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Berg, C. (1936). The Unconscious Significance of Hair. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 17:73-88.

(1936). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 17:73-88

The Unconscious Significance of Hair

Charles Berg

While it is generally recognized that psychotic or symptomatic behaviour has relatively little reality causation, and must therefore be activated by endopsychic tensions, typically 'normal' behaviour is readily assumed, even by some psychologists, to be amply conditioned by environmental reality. It is, however, sometimes instructive to attempt to define the rôles played by the pleasure principle and the reality principle respectively in some well-established form of 'normal' behaviour.

Close examination of such 'normal' behaviour as our daily habits of dress and toilet reveals that these also have their principal cause in endopsychic tension. The attempt to explain such behaviour as a logical response to reality demands can be shewn to be a process having the defensive advantage of enabling the instinctive basis to be ignored.

From the most primitive times, man has given much time to various forms of interference with his Hair. The primary advantage of this behaviour is, perhaps, that it keeps his hair out of his eyes and from interfering with his activities. Also the hair growing about the mouth is kept out of his food and prevented from collecting nasal and oral secretions. But if this should be considered a sufficient reality advantage to justify its daily removal by shaving, it must be admitted that the public hair, at least in women, is subject to similar disadvantages.


Since these daily activities do not seem to derive their impetus from purely reality considerations, we turn to some clinical material to see if this can throw any light on their source.

A patient dreams as follows:—

He is sitting in a 'bus beside a young woman with brilliant red hair. He puts his hand on her head and presses her hair. (Feelings of pleasure.)


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