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Rycroft, C. (1956). Symbolism and its Relationship to the Primary and Secondary Processes. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 37:137-146.

(1956). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 37:137-146

Symbolism and its Relationship to the Primary and Secondary Processes

Charles Rycroft

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the relationship of symbolic processes to ego-functioning. I have started by restating Freud's initial formulation of the differences between the primary and secondary processes with special reference to Winnicott and Milner's concept of illusion (Section I). I have then gone on to suggest reasons why, in my opinion, it is not only misleading to restrict, as some writers do, the concept of symbolism to the use of symbols by the primary process, but also incompatible with Freud's later views on the nature and development of the ego (Section II). In this section I have been much influenced by Milner and Kubie, both of whom have written in favour of an extension of the classical, analytical concept of symbolism. In the third and last section I have attempted to reformulate the theory of symbolism on the basis of the assumption that symbolization is a general capacity of the mind which is based on perception and which may be used either by the primary or the secondary process. My immense debt to Jones's classic paper 'The Theory of Symbolism' (1916) will be obvious throughout, even when I take up a position diverging from his.

I have also been profoundly influenced by Brierley's conception of metapsychology as process-theory and her stress on the need to relate psycho-analytical theory to the trend of modern thought which is 'a movement away from analysing into things and towards analysing into processes'. (Waddington, quoted by Brierley, 1951.

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