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Rickman, J. (1957). VII. On ‘Unbearable’ Ideas And Impulses (1937). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):52-58.

(1957). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):52-58

VII. On ‘Unbearable’ Ideas And Impulses (1937) Book Information Previous Up Next

John Rickman, M.D.

If at some future date, a student wished to survey the development of psychology in the last fifty years he would find much to guide him from a study of this Journal, which is remarkable not only for its scope but for the fact that it has given an early welcome to so many ideas which have exercised a lasting influence on our science.

Before about 1900, psychology was in the main concerned with the phenomena of consciousness, with introspection and cognition and with such experiments as would throw more light on these problems. The question of pain, when considered at all, was treated as a mode of sensation, it did not include ‘mental suffering’. But suffering is to the ordinary man most closely associated with mental phenomena, physical pain is a rare and unwelcome visitor and the victim of it hastens for help or takes care to avoid the occasion of it. In the case of mental suffering the victim does not call in aid till he must, indeed he often seems compelled to take the very path to meet it and even at times to welcome it. It would be hardly an exaggeration to say that to the ordinary man a study of the mind that did not in any great measure deal with the sufferings of the mind would be regarded as dealing with an abstraction. This view is not held as a reproach to the psychologist by the ordinary man, for experience shows that the moment that mental pain is the subject of study he takes up a contrary attitude, saying that the topic is being mishandled and emotion is given too great prominence to the belittlement of reason. Another factor which contributes to the difficulties of studying mental pain is indeed a strange one.

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