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Kelman, H. (1951). Duplicity. Am. J. Psychoanal., 11(1):21-35.

(1951). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 11(1):21-35


Harold Kelman, M.D.

The purpose of this paper is to define duplicity more comprehensively in an effort to achieve a more effective therapy. The generalization has been made that all human beings are duplicitous as long as they are living. Its aim is to focus on the moral aspect of another assumption, widely held, that human beings are all more or less healthy and more or less neurotic as long as they are living. The generalization regarding duplicity is arrived at from certain theoretical premises, from some knowledge of Occidental and Oriental philosophies and from clinical evidence obtained in the psychoanalytic therapy of a variety of persons in a Western culture. The extent of its validity derives from methodological assumptions, theoretical formulations regarding human nature and the breadth of clinical evidence. Its verification or invalidation depends on further investigation. Its effectiveness in therapy, which seems evident to me, awaits confirmation or refutation by others. In this paper when the above generalization is made, it should be understood to include the foregoing qualifications, and be taken in the total contextual framework as its definition is being evolved.

The term duplicity is used to mean moral dividedness—the integrating of an individual on the basis of more than one set of moral value systems. Theoretically, duplicity refers to the moral aspect of the conflict process. It denotes moral doubleness, whether conscious or unconscious. The word duplicity is used because it expresses most closely the construct being discussed; because there is neither a wish nor need to coin a new term, and because my desire is to elucidate and expand the meaning of this term in order to mitigate the destructive effects of holding to the one-sided, opprobrious meanings generally assigned to this word.

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