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Tyson, P. (1996). Female Psychology: An Introduction. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44S(Supplement):11-20.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44S(Supplement):11-20

Female Psychology: An Introduction

Phyllis Tyson

In 1976, the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association published a landmark supplement on female psychology (Blum, 1976) that brought together the theories of female psychology held by the major American psychoanalysts at that time. As Blum's introduction to this volume indicates, that volume reviewed Freud's theories about the mind of the female and compared and contrasted Freud's views with the then contemporary ones. That volume has become a classic, shaping the psychoanalytic theories of female psychology held by clinicians of the 1990s. After 20 years, it seemed fitting to revisit the subject of female psychology.

Interest in the psychology of women is not new. Indeed, to the extent that myth and fairy tales can be recognized as expressive of individual and social concerns, we can trace interest in the psychology of women to preliterate times. The folklore of every society is filled with stories depicting young girls and women in various situations, assuming various roles, facing familiar dilemmas. Some of the earliest surviving artifacts from prehistoric times are representations of fertility goddesses. Such artifacts suggest that women were thought to hold the very key to survival. Depicted as the womb of the earth, woman ensured survival of the generation by her sowing and reaping of the grain; as childbearer and mother, she ensured survival of the human race.

Classical Greek civilization has left us a wealth of myth, ritual, and compelling imagery about women. These suggest an unprecedented clarity of thought regarding individual and societal concerns. Mythology provides graphic depictions of human dilemmas and often poignantly conveys the psychological agony and struggles of its heroines and heroes. Rituals, on the other hand, process, point the way toward resolution or even sometimes resolve the dilemmas portrayed in the myths.

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