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Hamm, R. (1997). Collective Will: A Reformulation of Otto Rank's theory of Personality Individuation. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(3):381-396.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(3):381-396

Collective Will: A Reformulation of Otto Rank's theory of Personality Individuation

Robert Hamm, Ph.D.

When I took childhood development in college in the late 60's, Otto Rank's theory of birth trauma was mentioned as a footnote in the instructor's lecture syllabus. Today his name is associated with the kooks and eccentrics, a historical figure whose ideas went far afield of the accepted science of psychology as we understand it today. If Rank were alive today he might not be too surprised with this development as he was a strong critic of the emphasis on positivism and objectivity in psychology.

Within the field of psychoanalysis, Rank was singularly the most philosophical in his approach to psychopathology; he regarded human problems as a dialectic process with which we struggle throughout our lives, the greatest of which is separation and individuation. Rank identified the source of the drive toward individuation as the will and made it the focal point of his theoretical work. The phenomenological correlate of the will, according to Rank, is the ability or courage to abide by one's subjective experience.

This paper will explore the contribution of Rank's will theory toward a psychology of individuation and will discuss the negative will, defined as will which is antagonistic in nature. Finally, the collective will concept will be reevaluated in relation to Rank's theory, from which it is proposed as a separate and equally fundamental component in personality individuation.

It is proposed that this author's reconceptualization of will as an individual-collective bipolarity would offer several advantages from a theoretical and clinical standpoint. First of all, it is proposed that will is defined empirically, i.e., as behavior which manifests self in development and, therefore, is unique to each individual, rather than as a universal and metaphysical concept.

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