishing a successful practice. In 1952, together with a group of fellow psychoanalysts, he founded the Sigmund Freud Archives, and the U.S. Library of Congress accepted the massive amount of material, to be made available to bona fide scholars. Eissler, as Secretary, was tireless in his continuing collection of historical papers, documents, and letters by and about Freud and his associates, all of which continued to swell the Archives. In this he was greatly helped by Anna Freud, whom he had known from their Viennese days.

His friendship was a great comfort to Anna Freud. When she was recovering from protracted illness at the end of the war, he sent her coffee and nutriment, but his support was valued for reasons that went far beyond his personal concern. She knew the Archives were in safe hands: material that might be offensive to the living was subject to embargo; but he was a mine of historical information to which legitimate use could be put. She approved of the invaluable assistance he gave to Ernest Jones in his three-volume biography of her father and his work, and to James Strachey in his twenty-four volume Standard Edition of Freud's psychological works. Eissler was always supportive of Anna Freud's great achievement in founding the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic in 1952. In 1953 he set up a foundation that allowed U.S. donors to make tax free contributions to the maintenance and expansion of what was then the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic. Anna Freud always spoke of Eissler with warmth and gratitude.

Eissler was a prolific, original, and learned writer. Searchlights on Delinquency (1949), which he edited, reflected his gratitude to Aichhorn and was dedicated to him. His immense two-volume psychoanalytic study of Goethe (1963) preceded books on Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Freud's approach to literature. His papers on analytic technique attracted wide attention. He wrote about aging and death, and his book, The Psychiatrist and the Dying Patient (1955), is of lasting value. His historical works were among his finest. He was deeply concerned about the growing volume of uninformed and polemical Freud criticism, the misinterpretations of the early seduction theory (with the "recovered memory syndrome" which Freud would have hated), and a great deal of meretricious gossip, widely publicized and presented as fact. His dispute with Masson over the Archives made the headlines, and overshadowed any objective presentation of his position. His detailed answers to these critics failed to attract the attention they deserved. He was pessimistic about the future of psychoanalysis and, indeed, civilization (The Fall of Man [1975], makes melancholy reading), but said to me, more than once, "You have to go on fighting." He was no idolater of Freud's or Anna Freud's, but defended the basic principles without which, he felt, psychoanalysis would cease to be psychoanalysis. He protected the archives against those who might misuse them, but he was too honest and upright to harbour the guilty secrets suspected by his detractors.

I often met him, at Hampstead or elsewhere. After Anna Freud's death in 1982 his contact with the Centre was reduced, but we kept up a steady correspondence, and I visited him whenever I was in New York. He had an old-world courtesy and charm, was warmly hospitable, and had a ready, if sometimes wry, sense of humor. He was a fine conversationalist, and even when very frail, talked lucidly and entrancingly of Freud and Judaism, analytic and philosophic problems, and subjects of wide interest to which he brought fresh enlightenment. He was writing up to the last. His wife, Ruth, for many years an editor of The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, died in 1988.

Living in History and Ego Strength



From his observations as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, the author examines the relationship between the ability to form constructive historical identifications-to "live in history"-and ego strength. He surmises that the American soldier's failure to draw upon such identifications represents an ego weakness that resulted in a greater frequency and intensity of psychopathology during the war.

In democratic societies group imagery related to military service during wartime is cloyed by connotations of extreme painfulness. The average citizen views military service even in peacetime as a punishment rather than as an asset. This strong aversion against anything military increases during times of war, when the connotation of discipline, submission, and boring routine is intensified by the imagery of the gruesomeness of the battlefield and impending death. For most members of democratic societies, military service during World War II was acceptable only as a necessity enforced by external circumstances, as a reaction to the inroad of malicious forces emanating from a frightful enemy. Democracies of the twentieth century are pacifistic in their ideology and therefore tend to disclaim positive values in anything related to war. This outlook has found indirect reverberation in psychiatric research. Only a few authors have stressed that a general psychology or psychopathology of the wartime soldier must consider a twofold aspect inasmuch as life in a wartime army involves not merely frustration, pain, and suffering but also gratifications and wish-fulfillments. Only an investigation of both sets of factors can lead to an approximate understanding of the subject matter.

Since a person reporting something good about a matter easily will be suspected of being in favor of it, it is understandable that accounts of the negative factors impinging on the soldier's personality were emphasized and aroused more interest than the counterpoise of wish-fulfilling experiences. The hardship, sacrifice, and supreme suffering that beset the civilian when called to arms were studiously and minutely described, whereas the positive experiences found only a secondary elaboration. Even in such an excellent compendium as Psychology for the Armed Services (Boring, 1945), positive experiences in the U.S. Army were presented as compensatory or reactive to the gruesome mode of soldierly living rather than as genuinely inherent in military existence.

The feeling about war as an evil in the avowed philosophies of democracies and the general spurning of military action-or of any manifestation of uncontrollable violence, for that matter-are so strong that it is scarcely possible to pursue in an objective way that peculiar entwining of supreme desolation with gusts of rapture as it was probably experienced by the majority of participants in World War II. The ambivalent feeling about the war experience was succinctly expressed by a colonel, who summarized his attitude toward his recollections of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France thus: "I do not want ever to experience that day again, but for nothing in the world would I want to have missed it."

Among the positive features which are at least potentially extant in the life of the wartime soldier, one was significantly overlooked by most psychiatrists: namely, the meaning of the civilian's becoming a historical figure when serving in the army at war. I refer not to the objective fact of that transmutation but exclusively to its psychological meaning. Here is a positive factor that makes the life of the soldier significantly different from civilian existence. Being a soldier in wartime offers the average citizen an opportunity from which he is, by and large, excluded in modern society when at peace. A modern democratic society such as the United States-with its accumulation of large numbers of people in metropolitan areas, its routinized political institutions, its citizens immersed in the pursuit of their specialized occupations-deprives the average citizen of feeling himself an active participant in the management of his country's destiny. To be sure, the modern citizen in a democracy is not entirely barred from the privilege of taking direct action on the structure of the social entity in which he is living; he does so mainly when he acts as a voter. Yet the psychological state of the average voter does not contain that feeling of potent activity which is the prerequisite for the growth of any action from a personal, subjective background into a historical mold.

When voting, the citizen can follow only alternatives that were not created by him but were outlined for him by political parties; he is a follower or, in rare instances, a partisan; but scarcely ever does he feel that it was his individual action that created the political situation that emerges after the counting of the ballots. As a voter he feels like an insignificant particle, and if the majority's vote should confirm his own choice he will refer to it as an accidental coincidence rather than a result of a historical process in which he played an active and significant role. Facing an incommensurable crowd, he feels apathetic and frustrated. This comes partly to the fore when the proportion of those who have a vote and those who do not exercise it is established. The act of voting is a meager compensation for the interlude of the citizen's isolation as a political and historical being between elections.

Although various means other than voting are accessible to the citizen desirous of exerting an active influence in society, as a matter of fact only a small number take advantage of those media, which, moreover, still do not typically provide those who are employing them with the feeling of participation in a historical process. Yet membership in a wartime army affords the potential for the feeling of continuous participation in and influence upon historical events. Wars did not always provide the possibility of developing such feelings. Many a war of the eighteenth century dragged on in inconspicuous marches, and even successful battles sometimes had no conspicuous effect on the course of the war. Peace treaties often resulted in maintenance of the status quo. The key to the historically significant event was in the hand of the diplomat rather than the soldier.

It is of historical interest to read in Goethe's autobiography of the effect of the Seven Years' War upon his youth. His mental development and later life would probably not have been essentially different whether it was the French or any other of the belligerents who occupied his native Frankfurt during that war. Those familiar with the filigreed leisure of the epoch will agree that it actually required the genius of a Goethe to perceive after the battle of Valmy, in which the feudal armies of the central European aristocracy were defeated for the first time by the revolutionary French, that this clash of arms was of a quite different historical validity than those that occurred previously in his lifetime. The battle of Valmy was recognized by Goethe as a sign on the horizon that Europe was at the beginning of a profound reorganization, which, after all is said and done, has not reached a stable equilibrium even now. When Goethe was asked for his opinion on the evening of the battle, literary tradition ascribes to him the following utterance to his companions: "From here and today arises a new epoch of world history, and you have the privilege to say that you witnessed it." Goethe referred to a quality that marked certain experiences as unique. It is the sudden transmutation of a subjective experience into a content of validity and consequence to the history of mankind.

Occidental man, as a type, has developed a precisely discriminating feeling for that difference between events of personal-subjective dignity and of historical meaning.


Excerpted from The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child by Albert J. Solnit Copyright © 2000 by Albert J. Solnit, Peter B. Neubauer, Samuel Abrams, and A. Scott Dowling. Excerpted by permission.
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