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Lynd, H.M. (1961). Alienation: Man's Fate and Man's Hope. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):166-171.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):166-171

Alienation: Man's Fate and Man's Hope

Helen Merrell Lynd, Ph.D.

The Pretentious Title of this paper is an attempt to say, as simply as possible, that in order to enter into understanding of experiences of alienation and identity we must be willing to confront the most profound contradictions—and questions—of human existence. I should like to suggest what some of these are.

Pondering this subject, I asked a psychologist for whom I have great respect if the concept of alienation had a central place in his thought. He said No, because the term has so many different meanings that he does not find it useful. I could not but think of some of the terms he—and all of us—do use with at least as much variation in meaning, terms such as anxiety, shame, guilt, sex, self, variable, identification, motive. The different usages of alienation do not rule it out!

Most of you probably have seen the recent collection of essays entitled Identity and Anxiety.1 One of the striking things about this volume (in addition to certain notable individual essays, especially some by the less well-known contributors) is the almost total lack of agreement on the meaning of anxiety. Some of the phenomena discussed as anxiety could, it seems to me, have more accurately been called alienation.

By this I mean that, although anxiety is sometimes conceived as a wholly subjective experience, the very term alienation implies a context—from which one has become estranged. Alienation may be experienced as loneliness, isolation, separateness, anonymity, or anomie; but in trying to understand alienation we must be aware of a definite environmental as well as a personal basis for the experience.

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