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Clark, L.P. (1934). A Psychological Study of Sycophancy. Psychoanal. Rev., 21(1):15-39.

(1934). Psychoanalytic Review, 21(1):15-39

A Psychological Study of Sycophancy

L. Pierce Clark, M.D.

Recently the field of psychoanalysis has been applied to such social disorders as kleptomania, profligacy (social and financial), perverted libido, and faulty character-formation. There have also been added the milder states of constitutional mental defect (the dull normals) where fear neuroses play a rôle. Again, there are individuals who are inadequately equipped emotionally (at present still known as psychopathic personalities), or are threatened with serious difficulties and conflicts, who do not come under an exact diagnosis, and these may be brought under some form of analysis if not psychoanalysis per se. By making such individuals aware of their neurotic tendencies they may gain an insight into the unconscious impulses that is often successful in retarding or correcting a threatened mental breakdown.

In this extended province of psychoanalysis one often encounters individuals who never develop a proper sense of responsibility, who remain in a dependent state though quite mature intellectually. Up to the present these youths have remained a problem to parents, teachers and social service workers. More recently in such predicaments the family physician has been called in to reinforce a moral and social guidance. His failure to understand the deeper unconscious forces at work has rendered his assistance ineffectual, and the social parasite, or sycophant, has continued to be an object of worry and discouragement, engendering the pessimistic view that nothing can be done for the individual save to incarcerate him or permit him to pass on to further social dilapidations.

While our present study offers no final or satisfactory solution of the general problem, we have endeavored to make a careful detailment of some of the problems commonly met with, and have pointed out the successive points of fixation and arrest that take place in the individual's emotional development. Through our psychoanalytic interpretation of a single case we hope to make more patent the genetic causes that underlie sycophancy.

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