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Spitz, R.A. (1942). The Traumatic Neuroses of War: By Abram Kardiner, M.D., Psychosomatic Medicine Monograph II-III. Published with the Sponsorship of the Committee on Problems of Neurotic Behavior, Division of Anthropology and Psychology, National Research Council, Washington, D. C., 1941. 258 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 11:563-565.
(1942). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 11:563-565
The Traumatic Neuroses of War: By Abram Kardiner, M.D., Psychosomatic Medicine Monograph II-III. Published with the Sponsorship of the Committee on Problems of Neurotic Behavior, Division of Anthropology and Psychology, National Research Council, Washington, D. C., 1941. 258 pp.
Review by: R. A. Spitz
Kardiner has wisely refrained in this volume from including 'war neuroses', thus permitting him to elaborate in great detail a very specific and circumscribed clinical picture. This he has done in exemplary fashion.
The book includes a clinical, a theoretical, and a practical part. Symptomatology is presented by means of detailed case histories. The symptom is then analyzed, the traumatic situation explained, the repetitive features of traumatic neuroses stressed. The symptoms are further discussed from Kardiner's special methodological viewpoint—the point of view of adaptation.
Adaptation is the guiding concept throughout the second part of the book. Kardiner does not discard the libido theory; he criticizes it as being too atomistic, too much patterned after the sexual drive. This pattern does not fit the pattern of the other drives. He considers much more decisive what he calls the action syndrome. According to him, the newly born reacts to its environment not so much by reason of its instinctual structure, but because of its necessity to master its functions and its environment. This urge to master the environment is the specific motor which creates the ego. In the course of this process the individual learns that, while in the domain of psychology compromises are possible, reality offers only the choice between success or failure, and the consequence of failure is death.
Trauma represents a failure of mastery. Traumatic neurosis is explained partly as an attempt to regain mastery, partly as a means of maintaining such mastery as the subject has at his disposal, partly as repetitions of the failure in mastery.
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