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Racker, H. (1957). Contribution to the Problem of Psycho-Pathological Stratification. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 38:223-239.

(1957). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38:223-239

Contribution to the Problem of Psycho-Pathological Stratification

Heinrich Racker, Ph.D.


The psycho-analytic method of therapy consists essentially in bringing the patient to abandon his pathological defence mechanisms and work through his old-new conflicts in a different form, more adapted to inner and outer reality. The defence mechanisms in their turn determine the psycho-pathological stratification, since the rejected situations are covered by others, whereby stratification becomes an important problem of psycho-analytic theory and technique. Owing to its complexity, we are usually content to find one or another rule or regularity in this regard. The present paper deals with such a regularity, i.e. a certain succession and connexion of psychological situations which appear from a depth-psychological point of view as stratification. This seems to recur in every case, playing a central part in the structure of personality and of neurosis.

A brief consideration of instincts, which are the deepest determinants of this stratification, may serve as an introduction. The existence of instincts is inferred from observation, and different kinds of instincts are accepted according to the various points of view. The existence of an aim of the instinct implies that the latter may be satisfied or frustrated. Frustration leads, for instance in the case of the alimentary instinct, to hunger. However, if we adhere more precisely to the facts, things take on a somewhat different appearance. The first phenomenon in the succession of the biopsychological events in question is not the drive but the lack.

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