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Meerloo, J.A. (1962). The Dual Meaning of Human Regression. Psychoanal. Rev., 49C(3):77-86.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Review, 49C(3):77-86

The Dual Meaning of Human Regression

Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D.

Clinicians must sometimes step away from the clinic, where they are often required to make pressing decisions, and take a fresh look at the concepts they use every day, often without being aware of their varied ramifications. The fascinating aspect of psychology is that every concept pertains to the entire personality; it has ramifications which reach into all that scientists do and think about man. Stepping out of our daily routine can lead to new illuminations about the mysteries we try to explore.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, a historian and a psychoanalyst had an animated debate as to which of their respective fields had discovered the importance of the principle of retrogenesis in the service of the development of the individual and of mankind. Neither was aware that the Greek philosophers had already formulated this principle; nothing new under the sun.

The historian indicated that the cultural development of mankind has never followed a straight progressive line, but has consisted of a peculiar growth by leaps and bounds. Every human development has the tendency to become fixated in its complicated habits and rituals. Consequently, a gradual retardation, even a degenerative process, may take place. As a secondary result, backward groups and nations often have greater opportunity to develop their inherent vitality and to bypass their neighbors in cultural and technical achievements. The psychoanalyst compared this dialectic development of history with the law of retrogenesis in man's personal development. Every growth occurs through alternating forward and backward movements.

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