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Rycroft, C. (1962). Beyond the Reality Principle. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:388-394.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:388-394

Beyond the Reality Principle

Charles Rycroft


1. There are two types, modes or forms of mental functioning.

2. Under conditions of 'ideal' or 'normal' mental health these are integrated and analysis of the totality of mental activity into discrete types of function is impossible.

3. In all forms of mental ill-health, however, dissociation occurs and the specific characteristics of both types of mental functioning become observable.

A complete divergence of their trends, a total severance of the two systems, is what above all characterizes a condition of illness. Freud, S. (8), p. 194.

4. These two types of mental functioning were called by Freud the primary and secondary processes, which he conceived as being actuated by the pleasure and reality principles. According to Freud the primary processes precede the secondary in individual development and are or become unconscious, while the secondary processes arise as a result of growth and experience of external reality and are conscious. He also held that the primary processes have an intrinsic connexion with dream imagery ('thing-representations'), phantasy, and wish-fulfilling hallucinatory tendencies, and the secondary processes with verbal imagery ('word-representations') and 'reality-adaptation'.

5. The notion that the primary processes precede the secondary in individual development has frequently been questioned, and on one occasion Freud himself described it as a fiction.

It will rightly be objected that an organization which was a slave to the pleasure-principle and neglected the reality of the external world could not maintain itself alive for the shortest time, so that it could not come into existence at all.

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