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Róheim, G. (1943). Sublimation. Psychoanal Q., 12:338-352.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:338-352


Géza Róheim

Sublimation is admittedly one of the crucial problems in psychoanalysis. While it seems to me that nobody who has analyzed even a single case can have the slightest doubts about the existence of the process of sublimation, yet we find that some opponents of psychoanalysis (in the freudian sense) regard it as a 'questionable guide'. A recent writer on culture makes the surprising statement that the word has almost disappeared from technical literature. In Civilization and its Discontents Freud says: 'Sublimation of instinct is an especially conspicuous feature of cultural evolution; this it is that makes it possible for the higher mental operations, scientific, artistic, ideological activities to play such an important part in civilized life. If one were to yield to a first impression, one would be tempted to say that sublimation is a fate which has been forced upon instincts by culture alone. But it is better to reflect over this a while longer.

The discussion of sublimation which follows is based mainly on my own clinical experience.

Patient A is being analyzed because of his recurring depressions. This is his second analysis, and after a few months a memory of the age of three is revived. His father had left for another country a short time before. A brother was born and he distinctly remembers how he was standing on a table, stretching his neck to get a glimpse of his mother. There was a group of people standing around the mother and the baby and he could not see them clearly.

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