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Sublimation According to Anna Freud

Article by Stephan Simonian M.D.

Sublimation According to Anna Freud

One part of Reich Speaks of Freud is a transcript of an interview between Dr. Wilhelm Reich and Dr. Kurt Robert Eissler. Dr Reich says:

Will our children, in a hundred years, when they are five or six years old, be able to live their natural lives as nature or God ordains it? Or will they sublimate according to Anna Freud?

In psychology, sublimation is defined as the process of modifying an instinctual impulse in such a way as to conform to the demand of society. Sublimation is a substitute activity which gives some measure of gratification to the impulse; the impulse has been repudiated in its original form.  In other words, sublimation is a form of desexualization  in which the instinctive impulse is in some way deflected into socially acceptable channels, instead of requiring control by constant counterforce. The aim or object of the underlying drive is changed without blocking an adequate discharge.
With sublimation, contrary to the mechanism of repression, it is assumed that the impulse or the wish is modified in such a way that gratification can be achieved without disapproval or disapprobation. In sublimation, the ego is not acting in opposition of the instinctual force or Id; on the contrary, it helps the Id gain external expression by modifying and changing its form to conform the social structure.
Since its inception psychoanalytic psychology in praxis has advocated sublimation as the answer to the sexual demands nascent to childhood and adolescence.  The majority of child psychiatry and child psychology, along with most psychoanalytic books and literature, typically all respond to  children and adolescent sexual demand in the same way: Most all texts refer to the process of sublimation, and in turn advocate for adolescents and children to desexualize their impulses and express this demand in a socially acceptable manner.
In her well-received book Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development Anna Freud writes about a child’s developmental capacity for sublimation as the initial process for developing the capacity to do the actual work later on.
Sigmund Freud with his daughter Anna Freud.
In contrast to psychoanalytic psychology, a field that claims sublimation of the sexual drive is effective in an adequate discharge of libido energy in desexualized and socially acceptable channels, those of us who work in the field of orgonomy (but also those who keep in contact with his or her inner feelings) recognize that sublimation is only rarely capable of providing adequate discharge for sexual energy. This energy is incessantly produced from the core of the organism; if mishandled either by repression or another kind of deflection, a child will end up simply feeling like he or she will explode.
The child or adolescent has to find a way to conform his biological needs to cultural and social demands. Orgonomy, in contrast to psychoanalytic psychology that accepted the social and cultural norms and demands, suggests that the social and cultural institutions should adjust themselves and conform to the needs of children and adolescents. Not the other way around. Orgonomy posits that people who are sexually content and happy are most productive and behave and act in accordance to  natural moral codes that are self regulated. In general, the process of productive work is far higher among people who are sexually happy and satisfied in contrast to those who have to struggle to repress their sexual demands.
Work and Sexuality: The following is a diagram of reactive and sex-economic way of working from The Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich.
Dr. Reich had discovered the process of psychological and physical armoring. This develops as a natural consequence of a young person’s struggle with repressing their natural and instinctual primary drives. This has a devastating effect on their structure. Once the process of armoring begins, all types of psychological and physical illness ensues.
Recognizing the general misery of youth, Dr. Reich published a booklet for this audience called The Sexual Struggle of Youth, in 1932. The booklet’s introduction states:
The following pages were written for young people without any upper or lower age limit. My purpose in setting down these remarks is not to provide the usual kind of ‘sex education’ which avoids the question of adolescent sexual intercourse; instead it is my intention, based on well founded scientific conviction, to give young people a definite answer to the serious question that they have about their maturing sexuality.
He goes on to write:
Many a young person approaching puberty must develop a moralistic, defensive attitude against the unconscious urges of his sexuality, as well as against any knowledge from outside, simply in order to give himself an artificial prop to cling to. He is unaware of the relationship between his sexuality and the daydreams that torture him, his moodiness, his states of excitation, and other plights; he acts and thinks under the compulsive authority of a foreign will that forbids him to obtain sexual knowledge. This foreign will stems from education and has become a part of his own character, which now acts contrary to his natural bodily needs.
“Young people are contaminated on the one hand by moralizers and advocates of abstinence and, on the other hand by pornographic literature,” Dr. Reich continues. “Both influences are extremely dangerous, the former no less than the latter.” In recognizing this, he writes, “The sexual misery of modern youth is immeasurable, but most of it is out of sight, beneath the surface.”
In his book The Function of the Orgasm, Reich writes the following:
Viewed socially, Freud’s discovery of child sexuality and sexual repression was the first dim awareness of the sexual renunciation which had been going on for thousands of years. This awakening consciousness still appeared in a highly academic garb and had little faith in its own movements. The question of human sexuality had to be shifted from the dark corners of the social framework, where for thousands of years it had been leading a filthy, distorted and festering life, to the very front of the shiny edifice grandiosely called “culture” and “civilization.” Sexual murder, criminal abortions, the sexual agony of adolescents, the killing of all vital impulses in children, perversions en masse, pornography and the vice squad that goes with it, exploitation of the human longing for love by a cheap and prurient consumer industry and commercial advertising, millions of illnesses of a psychic and somatic nature, loneliness and psychic deformity everywhere, and—on top of this—the neurotic politicizing of the would-be saviors of mankind could hardly be looked upon as showpieces of civilization.
In the same book, Dr. Reich sites the work of anthropologist Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski. In his 1929 book The Sexual Life of Savage, Malinowski described his observation in the primitive tribes. For example, in the Trobriander primitive tribe who live in an archipelago of coral-based atolls off Eastern New Guinea, the sexual life of the children developed naturally, free and without interference throughout all stages of life, with full sexual gratification,  Malinowski found them to be ignorant of sexual perversions, functional mental illnesses, psychoneurosis or sexual murders. They had no word for theft; the strict, compulsory neurotic toilet training was unknown to the Trobriander child, hence the Trobriander is spontaneously clean, orderly, naturally social, intelligent and industrious. Another observation was that the Trobrainder people took part in non-compulsive, voluntary monogamous marriage that could be dissolved at any time without difficulties. This kind of marriage was the observed, prevalent social form of sexual life; there was no observed promiscuity.
1918 Bronislaw Malinowski with Trobriand Islanders
A few miles from the Trobriand Islands, on the Amphlett Islands, there lived a tribe having a patriarchal, authoritarian family arrangement. All the characteristics of the European neurotics (distrust, anxiety, neuroses, suicides, perversion, etc.) were already evident in the natives of this island.
Upon noting this, Dr. Reich asks “To what extent does a population enjoy natural sexuality? It is the pivotal question of mental hygiene.”
The sexual life of a European or American in his or her early twenties, for example, is currently far advanced than in the early 1900’s or even prior to WWII, when Dr. Reich was struggling to establish his theories. At that time sexual relations outside of marriage were expressly and implicitly prohibited for young men and women, regardless of the notion of “legal age.” Virginity was strictly imposed as a standard for women, which now seems foolish and disgustingly inhuman in western societies. The changes that have occurred in relation to sexuality reflect the gradual progression of social trends. Dr. Reich predicted and advocated for these same ideas since the 1920s:
The question is: Will our children in a hundred years, when they are five or six years old, be able to live their natural lives as nature or God ordains it? Or will they sublimate according to Anna Freud? [...] If I can help it, the first will be the case [...] Sublimated work or good cultural achivement is possible only after the basic needs are satisfied.
Nevertheless, and despite advances, sexual needs of adolescents and children remain repressed to the widest degrees, though there have been some timid movements to establish their rights in western societies.
We in orgonomy believe that the prediction of Dr. Reich will come true. It is something which is reflected by historical changes that we see now, and in fact, it must come true if there is any hope for a world free of human psychopathology, and all other ills that stem from it.

This post was written by:

- who has written 51 posts on Journal of Psychiatric Orgone Therapy.

Dr. Simonian is a general and child and adolescent psychiatrist. He completed medical school in Shiraz University, Shiraz Iran. He completed his general psychiatric residency training and fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at New York Medical College, Metropolitan Hospital Center. Concomitant with his psychiatry and child psychiatry training, Dr. Simonian completed the New York Medical College Psychoanalytic School Didactic Courses, including his own required personal psychoanalysis. In 1990, Dr. Simonian started his personal psychiatric orgone therapy, Reichian therapy, with Dr. Morton Herskowitz and in 1991 became a member of the Institute of Orgonomic Sciences (IOS), an Institute which is dedicated to promote and preserve Dr. Wilhelm Reich's work. Dr. Simonian started his private psychiatric practice in Milford, Massachusetts in 1984 and he was a chief of psychiatry department of Milford Regional Hospital for several years. He started his practice in Glendale, California since 2003. Dr. Simonian is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

7 Responses to “Sublimation According to Anna Freud”

  1. Therese says:

    This is a great article. Very well written. I’m so glad this journal is online!

  2. Amy Levine says:

    Great article! Very well written. Although we, in the western world, still have a long way to go when it comes to sex education for children–and especially for adolescents–we have made many strides in this area in recent history. Typically, children today are given far more freedom and information than they once were, and hopefully this trend will only continue in the coming years.

  3. Alen says:

    Love it !

  4. Lloyd Bagwell says:

    Nice article.

    I want to ask a serious question. Why is modern orgonomy seemingly so incapable of making a social stand against the repression of natural sexuality?

    I don’t understand what prevents anyone writing anything specifically for the youth to help them deal with armoring and the sex-negative societies they live in.
    Is it technically too difficult; mainly due to a fear of setting the emotional plague off on another one of its rampages against orgonomy; or something else?

    One of the goals of the emotional plague in attacking orgonomy was to make any followers scared to death of doing anything that would threaten the armored world, especially any practical social work.

    Things have changed for the better since Reich’s day, but its worth mentioning that this progress didn’t just happen on its own — people fought and worked very hard for every bit of it. We can’t just sit back and hope humanity is naturally going give up its armoring and all will be well; it just doesn’t work like that.

    I read in the paper the other day that 49% of parents want to bring back corporal punishment in schools in the UK. The other week there was another one — out of 1700 parents asked 59% said it was wrong for children to learn about sex.
    In many ways it looks like were moving backwards!

    If I had found The Sexual Rights of Youth as a kid it could have saved me a lot of unnecessary suffering. I already knew that natural sexuality was vitally important and needed to be protected, but I felt completely alone in that view. Orgonomy could have giving me the much needed back up I needed to stand up for my right to a healthy sex life, and given me the chance to learn about what I just called “The Sickness” (armoring) from a scientific perspective, instead of just having to go completely on gut feeling and common sense.

    It’s obvious that the answer to Reich’s question, will children in 100 years be able to live their natural lives as nature ordains it, is a definite no, unfortunately.
    It’s doubtful they will be able to in another 500 years time.

    Feel free to put this comment in the discussion section if you think it would be better off there…

    Thanks,
    Lloyd Bagwell

  5. yea refreshing comment, i’ll second that point of view put forth by LLoyd. I was just saying today that the issues of childhood sexual interference really tug at the Achilles heel of the whole human armor. Thats the reason Orgonomic groups are shy about it. Many people in Orgonomic groups are themselves armored even though they are excited to a certain level by Orgonomy. Fear and remnant fears of the childhood parental authority contribute to the apathetic positions…by the way Bronislaw Malinowski in his old books observed natural childhood sexual behavior in the Trobrianders and wrote vividly about it…see ‘Sexual Life of Savages’ etc..

  6. francesco zito says:

    Every article on childrens genitality, reflect our personal level of genitality.
    Now, my feeling is that ,to point the finger against the armor and his byproducts is important, but to the same level, one need to go behind, and find the courage, not only to write against sublimation, against the actual antiautoritarian sexual life, but to create places, where children can grow, freely, towards genitality.

    Who can do this? Who are the people, who can create these spaces for children? We cannot think that all the organizations, who are against genitality will do. They are clear enemies, and we need to be clear on this, is a battle, is a war, and every war has his levels.

    Now, are people who was in orgone therapy to possess the capacity to permit to their children to grow genitally ? Actually looks like they don’t have this capacity. Why? Maybe theyr work on theyr armor was not complete, maybe, also with orgone therapy, not all arrive to the goal of the function of orgasm. Can be this the motive because also people involved in Orgonomy have fear to transform theyr information in real life?

    Can people without the function of the orgasm, also if they have done a good work, like patients in orgone therapy, find the capacities, to organize theirself to manage spaces, where children will be protect legally, but more important, will have the emotional possibilities to arrive to the genital level?

    If commune people, involved in orgone therapy, or in love with the work of Reich haven’t the capacity, can be this a work possible in agreement between normal people and professional people in Orgonomy?

    I find shoking the ideas that neither inside 500 hundreds years this will be possible, but behind every shock there is fear, in the case of children genitality, my feeling is fear of our personal level of genitality.

    Now, i know very well, for personal experience, how many strong can be the personal, social and ambiental armor.
    I know also, how many strong is, to expose in the open the armor to every level, and last but not the last, how many strong work do all the serious orgonomic organizations, but something is missing.

    If until now, after 54 years from the death of Reich, don’t exist a school based on all the orgonomic observation on emotional sexual life of children, we need to put the question. What we can do?

    Can be one idea to take five years of time to prepare pedagogist, obstetrics, teachers, parents, pediatrics. who after theyr personal orgone therapy, can have enough healthy characteriologic and bioenergetic structure to create and manage spaces for the children of the future?

    Naturally this means that these people don’t have mystical and mechanicistic attitudes, who have a good level of genitality, otherwise is difficult to image, like we can go behind some article, some good observation, but in the reality, my daughter is not growing in a functional genital world, and this is for me already a serious problem.
    If people like me , who was in orgone therapy, until now, don’t have the capacity to create a place for my daughter to grow towards genitality, who will do this?

    I dislike, but conference, articles, therapy is an hard and importanyt work, but is time that commune and professional people find the mode to organize realities where, finally exist genitals children, otherwise this genitality, for many can become a dream, an illusion, an obsession, and we know, how many the genital world means to all people involved in Orgonomy.
    To the end, the principal goal in the work of Reich is the function of the orgasm, we need to don’t forget.

  7. Dean Davidson says:

    I think Francesco has touched on some very important points. Why is it that today there is only one Summerhill School? By now there should be many. Upfront, I will readily admitted that I failed my children in not putting there needs above all other considerations and it is something I deeply regret. Francesco is right; we need to create places where children can grow freely towards genitality, like that of the example of Summerhill school. However, even Neil was not prepared to opening allow/encourage the genital embrace of his students – he believed it would be the end of summerhill, and he may well have been right. Have things changed enough since then? I’m not so sure. But maybe we need to do just what can be done rather than nothing (which is what I have been guilty of).
    An example of another school: Sudbury Valley School is a school model similar to Summerhill, they have no curriculum at all, children have complete control of their learning and the children and teachers have control of the school – similar to the democracy of Summerhill (some will say more extreme). In all cases it is formed from the initiative of a small group of concerned parents. Bare in mind that it is a day school not a boarding school. It has been in existence since 1968 and there are a hundred or so similar schools in existence in the US now I believe. It works in the sense that children leave it seemingly happy, well adjusted and motivated to change things and can succeed in life. It has it faults: there seems to be no knowledge of the childrens genital needs (therefore unwittingly encourages sublimation, or keeps it well underground – being a day school, parental attitudes play a very significant role here) its judicial system is based on the US state model (Summerhill’s judicial system is much more to the real needs of the children). Never-the-less this school is a better place than normal school, but most importantly, its structure would allow changes to be made, in the right direction, provided children and staff had access to knowledge of the childrens genital rights. In other words, this school model is worthy of another look. However, this school, is basically illegal in my country (Australia) and in many others in Europe: parents in Holland I believe, have been prosecuted for starting such a school, the “State” considered it to be a form of child abuse, i.e., willfully neglecting the education of their child. Yet the evidence says the complete opposite occurs. And the specter of sexuality hasn’t even raise its head here.
    I know this sounds discouraging, but it is not meant to be. These issues should be of importance to all of us and it needs to be discussed in all its complexities.

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