Nervousness and the Jew. Israel S. Wechsler. The Menorah Journal, Vol. X, No. 2, April-May, 1924.
The author of this article discusses the question of the greater prevalence of neuroses among Jews and the presumed “nervous” make up of their character. He finds that the more immediate causes lie in what has been so aptly termed by Myerson as social heredity. For centuries the Jews have lived in an acutely hostile environment and the ever present threat of destruction, the constant state of fear engendered and a perpetual state of anxiety—all without an adequate outlet or compensation—have greatly lessened their emotional stability and led more particularly to the development of extreme suspiciousness and sensitiveness. It was not surprising therefore that confronted with a bitter reality, the Jew was often willing to forsake it and seek refuge in spiritual mysticism to develop what the author terms a social neurosis. Another prolific source of conflicts was the need of adjustment to different cultures consequent upon frequent migration from one country to another, and as a frequent concomitant of it, the intensified struggle within the home itself between the old and new generations. Furthermore, by reason of social and economic stringencies, the Jews were obliged to concentrate in large cities and forced into driving industrial occupations, the stress and strain of it reflecting itself in greater emotional instability. To these factors are to be added the unusual closeness of blood and family ties, which the author believes are traceable to the earliest phantasies of infancy and childhood.
Not all of these factors, however, strike sufficiently deep roots to alter personality, nor are they altogether peculiar to the Jews. Accordingly, the author seeks other and deeper causes to be found, as he believes, in the peculiarities of the Jew's religious philosophy, his views of social ethics and his reactions to the same. He observes first, that the essential features of Jewish religious culture is its emphasis on reality, a constant tendency to translate the ideal in terms of the real, whereas other religious philosophies lay main stress on the mysticideal without regard to reality. As an offshoot of the main trunk, Christianity may thus be seen as a flight from reality, to which the Jews en masse, could never reconcile. Such early inculcation of a sense of reality, much intensified as it was through external forces, compelled the Jew to solve his conflicts in terms of reality, thus robbing him of a possible outlet for those infantile phantasies which dominate all human beings. This perpetual grind with reality and the constant check to the inner strivings has led to repeated conscious suppressions so often that they were finally repressed into unconscious. Since a certain
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amount of phantasy play is necessary to maintain an even tone of reality, the continuous repressions serve as another source for development of neurosis in Jews; to this may further be added the undue development in them of intense individualism on one hand and an equally ardent striving for socialization of their impulses on the other. Within the ego itself conflicts often arise between the real ego and the ideal ego, the one that knows and does, the other that only wishes and craves. While such ego conflict is an universal phenomenon, it is particularly accentuated in the Jew which explains why, while making supreme efforts to maintain reality adjustment, he has at the same time shown a most tenacious adherence to cultural and spiritual ideals. While some of the points made by the author are open to argument and need restatement, the thesis on a whole is well maintained and the article will repay careful reading. It is interesting to note that the author who is primarily interested in organic neurology found it useful to employ psychoanalytic concepts for the explanation of a social phenomenon. The world does move on. Where static sociology and academic psychology are still groping in darkness, analytic psychology helps to illumine the deeper recesses of human activity.
In an article “Sex Hygiene in the Light of Analytic Experience” (Mental Hygiene, Oct., 1923), Dr. C. P. Oberndorf traces the evolution of the sex instinct from the autoerotic stages to heterosexuality. While the child in the earliest stages occupies itself unrestrainedly with the indulgence of its instinctive needs and will, in the course of education a life-long battle between the impulses and the cultural demands arises. A certain amount of love and tenderness seems absolutely necessary for the full emotional development of the average child, and the unloved child, reacting unconsciously to the infantile lack, may have great difficulty in adjusting to adult love and social exigencies.
The sex education of the child is inseparably interwoven with the training of other bodily functions, and begins at the same time, namely, when the child leaves the crib. This being so, the first essential for satisfactory sex instruction would be the provision of the child with competent parents—usually obviously impossible. While the sex impressions obtained from parents during childhood are most lasting and most powerful because they become unconscious, they, can subsequently be molded and modified, especially at the momentous period of physiological puberty, through intelligent educational assistance.
Sex education is best left untouched until the child makes some pointed allusion to sex topics or indulges in some overt sex act. It is a mistake to withhold from or distort sexual truths to a child in so far as he is capable of grasping them intellectually. During adolescence the boy or girl is entitled to be made acquainted with the essential
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physiological facts of the sex life of human beings, not from analogy to plant life. This information should be imparted simply, without an artificial aura of sacredness or secretness. Instruction should be given to each child individually, privately and specifically at opportune moments from the ages of four to eighteen. Attempts at sex instruction in groups or classes is not to be recommended because the lecturer fails to establish the essential personal contact with his hearers and each one of the boys and girls puts his own interpretation upon what is said. The time should not be far distant when each high school student will be granted the opportunity to present his individual conceptions and sex problems in his own terms to a confidant, with the feeling that eventually if not immediately the vexing problems will be answered to his satisfaction. The author feels that the analytic method of approach, with the subject in the reclining posture, would be productive of the best results in the above suggested procedure.
The analysis of many physicians impresses one with the startling lack of any sex instruction to medical students. A brief course in the manifestations of sex life both normal and abnormal, is entitled to a place in the medical curriculum) so as to equip physicians to intelligently cope with problems of sex hygiene in the individual and in the community. Moreover a knowledge of sexual psychopathology would enable physicians to avoid pitfalls in diagnosis where the etiology of a somatic symptom is psychosexual and the treatment psychological rather than medicinal or surgical.
Transitivism, the Loss of the Limits of the Personality, and the Primitive Mental Attitude in Schizophrenia. Anna Gruszecka. Schweizer Archiv. f. Nenrol, und Psychial., Vol. 15, No. 1, 1924, p. 64.
By careful comparison of the various symptoms in schizophrenia, in reference to one of her own cases, Gruszecka seeks to give precision
to a special syndrome, that of the loss of the limits of the personality. Examining the concept of transitivism introduced into psychiatry by Wernicke and interpreted by him as autopsychic disorientation, but later defined by Bleuler as a peculiar disorder of thinking which causes the patient to affirm that a part of his experiences or personality has become split off and attached to some other person in the environment, Gruszecka suggests that the group of facts connected with the phenomenon may be better accounted for, if the factor of partial or total identification with persons in the environment upon whom projection is made, be also taken into consideration; the relation of transitivism with certain other symptoms then becomes evident. This group of symptoms, as instanced by Gruszecka's case, may coexist with others, which, strictly speaking, are not dependent on the transformation of the personality and the effacement of its boundaries; for example with delusions based
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on the paranoid mechanism, with certain delusions of grandeur or persecution, and with disturbances in the centripetal fields. While in delusions due to disturbances in the centripetal fields, the effacement of the boundaries of the personality is not directly recognizable, it makes its appearance in accompanying symptoms. The ideas of thought transference, transitivism, apersonalization, and total identification are successive steps indicating increasing degrees of transformation of the personality, and almost parallel with this progression is the simplification of the psychological mechanism. Those delusional ideas which occupy a middle place in this scale present characteristics of the mechanisms due to centripetal disturbances, or, more generally, of the paranoiac mechanism, on the one hand, and, on the other, characteristics of the transitive mechanism. The increasing simplification of the psychological mechanism in the scale of psychotic symptoms is manifested clinically by a progressive retreat from reality.
In this study of coexistent psychotic symptoms, Gruszecka finds confirmation for the view which regards the loss of the limits of the personality as a distinct psychotic syndrome peculiar to schizophrenia, and suggests that transitivism, involving as it does a high degree of the loss of these limits, may be used as a means of orientation and as a guide to the discovery of the whole syndrome.
With this syndrome established, she continues, the hypothesis which explains the phenomena in schizophrenia by an analogy with primitive thinking becomes highly probable. Recent psychiatrists, as Storch and Kretschmer, continuing the researches of Freud, Bleuler and Jung, and finding support in the work of Lévy-Bruhl, have endeavored to establish this analogy. From experiences in dreams, in profound hypnosis, and in certain hysterical conditions, they consider it probable that under certain conditions mental levels of an earlier evolutional stage are reached. We have then a regression of psychic function, a return to an earlier stage of development (Kretschmer). In the schizophrenic this regression is nearly always only partial and the two symptoms most characteristic of it seem to be the loss of the boundaries of the personality and condensation. For example the phenomenon of projection, though evidently allied to the loss of boundaries of the personality and condensation and also found in primitive thinking, makes its appearance in normal life and in psychoses in which there is no regression. Condensation and the loss of boundaries of the personalities do not result in delusions which simply express the hopes or fears of the patient, and they do not depend entirely on the existence of these emotions. To explain the origin of their theme and sometimes of their form we are obliged to have recourse to the thought forms of primitives and it is only by means of the light thus thrown on them that their peculiar material becomes intelligible.
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Willard, C. (1925). Miscellaneous Abstracts. Psychoanal. Rev., 12(3):371-374