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McGregor, J.C. (2006). A British Independent Analyst at Work. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 54(2):633-641.

(2006). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 54(2):633-641

Research Section: Panel Report

A British Independent Analyst at Work

Jacqueline C. McGregor

Defining and characterizing the British Independent Group is a difficult undertaking, as the group itself is a heterogeneous and amorphous one that defies easy identification. The purpose of the panel discussion was to provide an example of one British Independent psychoanalyst's thinking about psychoanalytic work using a case presentation as a stimulus for discussion.

Paul Williams, chair of the panel and himself a British Independent, opened with a brief overview of the history of the British Psychoanalytical Society, which was created in 1919, mostly by analysts who had trained in Vienna and Berlin. In the 1930s a schism evolved between Melanie Klein and Anna Freud that led to the Controversial Discussions of the 1940s. Most of the British Society wanted to avoid taking sides; initially they were known as the “Middle Group” and later as the “Independents.” Although they do not espouse a particular theory, its members share a certain autonomous philosophy and personality. Williams cited two books as providing helpful background on the group: Eric Rayner's The Independent Mind in British Psychoanalysis and Gregorio Kohon's The British School of Psychoanalysis: The Independent Tradition.

Williams continued with highlights of the contributions the British Independents have made to psychoanalysis. Perhaps best known of these are infant development and the influence of the environment and trauma. The Independents conceptualized that the effects of early trauma on an individual were stored in memories, which were frozen or disassociated from a person's central ego or functional self. This was a further elaboration on the role of repression in the preoedipal origins of psychopathology.

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