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Martin, A.R. (1951). The Community. Am. J. Psychoanal., 11(1):57-60.

(1951). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 11(1):57-60

The Community

Alexander Reid Martin

My comments stem largely from my personal experience in metropolitan New York youth clubs and settlements that are “homes from home” for thousands of children and youths. Out of the wealth of information and impressions which I gathered, I have prepared a brief formulation which I think has some pertinence and meaning for this symposium.

Humans being human, there is no ideal family life. There is only the satisfaction in striving for the ideal. Parents, afflicted with anxiety, create problems for their children. We cannot take away these problems, or, if you wish, these challenges, nor would we want to, because, in adapting to and overcoming and resolving these problems and challenges which are unique in degree and variation, though not in kind, the individual develops his unique disposition, temperament and character. Psychoanalysis and only psychoanalysis can see to it that these challenges and problems are not perpetuated, accelerated and aggravated by a blind and insensible extra-familial culture. Thus, our function as parents and figurative parents becomes one not of protecting children from problems and challenges per se, but protecting them from extremes.

I find that emphasis upon the formative influence of the family has tended to overshadow the equally powerful extra-familial relationships. Exclusive emphasis upon the family with its genetic implications has led to neglect of the relationships that are operating here and now. Consideration of factors perpetuating healthy and unhealthy patterns necessitates constant focusing upon the immediate present. When a youth leader says, “What should I do?” we must say, “Let's first find out what you are doing, and what really is your responsibility.”

Figurative parents in the community (teachers, doctors, ministers, club leaders, youth leaders, employers) are not aware of, and have not been sensitized to, the potency of their formative influence on character and have not been helped to recognize their responsibility in this regard.

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