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Yorke, C. Kennedy, H. (1987). On the Concepts of Fixation and Regression: their Clinical Relevance. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 10(2):119-135.

(1987). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 10(2):119-135

On the Concepts of Fixation and Regression: their Clinical Relevance

Clifford Yorke and Hansi Kennedy

The concepts of fixation and regression in psychoanalysis have a long history and have had, from the very first, an indispensable consociation with the developmental principle so central to the discipline.

Freud's indebtedness to the great English neurologist, John Hughlings Jackson, in the formulation of these concepts is not always fully appreciated, though it has been discussed by a number of psychoanalytic writers, including Binswanger (1936), Stengel (1953), Sandler and Joffe (1967), S. W. Jackson (1969) and, in an important and fascinating paper, by Solms and Saling (1986). Hughlings Jackson himself acknowledged the influence on his thinking of the nineteenth century philosopher Herbert Spencer.

Spencer took the view that the process of evolution was not confined to the animate. It was to be found even in the making or development of inanimate objects. It involved a progressive and constructive re-distribution of matter and motion. There was a first, early, evolutionary phase of development, followed by one of comparative equilibrium before a later stage of dissolution set in. Objects deteriorated; sooner or later, organisms died and started to rot. There was first a movement from incoherence to coherence, then a period of comparative balance between evolution and dissolution until, finally, dissolution triumphed.

Hughlings Jackson was strongly influenced by the theory of evolution and dissolution and he applied it to the understanding of the development and functioning of the nervous system and to its disorders.

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