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If you know the bibliographic details of a journal article, use the Journal Section to find it quickly. First, find and click on the Journal where the article was published in the Journal tab on the home page. Then, click on the year of publication. Finally, look for the author’s name or the title of the article in the table of contents and click on it to see the article.

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J., E. (1920). Instinct and the Unconscious. A Contribution to a Biological Theory of the Psycho-Neuroses: By W. H. R. Rivers, M.D., D.Sc., F.R.S., (Cambridge University Press, 1920. Pp. 252. Price 10s. 6d.).. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:470-476.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:470-476

Instinct and the Unconscious. A Contribution to a Biological Theory of the Psycho-Neuroses: By W. H. R. Rivers, M.D., D.Sc., F.R.S., (Cambridge University Press, 1920. Pp. 252. Price 10s. 6d.).

Review by:
E. J.

The aim of this important book is set forth as being "to provide a foundation for a biological theory of the psycho-neuroses" (p. 119), which is a truly formidable undertaking. The task is approached from the standpoint of the war neuroses, and the conclusions are almost exclusively based on observation of these conditions, a circumstance which necessitates a few preliminary remarks. In spite of important individual differences, the author's attitude in this respect has much in common with that of three other well-known workers. Professors Brown, McDougall, Myers, and Rivers have undergone a similar experience in the past few years, with on the whole similar results. They are all eminent psychologists, with the additional advantage of possessing a medical qualification, whom the exigencies of a national crisis brought for the first time into psychopathological work. After establishing a demonstrably imperfect contact with the work previously done in this field, and after a varying amount of war experience, they consider themselves to be in a peculiarly favourable position to pass judgement on the various prevailing theories in psychopathology, and were in particular "enabled to test in detail the Freudian doctrine of psychoneurosis" (p. 4). Dr. Rivers speaks of the "dispassionate study" carried out by "independent and unbiassed workers" "who were able to approach the subject without prejudice", and says that this study "had certain definite results" (pp. 4, 5). In his opinion these were to confirm certain parts of the psycho-analytical doctrine, notably the tendency to repress unpleasant memories, the importance of conflict, the continued action in harmful ways of buried material, and the relief given by bringing it again to consciousness, but to contradict the main part of that doctrine, that concerned with sex and with the mechanism of the unconscious proper. The study shewed that the pathology of war neurosis was a simple and easily solved matter (Dr. Rivers speaks of "the simplicity of the conditions upon which they depend", p. 5), so the firm knowledge thus gained could logically be used to constitute a basis for a theory of neuroses in general, and this is what is attempted in the present volume.


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