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Holt, R.R. (1976). Freud's Theory of the Primary Process: Present Status. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 5:61-99.

(1976). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 5:61-99

Freud's Theory of the Primary Process: Present Status

Robert R. Holt, Ph.D.

During the past 25 years, I have devoted a good deal of my professional life to an attempt to understand and work with Freud's concepts of the primary and secondary process. The original mission of the Research Center for Mental Health, when George Klein and I founded it in 1953, was to investigate the psychoanalytic theory of thinking, and for a long time most of the empirical and theoretical research carried out under its auspices was more or less directly focused on that task. One reason we chose such a focus was that I had found it possible to operationalize the concept of the primary process in a way of scoring responses to Rorschach's ink-blots. Over the succeeding years, I have worked by fits and starts on the elaboration and application of the scoring manual that embodies an operational definition of the primary process (and of the closely related construct, adaptive versus maladaptive regression); after 10 informally duplicated revisions, it is about ready for formal publication, supported by a considerable body of research attesting to its empirical usefulness.

Near the end of the first decade of work, I found myself growing more and more frustrated in my efforts to understand the metapsychological underpinnings of Freud's theory of thinking, so I devoted increasing efforts to clarifying them for myself.

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