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Ramzy, I. (1966). Factors and Features of Early Compulsive Formation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 47:169-176.

(1966). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47:169-176

Factors and Features of Early Compulsive Formation

Ishak Ramzy

One of the basic scientific principles of psycho-analysis, possibly the most basic one, is the principle of the plurality of determinants. It is as important in psycho-analysis as it is in any other scientific discipline; and since the data of our science are of such formidable complexity, probably it is even more important. However, this principle is taken so much for granted by psycho-analysts that it is often inadvertently overlooked. Under the pressure of our daily therapeutic attempts or our wish to put some order in the complexity of the observations we make, we erroneously try to single out for every event or any phenomenon one single cause, or only a few causes, to account for it.

Well aware of multiple causality, Freud in very many contexts emphasized overdeterminism (Ramzy, 1963), and demonstrated its essential role in shaping human personality. In clinical language he put this in his well-known statement on the aetiology of the neurosis, where he said that cases fall into a series, where at one end of it

… there are people who would have fallen ill whatever happened, whatever their experiences, however merciful life had been to them, because of their anomalous libidinal development. At the other end stand cases which call forth the opposite verdict. They would undoubtedly have escaped illness if life had not put such and such burdens upon them (Freud, 1918).

On the other hand, however alert we are to overdeterminism, the accumulated findings over the past sixty or seventy years, as much as the accumulated data of any one single case of psycho-analysis, led us by necessity to formulate some explanation as to the importance of a few factors in relation to the many others and to suggest that certain determinants seem to have more weight than others in bringing about any one clinical or characterological picture more than the other.

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