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Federn, P. (1989). Psychoanalysis as a Therapy of Society. Am. Imago, 46(2-3):125-141.

(1989). American Imago, 46(2-3):125-141

Psychoanalysis as a Therapy of Society

Paul Federn

In a speech that has never been published, Freud developed his program for the investigation of character and personality. He said that having brought analytic research of mental diseases to some sort of conclusion, he would now like to start a search for the Unconscious in Character Formation, if there were a span of 50 years before him like an ocean of time. His later works have indeed dealt with characterology and with the relations between the individual and society in regard to unconscious processes and unconscious adjustment, beginning with his studies on “Libidinous Types” up to his book on Moses.

Many psychoanalytical writers follow this line of thought. When this program is fulfilled, psychoanalysis will cease to belong mainly to psychopathology; it will become an essential part of “anthropology.” Several “anthropologies” that have been published in Germany up till now were written from a rather subjective standpoint and were, unconsciously, dictated by the need to express the author's own neurosis. Only individuals who have ceased to be neurotic themselves are able to fulfill the Socratic-Freudian demand to “know thyself” which includes knowing human nature in general.

Self-recognition is the basis of self-direction. Self-direction means the victory of the “logos” to which Freud has paid homage. For nations as well as for individuals it is imperative to overcome primitive and neurotic stages. The highest aim is to enable us to choose our goal ourselves. Generally speaking, the purpose for which all psychoanalytic educational influence must unite is to accomplish better self-direction. Self-direction naturally depends on the fitness of the captain and the quality of the rudder and the ship. Psychoanalysis is expected to build up this fitness. The ego (captain) must be able to use full will power (the rudder) and all his perfected mental and physical faculties (the ship).

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