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Erikson, E.H. (1962). Reality and Actuality—An Address. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 10:451-474.

(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 10:451-474

Reality and Actuality—An Address

Erik H. Erikson


ONE OF THE STORIES of Freud's preanalytic years which assume a mythological quality in our training is the event at one of Charcot's evening receptions when the master during a bit of shop talk about hysteria in women "suddenly broke out with great animation: 'Mais, dans des cas pareils c'est toujours la chose génitale, toujours … toujours … toujours'; … I know, that for a moment I was almost paralysed with amazement and said to myself: 'Well, but if he knows that, why does he never say so?' But the impression was soon forgotten; brain anatomy … absorbed all my interest." (14).

Since then we have come full cycle. Freud's elucidation of " la chose génitale " has revolutionized psychology, and this Association has become the representative of that revolution in this country. Heirs of radical innovation, however, carry a double burden: they must do together what the founder did in lonely years and also strive to keep ahead of the habituations which result from success. They may well, at intervals, ask themselves what they have come to know and what they on occasion say with "much animation, " without pursuing it with the momentum of discovery.

One such item, I submit, is our knowledge of human strength.

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