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Lowenfeld, H. (1944). Some Aspects of a Compulsion Neurosis in a Changing Civilization. Psychoanal Q., 13:1-15.

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(1944). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 13:1-15

Some Aspects of a Compulsion Neurosis in a Changing Civilization

Henry Lowenfeld

There has been a great deal of discussion in psychoanalytic circles about the interrelationship between the problems of psychoanalysis and those of culture. This is a subject which is difficult to approach with unbiased objectivity because our cultural attitudes and evaluations are very largely determined by powerful, unconscious motives which are highly disguised and hard to uncover, both in ourselves and our patients. Nevertheless, the neuroses of our patients as well as the personality structure of the normal individual, raise more and more questions which seem to reflect the general, present-day problems of society. Furthermore, these problems become manifest in certain psychological reactions which seem to be typical of our time.

The difference in the content of present-day neuroses and those described by Freud in his early works has been repeatedly remarked. Since the biological, instinctual structure of mankind can hardly have changed in a few decades, we must seek the causes of this difference in the altered cultural background.

Freud himself, in 1923, gave us a picture of the interrelationship between neurosis and culture in his paper, A Neurosis of Demoniacal Possession in the Seventeenth Century, in which he described the case of an indigent young painter who was stricken with violent hysterical seizures. His chief fantasy centered around a pact which he had made with the devil nine years before which provided that the devil would come to claim his soul after this length of time had elapsed. However


Read before the New York Psychoanalytic Society on March 10, 1942.

1 Freud: A Neurosis of Demoniacal Possession in the Seventeenth Century. Coll. Papers, IV, pp. 436–472.

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