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Gillman, R.D. (1971). Genetic, Dynamic and Adaptive Aspects of Dissent. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 19:122-130.

(1971). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 19:122-130

Genetic, Dynamic and Adaptive Aspects of Dissent

Robert D. Gillman, M.D.

In his introduction, Samuel Ritvo noted that the topic of the panel juxtaposes metapsychological concepts with behavioral phenomenology which range from individual acts to mass demonstrations. In examining the relationship between the manifestations of dissent and the psychoanalytic view of the personality, he dealt with the relevance of psychoanalytic propositions and knowledge gained from individual psychoanalysis to social and cultural problems. Finally, he offered his view of dissent as a reality-attuned reaction of the ego when there is a wide gap between ideals and performance during a period when external reality is changing rapidly and the general level of education and information is rising.

Ritvo disagreed with those who believe that psychoanalysis as a depth psychology of the individual is culture-bound and irrelevant to the social and cultural problems of our day. Psychoanalysis has related the individual to his culture and society in a number of ways: through the study of love relationships from the sensual to the sublimated; through the study of aggressive tendencies and identifications in the psychology of groups; through the study of early object relations and their developmental vicissitudes, including their influence on professional and political life. While earlier psychoanalytic contributions emphasized genetic, instinctual and intrapsychic processes, the introduction of the structural hypothesis, the development of ego psychology and the newer theory of anxiety opened the way to the further study of the ego's relations with external reality.

The current youth dissent, more varied and vigorous than we have witnessed in a long time, is complex, with numerous determinants. Dissent is normally a phenomenon of the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Reality considerations form powerful interactions with intrapsychic processes which are in active ferment, for example, the conflict between ego ideals and performance both in the youth and in the older generation.


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