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Kursh, C.O. (1976). Dirt, Pollution, and Patina: A Vocabulary of Behavioral Control. Psychoanal. Rev., 63(1):5-25.

(1976). Psychoanalytic Review, 63(1):5-25

Dirt, Pollution, and Patina: A Vocabulary of Behavioral Control

Charlotte O. Kursh

Ideas connected with dirt and cleanliness, and the vocabulary used to express these ideas, are notoriously subjective and full of value judgments in any culture. Insofar as negative evaluations of the evaluation process reflect anything more than annoyance on the part of the evaluator, who has been foiled in his attempt to win rational agreement for his own impeccably objective viewpoint, they suggest that such areas may have certain underlying similarities amid all the variety. All such areas, however varied and demonstrably culturally determined, are so deeply built in that they can be, and frequently are, used to motivate individuals almost as if these ideas were innate and species-wide instincts like sex or hunger.

Dirt and cleanliness reflect one of the very earliest areas in which a child is trained to behave in ways that other human beings approve, and to refrain from behaving in ways that other human beings disapprove, when his own initial preference runs counter to theirs. Any later attempt to make him subordinate his own interests to those of another finds this one of the deepest wells to draw on: much of it is preverbal. Some of the cultural variation may stem from the often examined area of early childhood training methods, but some also arises from the continual struggle going on between those who are trying to exploit the early emotional training of others for various ends, and those trying to avoid being exploited. The superego can be thought of in this connection as somebody else's id, internalized, with the harried ego acting as referee and procurement officer.

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