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Symonds, A. (1961). Discussion. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):142-143.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):142-143


Alexandra Symonds, M.D.

Dr. Rubins’ paper on the development of self establishes the groundwork for an inquiry into the early evidences of alienation.

His presentation can be divided roughly into two major aspects: 1) His concept of the self and the various components entering into it, and 2) Some discussion of the factors in childhood that may influence the direction of neurotic distortion.

My discussion will deal with certain points in the second part of his paper. Dr. Rubins touched on a subject which has intrigued people—from scientists to grandmothers—throughout the ages. That is, what accounts for the differences in people. How is it that, given what seem to be comparable conditions, some babies grow up to be retiring, shy, and self-effacing Emily Dickinsons, others become expansive, aggressive business tycoons, and others develop into stilted, detached, intellectual giants? Or, in more technical words, what factors account for the nature of the predominant neurotic orientation?

It is well known that there are striking differences in infants from the moment of birth. Mothers will very readily tell you about certain babies, either fondly or with annoyance: How Jimmy came out fighting, how Ellen was always nervous, or how Joey could lie in his crib for hours contentedly cooing and amusing himself. There are differences in motor activity, in sensitivity to sensory stimuli, interest in food, tolerance for frustration, and so forth. All of these have been noted and studied, some in great detail.

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