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Jones, E. (1921). War Shock and Freud's Theory of the Neuroses. The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 2:44-59.

(1921). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 2:44-59

War Shock and Freud's Theory of the Neuroses Book Information Previous Up

Ernest Jones

A matter that used to hamper the opponents of psycho-analysis to some extent was that there was no alternative theory of the neuroses seriously tenable. It was clearly impossible to explain all neurotic manifestations by the catch-word use of the two terms “heredity” and “suggestion”, for our conceptions of heredity, however important in this connection they may well become in the future when more is known of the subject, are at present too vague to explain any complex psychological phenomena, and the idea of suggestion merely introduces yet another problem without solving any of the old ones.

The experience of neurotic affections engendered by the war, however, has enabled the critics of psycho-analysis to put forward the view that the factors invoked by Freud in explanation of these affections need not be present, and therefore cannot be regarded as essential, in the way maintained by him, whereas, on the other hand, a different set of factors is undeniably present and operative; not only so, but these latter factors are held to be all-sufficing, so that it is not necessary to search for any others in the aetiology of the conditions in question. Some opponents of psycho-analysis, particularly those more concerned with combating an unwelcome theory than with ascertaining truth, have even maintained that the experience of the war has proved all Freud's views to be utterly untenable and false.

It would be easy to criticise the standpoint thus adopted, though that is in no sense my purpose here. Two points alone may be raised. If, as some writers assert, the strain of war conditions is in itself sufficient to account for the development of a psychoneurosis without the introduction of any other factor, then how is one to explain the


1 Read before the Royal Society of Medicine, Section of Psychiatry, April 9, 1918. Published in the Proceedings, Vol. XI. Reprinted in “Papers on Psycho-Analysis”: Jones, 2nd. Ed. 1918, Ch. XXXIII, p. 564. (Baillière, Tindall & Cox.).

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