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Alexander, F. (1930). The Neurotic Character. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 11:292-311.

(1930). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 11:292-311

The Neurotic Character

Franz Alexander

The tendency which psycho-analysis has been showing of late is that of laying emphasis upon the patient's personality as a whole. This newer orientation presents the fundamental condition for understanding or therapeutically influencing that group of people whose difficulties manifest themselves, not in the form of a circumscribed set of symptoms, but in the form of a typical behaviour pattern which is clearly a deviation from the normal. In contradistinction to true neurotics who squander their energy in futile inactivity, these individuals live active and eventful lives; the essential characteristic of neurosis, the autoplastic mode of instinct gratification, is often entirely absent. Another feature of neurosis, which since Freud pointed it out we have learned to regard as fundamental, is substitutive gratification in the form of a symptom of those impulses which are condemned by the ego. This feature is totally absent in the group of individuals under consideration. Instead they live out their impulses, many of their tendencies are asocial and foreign to the ego, and yet they cannot be considered true criminals. It is precisely because one part of such an individual's personality continues to sit in judgment upon the other, the manifestations of which it is too weak to control, that his total personality is easily differentiated from the more homogeneous, unified and anti-social personality of the criminal. The singular and only apparently irrational drive to self-destruction met with in such people indicates rather definitely the existence of inner self-condemnation. Thus one characteristic of neurosis, the presence of a mental conflict, or more explicitly, of an unconscious battle between two conflicting parts of the personality, is clearly discernible in this group. We deal here with a definite characteristic which betrays the splitting of the personality in two parts; one giving in to its impulses and the other reacting upon it in a moral, even over-moral way, doing this not only by means of restraining the ego, but also by means of punishing it. It is this characteristic that justifies us in placing such individuals in the class of pathological people.

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