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Daly, C.D. (1943). The Rôle of Menstruation in Human Phylogenesis and Ontogenesis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:151-170.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:151-170

The Rôle of Menstruation in Human Phylogenesis and Ontogenesis

C. D. Daly


The psychic reactions of present-day groups and individuals have been shaped by past events. Psycho-analysis attempts the reconstruction of these events by considering sexual evolution, social behaviour and psycho-neurotic tendencies in relation to functional disturbances, and does so mainly through the study of the individual's ontogenetic development and adaptability to the social milieu and the consideration of the forces and mental mechanisms involved.

Freud repeatedly drew attention to the inadequacy of our knowledge of certain aspects of psychic evolution, particularly of the evolution of culture as a special process comparable to the normal growth of an individual to maturity. (See, for instance, Civilization and its Discontents, 1929.) If we wished to know the value of recognizing this inadequacy, he urged us to attack another problem and put the question: What are the influences to which the evolution of culture owes its origin, how did it arise, and what determined its course?

This study deals more particularly with the first two of these three factors and has special reference to the genesis of ambivalence, incest dread, sadism and masochism. It endeavours to throw some light on the causes of the transformation of instinct which has resulted in the evolution of human culture.

Freud, in Totem and Taboo(1912–13), traced the origins of culture so far as psycho-analysis understood them at that time, taking care to point out very distinctly the considerable limits to our knowledge. Thus he wrote (Pelican Edition, 148): 'In this evolution I am at a loss to indicate the place of the great maternal deities.'

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