The Scope of Psychoanalysis, 1921-1961: Selected Papers

By Franz Alexander | Go to book overview

A World Without Psychic Frustration
◀ 1944 ▶

The editor's request to write about a world without frustration is an embarrassing one for a psychiatrist, because one of the most outstanding phenomena with which he deals in his daily practice is frustration. When he turns from mental sufferers to what is supposed to be the normal man, frustration as a central phenomenon still glares into his eyes as a universal experience. To him, a world from which frustration is banished appears a fantastic utopia. He knows that the Garden of Eden, the Golden Age--whether projected into the past or, as the millennium, into the future--is a wishful fantasy. Frustration as a psychological experience is such a fundamental aspect of life that he is inclined to question the desirability of a world without it. He would even doubt whether life, as a biological phenomenon, would be possible in a universe where frustration has been fully eliminated.

The emotional experience which we call frustration is an essential part of life. It appears in the consciousness as a state of unfulfillment, discomfort, lack of satisfaction. It stimulates the organism to new attempts at gratifying the need or desire which has been thwarted, to try out new methods and make new experiments. It is theoretically conceivable to eliminate all frustrations from the life of a person by controlling the conditions upon which the gratification of all subjective needs and drives depends--a spoiled child comes nearest to this theoretical assumption; but the most common argument against spoiling a child is that later, when the child grows up, he will be unprepared to face the unavoidable frustrations of life. Under actual conditions everyone--even a spoiled child--is exposed intermittently to frustrations which prompt the organism to undertake groping efforts at their elimination.

As soon as a correct behavior pattern is found suitable for the elimination of a certain type of frustration, it is repeated whenever the

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