Hitlers promotion of psychoanalysis

The Second World War also promoted the spread of pychodynamic ideas, for an entirely different reason. A very high proportion of European psychoanalysts were, like their founder, Jews. Hitler's persecution led to their emigration. Some came to England, but the majority found refuge in the United States and profoundly influenced the development of psychiatry in that country. It has been argued that psychoanalysis was likely to make an especially strong impact upon a society based upon immigrants who were cut off from the network of stable social relationships, family ties, and religion which characterized older cultures. Whereas members of traditional societies make sense out of their experience in terms of these relationships, immigrant cultures have fewer reference points, and people therefore look for ways of understanding themselves which are based upon the psychological development of the isolated individual.

As psychoanalysis spread beyond the consulting room to make incursions into anthropology, sociology, religion, literature, art, and the occult, it became what Ernest Gellner called 'the dominant idiom for the discussion of the human personality and of human relations'. Gradually, more and more psychoanalytic training institutes were established. By the 1970s, such institutes existed in every continent except Africa.

Even in England, where there was always less enthusiasm for psychoanalysis and its variants than in the United States, the principal training school for psychiatrists at the Maudsley Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry found it advisable to recruit dynamically orientated psychotherapists to its teaching staff. In the late 1940s, a Kleinian, a Jungian, and an eclectic psychoanalyst rubbed shoulders without generating too much friction.

The Tavistock Clinic became established as a centre where psychoanalytic psychotherapy was available for selected out-patients and where the staff were predominantly trained in Freudian methods. The Cassel Hospital was another institution staffed by psychoanalysts which offered psychoanalytic treatment to in-patients.

In the United States, psychoanalysis became so essential a part of the psychiatrist's training that, from the 1930s to the 1960s, it was virtually impossible to be appointed to a leading position in psychiatry without proffering as a qualification membership of one or other of the psychoanalytic institutes. Since the introduction of effective drugs, the pendulum has swung so violently in the opposite direction in the United States that young psychiatrists in training have barely heard of Freud and have certainly never read his writings.

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We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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