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Steiner, R. (1985). Some Thoughts about Tradition and Change Arising from an Examination of the British Psychoanalytical Society's Controversial Discussions (1943–1944). Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 12:27-71.

(1985). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 12:27-71

Some Thoughts about Tradition and Change Arising from an Examination of the British Psychoanalytical Society's Controversial Discussions (1943–1944)

Riccardo Steiner

SUMMARY

This paper studies the Controversial discussions of the British Psychoanalytical Society which took place during 1943 and 1944. According to the author, unpublished letters between Freud and Jones on the controversy between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, and other unpublished documents of the British Psychoanalytical Society, help to explain the complexity of the issues involved at that time, and the reasons why the Society was able to contain these differences. The author's main thesis is that the various groups were able to share what could be defined as a minimum code of reciprocal tolerance, based on many factors one of which was a common sharing of unconscious phantasies related to the depressive position, as already put forward by Klein at that time.

The analysis of the Controversial Discussions and of the kind of anxieties mobilized by Klein with her discoveries could be applied to the understanding of some of the problems that new discoveries, changes of paradigms etc. can create in the field of psychoanalysis. Tradition and change are very often deeply related to unconscious phantasies and primitive anxieties. These ideas may help to achieve a better understanding of the early schisms between Freud and his followers.

Finally, the author attempts to apply his hypothesis to a broader field. He notes numerous analogies between his subject and what Kuhn describes as the emotional components involved in changes of paradigms in the field of science during the period of 'essential creative tension'. Taking into consideration psychotic as well as neurotic anxieties and their role in response to changes of paradigms could help to achieve a better understanding of these problems.

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