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Bergler, E. (1935). An Enquiry Into the 'Material Phenomenon'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 16:203-218.

(1935). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 16:203-218

An Enquiry Into the 'Material Phenomenon'

Edmund Bergler

The divergent inferences which have been drawn from the consideration of 'autosymbolic phenomena' by Silberer, and by the whole school of thought so justly described by Jones as 'post-analytical', deviate widely from Freud's theory of psycho-analysis and have met with legitimate criticism and repudiation in analytical circles. One result of this attitude, however, has been that the whole problem of 'functional, material and somatic phenomena' has been relegated to the background of our attention and hence little of a positive character is to be found on the subject in psycho-analytical literature.

Silberer's various erroneous conceptions, centering, as they did, in the question of symbols, brought home to us the necessity for a theoretical exposition of the problem of symbolism. This was furnished by Jones in his classic study on "The Theory of Symbolism, " a work universally recognized as authoritative.

Jones draws a clear distinction between symbolic equivalents and symbols: 'In so far as a secondary idea B receives its meaning from a primary idea A, with which it has been identified, it functions as what may be called a symbolic equivalent of A. At this stage, however, it does not yet constitute a symbol of A, not until it replaces A as a substitute in a context where A would logically appear. There is an overflow of feeling and interest from A to B, one which gives B much of its meaning, so that under appropriate conditions it is possible for B to represent A. According to the view here maintained, the essential element of these conditions is an affective inhibition relating to A. This holds good for all varieties of symbolism, in its broadest sense.

'Affective inhibition can, of course, be of the most varying degree, and on this variation greatly depends the multiplicity of the processes that are grouped under the name of "symbolism". When the inhibition is at its maximum there arises symbolism in its most typical form.

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