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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

THE UNIQUENESS  QF  MAN
may be thrust upon the personality. Repression may thus be harm-
ful ; but it can also be regarded as a biological necessity for dealing
with inevitable conflict in the early years of life, before rational
judgment and control are possible. Better to have the capacity for
more or less unimpeded action, even at the expense of possible
neurosis, than an organism constantly inactivated like the ass betwc.cn
the two bundles of hay, balanced in irresolution.
In repression, not only is the defeated impulse banished to the
unconscious, but the very process of banishment is itself unconscious.
The inhibitory mechanisms concerned in it must have been evolved
to counteract the more obvious possibilities of conflict, especially in
early life, which arose as by-products of the human type of mind.
In suppression, the banishment is conscious, so that neurosis is not
likely to appear. Finally, in rational judgment, neither of the con*
flicting impulses is relegated to the unconscious, but they are balanced
in the light of reason and experience, and control of action is con-
sciously exercised.
I need not pursue the subject further. Here I arn only concerned
to show that the great biological advantages conferred on man by the
unification of mind have inevitably brought with them certain
counterbalancing defects. The freedom of association between all
aspects and processes of the mind has provided the basis for con-
ceptual thought and tradition; but it has also provided potential
antagonists, which in lower organisms were carefully kept apart, with
the opportunity of meeting face to face, and has thus made some
degree of conflict unavoidable.
In rather similar fashion, man's upright posture has brought with
it certain consequential disadvantages in regard to the functioning
of his internal organs and his pronencss to rupture. Thus man's
unique characteristics are by no means wholly beneficial
In close correlation with our subjection to conflict is our pronencss
to laughter. So characteristic of our species is laughter that man has
been defined as the laughing animal. It is true that, like so much
else of man's uniqueness, it has its roots among the animals, where Jt
reveals itself as an expression of a certain kind of general pleasure™
and thus in truth perhaps more of a smile than a laugh. And in a
few animals—ravens, for example—there are traces of a malicious
sense of humour. Laughter in man, however, is much more than this,
There are many theories of laughter, most of them containing a
partial truth. But biologically the important feature of human
laughter seems to lie in its providing a release for conflict, a resolution
of troublesome situations.
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