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Sandler, J. Freud, A. (1980). Discussions in the Hampstead Index on ‘The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence’: I. The Ego as the Seat of Observation. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 3(4):199-212.

(1980). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 3(4):199-212

Discussions in the Hampstead Index on ‘The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence’: I. The Ego as the Seat of Observation

Joseph Sandler and Anna Freud


Following a number of Index meetings at which problems of classification of clinical examples of various defence mechanisms had been discussed, it became apparent that it would be of the greatest value for those working on the Index to look again at the central book on the psychoanalytic theory of defenceAnna Freud's classical work The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence—as psychoanalysis has developed and expanded very much since that book was published in German in 1936 by the Internationaler Psycho-analytischer Verlag. The English edition, translated by Cecil Baines, appeared in the International Psycho-Analytical Library (The Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psycho-Analysis, London) in 1937. A revised English edition, containing minor changes only, was published in 1966.

The discussions of Anna Freud's book reported here were chaired by J. Sandler and took place weekly over a period of a year in 1972/3. Clinic staff members and senior students in the child-therapy course attended the discussions, which were tape-recorded and later transcribed. The verbatim transcripts were subsequently edited, and the dialogue form of the discussions retained. The discussion reported in this paper relates to chapter 1 of Anna Freud's book, i.e. ‘The Ego as the Seat of Observation’.

Anna Freud begins the first chapter by pointing out that psychoanalysis had, in the past, concentrated on studying the content of what was deeply repressed. Emphasis was placed on the processes occurring in the depths of the mind, and it was thought to be non-psychoanalytic, until the Twenties (with the publication of Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle), to study adjustment to the external world and similar ideas.

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