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Grinker, R.R., Sr (1995). The History of Psychoanalysis in Chicago, 1911–1975. Ann. Psychoanal., 23:155-195.

(1995). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 23:155-195

III Early Psychoanalysis In Chicago

The History of Psychoanalysis in Chicago, 1911–1975

Roy R. Grinker, Sr, Ph.D.


In this article, Dr. Grinker has not only provided us with a historical account of the development of psychoanalysis in Chicago from 1911 to 1975, but also added an autobiographical account of how he participated in it. He also detailed the vicissitudes that accompanied this development.

Dr. Grinker' keen observations and brilliant insights supplied us with an understanding of the problems involved. As an astute visionary he was able to see our theoretical shortcomings and recommended the directions we needed to take. In brief, he recognized the limiting effect of the orthodoxy which insisted that the oedipal conflict was the core of most symptomatology and the more severe pathology was the result of deeper regressions from the oedipal conflict. The most severe pathology was relegated to the psychoses or borderline states and therefore unanalyzable.

There have been many changes in psychoanalysis, but only gradually before 1975, and these changes have confirmed Grinker' views. Orthodoxy has partially released its hold, because of what one hopes is an increased understanding of the composition of the therapeutic process, and an understanding that the expectation of the resolution of the transference neurosis is a myth. This concept had created unrealistic expectations in patient and therapist.

There are re-solutions but not resolutions. How well Grinker knew this when he described his colleagues as “neurotic.” Year after year was vainly wasted by Blitzsten, Emch, Gitelson, and others in an attempt to reorganize the total character structures of their patients. These efforts were unrealized therapeutic ambition, as one could observe by the wide variety of neurosis and personality and character disorders of analytic graduates.

Dr. Grinker' approach was based on what he designated as the transactional field theory. He proposed that there are multiple influences that bear on symptom and character formation. Among those influences were the anatomical, biological, genetic, developmental, social, and cultural. These fields were mutually interactive and therefore subject to exploration in the therapeutic process.

Dr. Grinker felt that a more heterogeneous composition of the candidates would add an expanded theoretical and scientific understanding to our field. His vision is now being put into practice. The Institute has taken on the acceptance of Ph.D. candidates, both psychologists and social workers as well as specialists in other social fields such as linguistics, anthropology, history, etc.

The curriculum is being changed to encourage a less orthodox approach, to widen the scope of psychoanalysis, and to make use of some of the theoretical concepts involved in transactional field theory. His criticisms and suggestions for an expanded theoretical understanding are being validated. Though at that time he was considered a reprobate and curmudgeon, he is now being vindicated and appreciated as a visionary.

I would like now to introduce an addendum from a personal point of view based on my residency in the postwar psychiatric program at Michael Reese Hospital and the coauthorship with Roy of the Psychosomatic Casebook (1954).

During my residency I felt fortunate, as did my nine fellow residents, to have such an admirable teacher and mentor. His theoretical grasp and his ability to elaborate this understanding was helpful and stimulating. Roy' contribution to the weekly clinical conference was insightful, brilliant, and inspirational. We realized that we were in the presence of greatness, which helped us to tolerate his critical personality. He was, in our terms, “a super superego.” We used the title of the Grinker and Spiegel book Men Under Stress to designate ourselves as “The Ten Men Under Stress.” After graduation, I joined Roy as coauthor of Psychosomatic Casebook.

For me this was a great learning experience from which I profited considerably. It was here that I was able to apply the multiplicity of the sources of symptom and character formation and question the reliability of specificity. Despite our challenge to the concept of specificity, Alexander invited me to join the staff of the Institute. Roy, of course, would not stand in the way of my opportunity. When I asked him how he felt about my joining the staff, the curmudgeon in him arose once again and in his typical manner he replied, “How thin can you slice baloney?” The remark was easily forgiven, a meager fee for all I had gained in my association with him and all I reexperienced, understood, and appreciated in reading this once rejected and now rightfully accepted article.

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