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Laughlin, H.P. (1954). King David's Anger. Psychoanal Q., 23:87-95.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:87-95

King David's Anger

Henry P. Laughlin, M.D.


King David's anger derives its name from the Biblical story of how David was led by a parable to perceive his own iniquity. The King David reaction is a complex psychological process which involves the unconscious employment of several mental mechanisms. These are primarily identification, projection, and rationalization. By their use, repressed self-condemnation and disapproval are transposed into feelings experienced subjectively as dislike for another person. The strength of these feelings may be poorly understood by the person concerned, who may explain them to himself or to others on the basis of ascribed attributes (projection) which then appear to be the basis for his condemnation and dislike, or even hatred.

This pattern of reaction may also be the basis for certain otherwise unexplained positive feelings and attractions toward another person. In both, the process may be facilitated by unrecognized elements of physical resemblance, as well as by actual similarities in character and personality traits. The King David pattern of reaction is not very common in its more pronounced form, several clinical examples of which have been presented in illustration. Their recognition and interpretation can, however, be useful in psychoanalysis. This reaction can help explain a hypothesis offered as to the selectivity of direction of our interests in and toward other persons.

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