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Marcus, P. (2008). Victory Through Vegetables: Self-Mastery Through a Vegetarian Way of Life. Psychoanal. Rev., 95(1):61-77.

(2008). Psychoanalytic Review, 95(1):61-77

Victory Through Vegetables: Self-Mastery Through a Vegetarian Way of Life

Paul Marcus

The odd thing about being a vegetarian is not that the things that happen to other people don't happen to me—they all do—but they happen differently: pain is different, pleasure different, fever different, cold different, and even love different.

—George Bernard Shaw

While Shaw was being humorous in his letter to Ellen Terry, he was also making an observation that rings true to this psychoanalyst. For some time now, having treated a few analysands who were vegetarians, I have been wondering to myself what makes such people tick, those who live a “vegetarian way of life”? By vegetarian way of life, I mean those individuals, like Pythagoras, Tolstoy, Shelley, Einstein, and Leonardo to name a few famous vegetarians, who have, to varying degrees, an almost visceral contempt for what they view as the unnecessary killing of animals, who are greatly concerned about animal welfare, earth ecology, and maintaining good physical health. Such lacto-vegetarians (no meat-, poultry-, or fish-eating, but only dairy products)1 are often associated with progressive social thought, though there have been a few infamous exceptions like Adolph Hitler and Richard Wagner (an unrepentant anti-Semite). Like religion, or for that matter psychoanalysis, vegetarianism can be life affirming or life denying, depending on the individual who embraces such a social practice.

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