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Lomas, P. (1965). Passivity and Failure of Identity Development. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:438-454.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:438-454

Passivity and Failure of Identity Development

Peter Lomas

Because of an assumption that the natural state of the female is a passive one the problem presented by the symptoms of passivity has been considered, in psycho-analytic literature, as primarily a male one; specifically, the theory centres on the boy's need to repress his sexual and aggressive drives in the oedipal situation. It is this view that I wish to question here. In the first part of the paper I shall describe some aspects of the analysis of a man who suffered from passivity, but whose illness and its treatment were in no way out of the ordinary.


Mr R, a well-built man in his early thirties, suffered from chronic anxiety, inhibitions in his capacity to work, and various somatic symptoms such as headache and fainting attacks. The first serious signs of illness occurred when he was in his early twenties, working in a very junior position in his father's factory; he felt unable to tolerate the discipline which the work demanded, became anxious and developed a backache which incapacitated him for eighteen months. Symptoms had persisted since that time.

The Patient's Early Life and Family Background

Mr R's parents were Jewish emigrants who had begun life in England in lowly circumstances in the East End of London. His father gradually, and with intermittent set-backs, built up a business which was finally very successful, but continued to be haunted by fears of poverty. His philosophy of life centred on work and family security, and he instilled this philosophy into his children, emphasizing the sacrifices made for them, their luck compared to his own, and the continual need for vigilance on his part to avoid a return to poverty.

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