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Gitelson, M. (1965). Heinz Hartmann. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:2-4.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:2-4

Heinz Hartmann

Maxwell Gitelson

Heinz Hartmann became known to me through his paper on 'Psychoanalysis and the Concept of Health' when it was published in 1939 (1939b). Not long before that I had read Freud's 'Analysis Terminable and Interminable' (1937). The latter had emphatically reminded me that ego-variations are 'primal' and 'congenital', that 'id and ego are originally one … [and that] even before the ego has come into existence, the lines of development, trends and reactions … are already laid down.' Hartmann's paper impressed me with its proposition that:

it is only when we consider the social phenomena of adaptation in their biological aspect that we can really start 'getting psychology rightfully placed in the hierarchy of science, namely as one of the biological sciences.'

Both papers brought home the relativism of psychic health and illness, and the importance, to theory and practice, of the point of view from which each is seen. Both made it possible to realize more clearly the fact that a psychic function needs to be understood with respect to its relevance to the task if 'reason [is not to become] unreason, kindness torment'. Together these papers, at this stage of my career, brought clarification of an intellectual dilemma arising from a clinical experience which had had its beginnings in Child Guidance, and which psycho-analysis, as I then already knew and accepted it, did not explicate sufficiently. The children I saw, and whose histories I learned, presented problems in adaptation to reality which could not be solved decisively on the basis of id-ego psychology as it then stood.

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