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Schecter, D.E. (1975). Of Human Bonds and Bondage. Contemp. Psychoanal., 11:435-452.

(1975). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 11:435-452

Of Human Bonds and Bondage

David E. Schecter, M.D.

ONE OF THE CORE PROBLEMS faced by humans is the polar tension between the striving toward individuation and the yearning for symbiotic unity with some person, group, or power "outside" of one's self. The universality of this human dilemma is derived, in part, from the biological helplessness of the infant who requires prolonged protection, nourishment, and stimulation for his very survival and development. The particular shape of the symbiotic unit and the qualities of the individuation process are, of course, very much a function of the particular culture and family in which the child develops. The child in India or in some Mediterranean countries experiences a much more prolonged dependency upon and unity with his mother in comparison with the middle-class American child of whom weaning, toilet training, and psychic individuation are expected at a much earlier age. Nevertheless, in all cultures—even those with extended families or clans—varying degrees of psychic individuation are experienced, deriving from maturational forces unfolding within the organism as well as through cultural molding. One way of looking at individual and family development would be as a struggle or conflict to achieve a certain equilibrium between the polar tendencies of individuation and symbiotic fusion.

In 1941, in Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm distinguished two kinds of human bonds: 1) "primary ties, " which are "organic in the sense that they are part of normal development" and "exist before the process of individuation" (p.

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