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(1973). Meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 42:661.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:661

Meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

February 29, 1972. SUBLIMATION: THE STUDY OF AN INSTINCTUAL VICISSITUDE. George E. Gross, M.D. and Isaiah A. Rubin, M.D.

The authors emphasize the value of sublimation as a clinical-theoretical concept, and feel that it is more fruitful for psychoanalysts to study it as a concept of clinical theory rather than from the point of view of energy neutralization. While Hartmann's neutralization concept explains the maturation and development of ego function and structure, the equation of sublimation with neutralization has certain weaknesses: it neglects some essential aspects which cannot be derived from energic considerations alone. The necessary conditions for sublimation appear early in development when anticipation, objectivation, perception, thought, and control of motility have become sufficient for effective control over the drives by way of aim-deflected 'detour' activity. The aim of sublimation is indirect gratification in which the aims of the drive have been modified in accordance with those of the ego, such as innate hostility to the drives, self-preservation, particular values and interests. Sublimation is not a defense mechanism per se; it facilitates rather than opposes drive discharge. However, since it results in conflict solution, reducing direct drive pressure, it can have a defensive function.

Sublimation also has a central role in regulating intrapsychic equilibrium. It is important, at times crucial, for the maintenance and restitution of relations with reality. The authors cite Van Gogh and Munch as examples. Freud spoke of the 'higher aims' of sublimated activity, which has resulted in invoking criteria that are objective and socially determined when evaluating an intrapsychic vicissitude of instinctual life. However, these higher aims (external values) may follow and combine with the primary inner value of pleasure in drive discharge. In this way, value judgment may take on the quality of a regulator of drive discharge.

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