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Saul, L.J. (1949). The Individual's Adjustment to Society. Psychoanal Q., 18:191-206.

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(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:191-206

The Individual's Adjustment to Society

Leon J. Saul, M.D.

Our times are marked by a great paradox: man tends to use his enormously increased power over nature much less for his good than to destroy himself. Therefore his realization of the dream of science to tap the power of the atom has brought him not rejoicing over new wealth and new security, but fear of total destruction.

This paradox springs from the fact that each individual in our society is activated by strong asocial or antisocial motivations as well as by social ones. Survival has become a matter of understanding these two sets of impulses in order to aid the constructive, prohuman, and reduce the destructive, antihuman motivations: to increase what is for human life and decrease what is against it.

It will be seen that the social, prohuman motivations are primarily those of maturity, whereas the destructive, antihuman impulses are expressions of a disordered infantilism.


The most dangerous of man's antisocial impulses is his hostility and violence toward his fellows—to which, in fact, in the last analysis all antisocial impulses reduce themselves. We shall use the term 'hostility' to cover various impulses to violence such as destructiveness, cruelty and belligerency, hidden or open. This readiness to hostile behavior is part of the arousal to fight or flight, an automatic, biologic reaction which occurs in any animal when it is threatened. Breathing becomes more rapid, the heart beats more quickly and forcefully, blood


Lecture delivered in The Great Issues Course, Dartmouth College, April 19, 1948.

From the Section of Preventive Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

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