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Tuttman, S. (1979). Regression: Is It Necessary or Desirable?. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 7(1):111-133.

(1979). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 7(1):111-133

Regression: Is It Necessary or Desirable?

Saul Tuttman


There is a Chinese curse, I am told, to the effect: May you live through a period of vital change. This malevolent wish (or perhaps it should be considered a blessing) is very applicable to the psychoanalytic profession today and especially to our topic. Vital changes shake our complacency, challenge the status quo, upset our vested “models”; however, they do offer hope for a new perspective and a potential for reintegration, if we can tolerate the challenge and transition!

Not only are the premises underlying psychoanalytic thinking continually subject to question and reexamination — as well they should be — but among psychoanalytic constructs, the concept of Regression and its ramifications has involved controversy and perplexity throughout most of the history of our field.

First, to examine the word itself: Regression is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (1971) as

The act of going back; a return or withdrawal, to the place of origin … a previous state or condition … back in thought from one thing to another; from an effect to a cause; relapse, … reversion to a less developed form …

Two opposing implications of this definition seem apparent: First, the undoing of progress and perhaps, a deterioration.

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