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Kaplan, D.M. (1993). What is Sublimated in Sublimation?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:549-570.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:549-570

What is Sublimated in Sublimation?

Donald M. Kaplan, Ph.D.


Sublimation has always been an elusive idea in psychoanalytic thought. This is because psychoanalysis is most systematic as a clinical psychology, while sublimation signifies an obverse of neurosogenesis. Nevertheless, the idea of sublimation remains a concern of psychoanalysis inasmuch as sublimation entails a version of socialization and cultural experience that answers to various principles of psychoanalytic theory. For reasons developed here, the creation and experience of art figure prominently in reflections on sublimation. Clinical material from the analyses of several artists is presented to demonstrate how neurosis takes a toll of sublimation and how sublimation takes a toll of the analytic process. Sublimatory experiences are then reconstructed from the devices of art. Two achievements of sublimation are especially noted: reduction of the ordinary instrumental functions of affects, and heightened consciousness of endopsychic processes.

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