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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

MAN IN THE MODERN WORLD
primarily to Freud (whether or no we adopt an orthodox Freudian
point of view), are cardinal and basic to the modern revolution of our
ideas on individual education. In what follows I shall use the term
mental energy in the broad popular sense, as denoting the driving
forces of the psyche, emotional as well as intellectual, the capacity of
the mind for getting work done, whether in the acquisition of know-
ledge or in the control and guidance of action.1
The essential implication of modern psychology is that through
deep conflict an appreciable quantity of mental energy is either locked
up and wasted, or distorted. Much of it is wholly bound, internally
and at a low level, instead of being free and available for external or
higher mental functions. A further quantity is bound in another sense
by being organized, also at a low level, in such a way as to distort
activity either into destructive instead of constructive channels, or
into escape-fantasies instead of being related to reality.
The central problem of individual education can thus no longer be
regarded as intellectual; it is a deep-emotional one} and consists in
the adjustment of conflict and the abolition of repression so as to
make available the greatest quantity of mental energy for the most
fruitful activities. This statement needs amplification. Repression/*
in the technical psychological sense, can be abolished, but conflict
cannot. Man, it should be remembered, is the only organism
habitually subjected to psychological conflict. In animals conflict is
normally obviated by an all-or-nothing functioning of reflexes and
instincts or drives, the throwing into action of one being auto-
matically accompanied, save in exceptional circumstances, by the
throwing out of its competitors by a process of inhibition.
In adult man conflicting impulses can be simultaneously present in
consciousness, and the resultant conflict can be resolved consciously in
the light of experience and reason. This is impossible in the infant,
who lacks the necessary experience. Biologically speaking, repression
thus appears to be a device for preventing conflict in the early stages of
human existence, when it would have a disastrous effect. The various
" complexes " described by psychologists, and the general structure of
the psyche as adumbrated in the Freudian scheme of ego, super-ego,
and elements of the id related by repression to the super-ego, are
permanent or semi-permanent resultants of this infantile adaptation
carried on- into adult life.
1 Though perfectly aware that it is unscientific to employ the term energy in a
wholly different sense from the sense in which it is used in the physical sciences, I
shall dp so because of the lack of any better term which is generally agreed upon.
Lxbido is the nearest to such a term, but its use implies complete acceptance of
orthodox psychoanalytic theory and has certain unsatisfactory connotations.
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