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Novey, S. (1957). Utilization of Social Institutions as a Defence Technique in the Neuroses. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 38:82-90.

(1957). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38:82-90

Utilization of Social Institutions as a Defence Technique in the Neuroses

Samuel Novey, M.D.

Utilization of social institutions as a technique of defence is a particularly thorny problem in the treatment of the neuroses. To the usual difficulties concomitant with analysing any defence are added the special problems of dealing with one into which has been incorporated a socially accepted institution. In this paper I am especially concerned with the specific utilization of social institutions by certain neurotic individuals in their attempt to ward off anxiety. I shall attempt to correlate the structure and function of the social institution with that of the individual, in so far as this seems pertinent to my major thesis. I shall then attempt to illustrate the use of a religious institution as a means of defence by an obsessional neurotic, and thereafter illustrate my opening remarks by a further examination of this institution.

A social institution may be defined as (11) 'any association, custom or relationship consciously approved by a society and organized and maintained through prescribed rules and agencies.' As may be seen from this definition, there is emphasis both on the consensus established by the group and on established rules for the perpetuation of the institution. We view the social institution as 'external reality', but in our dealings with our patients we also view it with respect to its symbolic intrapsychic value and anticipate that they will make varying use of it. As Hartmann so well puts it (7), 'Society is not a projection of unconscious phantasies, though it offers many possibilities for such projection, and their study reveals to us the influence of unconscious factors on man's attitude to society.

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