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Hacker, F.J. (1972). Sublimation Revisited. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:219-223.

(1972). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53:219-223

Sublimation Revisited

Frederick J. Hacker


The change and development of the psychoanalytic sublimation concept was traced from a special non-pathogenic defence mechanism to any aim deviated (elevated) gratification involving the ego and the use of symbolic capacity. Theoretical and practical difficulties stemming from the unrecognized introduction of unanalysed, hence necessarily conformist, social values into the psychological system of the individual were discussed, particularly in reference to aggressive drives. Various transformations of aggressive energies (comprising aim and object changes but not confined to sublimation) were described as contributing to the building of inner and outer structures (superego, game rules, institutions, etc.) and as being used, in latent, bound, alienated forms, as conscious and unconscious strategy (rather than as symptoms indicating pathology).

An expanded principle of mature functioning beyond the reality principle based on the original

promise of sublimation was considered and the potentially constructive uses of aggression for motivation, for novel structures and for rational alloplastic action (simultaneous with autoplastic changes) were outlined. The function and possibilities of the reality principle of the future were critically confronted with the restrictive limitations of the conventional reality principle commanding adjustment or resignation rather than change and improvement.

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