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Strean, H.S. (1971-72). Social Change and the Proliferation of Regressive Therapies. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(4):581-594.

(1971-72). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(4):581-594

Social Change and the Proliferation of Regressive Therapies

Herbert S. Strean, D.S.W


At the turn of the twentieth century, Sigmund Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, 5 described how the individual is in constant conflict between the urge to gratify his instinctual impulses, on one hand, and the desire to conform to imperatives of authorities surrounding him, such as the parents, school, church or state, on the other. Said Freud, “A great part of the struggles of mankind centers around the single task of finding some expedient solution between these individual claims and those of the civilized community; it is one of the problems of man's fate whether this solution can be arrived at in some particular form of culture or whether the conflict will prove irreconcilable.” Freud, who has been frequently misinterpreted, consistently stood for the taming and control of sexual and aggressive impulses rather than for their random expression. “Where there is id, there shall ego be,” meant that psychoanalytic treatment would aim to provide the individual with increased rational thinking, a realistic understanding and appreciation of himself and others, and the ability to renounce many of his infantile desires. “To work and love another” was and still is the goal that many Freudian analysts and psychotherapists set for and with their patients.

As Freud pondered the state of civilized man, implied in his writing is a certain pessimism about man's fate. Freud seemed to question the ability of the authority structure in Western society to help individuals renounce their tendency toward “unbridled aggression” and “egoistic self-satisfaction.”

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