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Oberndorf, C.P. (1920). Reaction to Personal Names. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:223-230.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:223-230

Reaction to Personal Names

C. P. Oberndorf

In a previous communication I cited several examples which demonstrated how unpleasant emotional reaction to personal names may result from an unconscious feeling on the part of the individual bearing that name that it in some way revealed an inherent weakness in personality which the individual wished to conceal. It was also pointed out that such persons through the alteration of their names secured an unconscious outlet for the desire to rectify these deficiencies which they had in some way come to identify with their names.

This view is the reverse of theories commonly advanced that the name is really an influencial factor which operates as a considerable stimulus or detriment to the accomplishments of its bearer. Such a general conception is exemplified by the following quotation from Walsh's "Handbook of Literary Curiosities" — "The names that have become famous are those which have a sonorous and stately ring. — One can understand how an obscure Corsican with such a name as Napoleon Bonaparte might have conquered the world. Herbert Lythe becomes famous as Maurice Barrymore — and John Rowlandson would never have become a great explorer unless he had first changed his name to Henry M. Stanley."


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