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Federn, P. (1929). An Every-Day Compulsion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 10:130-138.

(1929). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 10:130-138

An Every-Day Compulsion

Paul Federn

In his paper entitled 'Some Cases of Obsessional Neurosis' Ernest Jones has done far more than give a clinical sketch. He has demonstrated separately the many roots of each component-instinct which exist in the infantile instinctual constitution of the patients, and has shewn that every symptom not only reveals a manifold determination when the development of the disease is viewed, as it were, in longitudinal section, but is also over-determined through the repression of several instinct-components, as we see when examining the disease in cross-section.

This statement applies to the obsessional symptom which is the subject of this paper—probably the most frequently met with of all such symptoms. So, before I go into what in my opinion is the deepest and most fundamental significance of the 'street-pavement' obsession, I will mention briefly its other determinations and the many other explanations suggested. Several of the causes assigned to it are rationalizations in the sense which Jones was the first to attach to this term. I may take the opportunity of pointing out that the German word 'Rationalisierung', as used in practical scientific literature, has a different significance from that assigned to it by Jones. It means the application of rational standpoints and reflection to procedure which was hitherto divorced from thought or purely instinctive. 'Rationalization' in Jones' sense means the conscious, subjective explanation (held by the subject to be adequate), side by side with and beneath which are concealed the unconscious determinants whose absence is then not remarked at all.

It is interesting to note that 'rationalizations' in Jones' sense are not necessarily purely intelligible and reasonable motivations but may themselves contain motives which are unconscious though less deeply repressed. Thus the explanations put forward by the disciples of individual psychology are largely rationalizations which are only in part rational: for the most part they advance as fundamental causes neurotic compromise-reactions against repressed motives.

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