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Marcovitz, E. (1973). Aggression in Human Adaptation. Psychoanal Q., 42:226-233.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:226-233

Aggression in Human Adaptation

Eli Marcovitz, M.D.

What is the point of discussing aggression? We are forced to face the unprecedented fact that humans have now the capacity to destroy all civilization, and perhaps all life, on this planet. Even if this statement were an exaggeration, it is near enough to reality to frighten us into trying to understand the forces or tendencies in ourselves which make such destructive use of this power possible.

In scientific discussion, 'aggression' is a term that is used to denote forms of energy, various types of drives, and a wide range of motivation and behavior. In clinical work, we find that different types of aggressive behavior are judged and reacted to, certainly by patients and sometimes by analysts, as if they were the same. For purposes of clarity in our thinking, in our communications, and in our clinical work it seems important to distinguish phenomenologically among various forms of object-related behavior which are commonly called aggressive. I believe it is justified to include all such behavior under the same heading because they have all been labeled 'aggression' and each is intimately related to biologic, psychologic, and social phenomena.

As Dr. Joseph has indicated, the term 'aggression' derives from the Latin ad gradi, meaning to go toward by steps. But the term has not been changed to mean 'attack'. The original meaning was based on the battle tactic of the Roman legions, to attack ad gradi, by stepping forward in a solid line or phalanx. Yet I agree that approach toward an object constitutes the basic element in aggressive behavior.

Professor

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