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Meerloo, J.A. (1959). Dynamics of Hostility. Am. J. Psychoanal., 19(1):19-21.

(1959). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 19(1):19-21

Dynamics of Hostility Related Papers

Joost A. M. Meerloo

When I received the invitation confirming that I was to take part in this panel on hostility, I felt rather puzzled. The secretary had enclosed a definition for the guests of the panel to elaborate on: “Karen Horney conceived of hostility not as an innate primary process, but as arising secondarily from frustrated wishes or claims.”

Was this definition meant as a limitation or as a challenge to act out my own pleasure in argument?

But then I realized that the very word hostile is related to hostilitas and host—enemy and friend—and has deep ambivalent roots. Because you are my host I have to forsake my hostility.

Yet as a clinician I always feel at a loss with a single generalizing theory. So much depends on the semantic use of the words hostility, aggression, rage, hatred, and even the word frustration. So let us tentatively define aggression as the normal tool of self-assertive defense, and hostility as the anticipation of such a defense with all its fantasied implications.

The act of being born is in itself experienced as a hostile exposure and, indeed, in many mammals the young are rejected and have to die if they are too weak to reach the mother's nipples in a certain time. This rejection of the weak, however, is a meaningful self-defense of the flock lest the weak prevent the herd from its “trek” and expose themselves and the flock too much to the enemy—the animals which prey upon the weak.

With this biological example we are in the midst of the paradox about hostility and defense, for often hate and hostility act as tension-reducing devices.

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