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Sharpe, E.F. (1931). The Technique of Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 12:24-60.

(1931). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 12:24-60

The Technique of Psycho-Analysis

Ella Freeman Sharpe



When an external danger threatens a person's life, fear dictates the ways taken to secure self-preservation.

Neurotic anxiety is due, not to an outer danger confronting the ego, but to an internal one. The greater the threat to the ego from this unknown danger the more desperately is the ego driven to seek safety. Every type of psychical vicissitude results. We have the whole range of psychical disturbances. Every type of inhibition is related to this anxiety. Every successful sublimation is a method of dealing with it. Behind physical suffering itself the ego can take shelter from more terrifying calamities that threaten its existence. Anxiety in its most momentous and spectacular aspects is exemplified by the world-conquerors. 'Were we to do for ourselves what we do for our country what scoundrels we should be', said Cavour. Machiavelli and Napoleon are supreme examples. The inner drive of anxiety compels the world-conqueror to externalize his problem into terms of his country, with which he identifies himself. In terms of his country he is unsafe until he stands on top of the world. By fair means or foul, by violence or unscrupulousness, all who oppose his country, i.e. himself, must be removed. Only in supremacy is he safe.

To understand anxiety manifested in analysis one's mind must have grasped this sweep of vicissitudes that will include the epic of a Napoleon in reality, the great epics in literature, a little child stammering and raging in temper, or another succumbing to a vomiting fit and attended by solicitous parents. The struggle for ego-preservation is being waged in the last case as in the first.

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