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Jackson, S.W. (1968). Aspects of Culture in Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 16:651-670.

(1968). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 16:651-670

Aspects of Culture in Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice

Stanley W. Jackson, M.D.

Warner Muensterberger introduced the panel by distinguishing between a theory of culture to which psychoanalysis can make significant contributions and culture as a complex of behavior patterns and beliefs that has an impact upon psychoanalytic work. For example, one may view culture as originating in and emerging from the need for defensive structures, or one may think of culture as an important factor in the choice of defenses. Our frequent references to "reality," our tendency to underline potential conflicts between internal stimuli and external necessities, point implicitly to a tension resulting from the ego's dependence on both an external setting and the demands rooted in the drives. Behavior is ultimately determined by the instinctual drives, but the environment coordinates their direction and provides the sociocultural conditions for adaptive measures. Environment in any particular instance reflects a complex of patterns from the larger cultural configuration, and it supplies "stimulus nutriment" (Rapaport) for defensive and controlling structures.

Portraying the "aspects of culture" in psychoanalysis in another sense, Muensterberger dealt with the psychoanalytic profession as a subculture. He related his feelings of obligation and satisfaction as chairman designate to a culturally defined order of values within the profession, reflected in roles assigned and in various statuses within the organization and their hierarchical ordering in terms of prestige. He commented upon the status sequence from applicant for training to member of the "American" as a gradual building up of accomplishments that reflect a profession's ideology and standards. In the anthropologist's terms, in this process one can note initiation rites, normative cultural values, reflections of kinship hierarchies, etc. And, Muensterberger added, a profession's system of values may embody traditions which are part of a reality system derived from organized religion or the state.

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