A Brief History of the British Psychoanalytical Society


Ken Robinson

When Ernest Jones set about establishing psychoanalysis in Britain, two intertwining tasks faced him: establishing the reputation of psychoanalysis as a respectable pursuit and defining an identity for it as a discipline that was distinct from but related to cognate disciplines.  This latter concern with identity would remain central to the development of the British Society for decades to come, though its inflection would shift as the Society sought first to mark out British psychoanalysis as having its own character within the International Psychoanalytical Association, and then to find a way of  holding together warring identities within the Society.


Establishing Psychoanalysis: The London Society

Ernest Jones’ diary for 1913 contains the simple entry for October 30: “Ψα meeting.  Psycho-med. dinner” (Archives of the British Psychoanalytical Society, hereafter Archives).  This was the first meeting of the London Psychoanalytical Society.  In early August Jones had returned to London from ignominious exile in Canada after damaging accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct in relation to children.  Having spent time in London and Europe the previous year, he now returned permanently, via Budapest where from June he had received analysis from Ferenczi.  Once in London he wasted no time in beginning practice as a psychoanalyst, seeing his first patient on the 14th August (Diary 1913, Archives), though he would soon take a brief break to participate in what would turn out to be a troublesome Munich Congress in September (for Jones’s biography generally, see Maddox [2006]).

Jones came back to a London that showed a growing interest in unconscious phenomena and abnormal psychology.  It had, as Freud put it, writing to Jones in 1911, “become a better soil since [he] left it” (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 112)  By 1911 Freud had been honoured with membership of the Society for Psychical Research and in the following year his A Note on the Unconscious in Psycho-Analysis was published for the first time in its Proceedings (Freud, 1912)In November 1912  Jones’ss influential Papers on Psycho-Analysis had been published.

The existing institutions in 1913, with their overlapping memberships,  already catered to an extent for the burgeoning interest in psychoanalysis.  As his diary entry for 30 October suggests, Jones was astute enough politically to play his part in them, attending the Psycho-Medical Society dinner on the same day as the inaugural meeting of the London Society,  but no institution was single-minded enough for Jones’s purpose.  The British Psychological Society which had been formed in 1901 was too broad-based, even though in Cambridge Myers, and in his own way W.H. Rivers,  were shifting the focus of academic psychology towards clinical psychology (Forrester, 2008, p. 39).  On the other hand both the Medical Section of the Society for Psychical Research founded in 1911 and the Psycho-Medical Society were too much the province of hypnotists (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 145) and probably too closely allied  to the Society for Psychical Research for Jones’s liking.  He was always wary of his colleagues’ interest (including Freud’s and Ferenczi’s) in extra-sensory perception.  The most likely bedfellow was the Psychiatric Society ( a branch of the Royal Society of Medicine), (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 145),  but Jones settled on creating a discrete Society.

With “a black mark to [his] name in London” Jones was determined to establish himself as a respectable practitioner and psychoanalysis as a respectable treatment in its own right (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 196). His was the first practice in Britain dedicated to psychoanalysis.  Ironically psychoanalysis had always dealt with matters far from respectable, but this impulsion towards establishing its respectability and that of its practitioners in Britain was one of the defining features of Jones’s vision for at least a decade and a half.   There were others he could call on whose reputations were good and who were interested in psychoanalysis.   One was Jones’s pupil Bernard Hart in whose hands he had left psychoanalysis whilst he was in Canada (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 2); there was David Forsyth who would later have analysis with Freud, and David Eder who was already practising a little and had described a case of obsession and hysteria to the Neurological Section of the British Medical Association in 1911.  In addition there were colleagues who had some experience of hypnosis, including Douglas Bryan and Constance Long who would become founding members of the London Psychoanalytical Society, though Jones was keen to distinguish psychoanalysis from hypnosis.   With the experience behind him of forming the American Psychoanalytical Association in 1911,  Jones wasted no time in founding the London Society.   On 13 September 1913 he wrote to Freud of his plans.  Six weeks later “the London Psychoanalytical Society was duly constituted … with a membership of nine” (Paskauskas, 1993, p.233).  Another six colleagues joined them to form the original membership of fifteen (Jones [1959], p. 229).    For almost half of this number membership was no more than an expression of interest. Only seven lived in London. Two lived elsewhere in England, another in Belfast and one in Edinburgh;  the remainder in Toronto, Bombay, Jubbalpore and Beirut (Zeitschrift, 2[1914]: 411).  Jones apart, only three of the London-based members  had any first-hand experience of practising anything resembling analysis. In his determination to create a Society as quickly as possible Jones had called on old pupils, friends and patients. In the case of the overseas members he recruited colleagues who were already members of the American Psychoanalytical Association.   His haste may have been fuelled by plans first mooted in July to create a Medico-Psychological Clinic in Brunswick Square “to provide a place where treatment by psycho-therapy might be carried out, to bring this method of treatment within the reach of the poorer classes, and to provide inquirers with opportunities for study and investigation” (BMJ, 1913 [2]: 32 ).


Turf Wars:  Jones vs. the Jungians

Founded less than a year before Britain entered the first world war the London Psychoanalytical Society’s future trajectory could not but be affected by the war.  But even before Francis Ferdinand was assassinated internal dissension was brewing within the psychoanalytic movement that would lead to a turf war in London and leave its mark on the Society.   Jones was alert to danger from within psychoanalysis and determined to preserve its domain from encroachment, simplification and dilution. This is not surprising given the recent history of psychoanalysis internationally.  He wished the London Society to be unambiguously Freudian.

No sooner was Jones in London than he participated in two events where Jung gave papers: a meeting of the Psycho-Medical Society on 5th August and the 17th International Congress for Medicine, 6-12th.  Here Jones had heard Jung speak of the “prospective tendency” in dreams as part of his argument that psychoanalysis should be “freed from the purely sexual standpoint” (Jung, 1913, 238 and 247)

The psychoanalytic movement had only recently had to deal with the secession of Adler and Stekler, now it was confronted with the growing difference between Freud and Jung,  whose relationship increasingly declined from May 1912 onwards.   Faced with Jung’s divergence from Freud’s libido theory, in 1912 Jones had suggested to Freud the idea of a Secret Committee to protect the psychoanalytic movement against destructive dissent. Part of the remit that the Secret Committee gave itself was to guard against threat from within, its members monitoring each other’s writings to “coordinate [their] own unconscious aims with the demands and interests of the movement” (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 149).   In this spirit Ferenczi warned Jones in December 1913, for example,  that steeped as he was in Freud’s thinking he  was close to using the concept of a “prospective tendency”  (Ferenczi to Jones, 16 December 1913, Archives).

In this context Jones acted quickly — “over-hastily,” he thought with hindsight (Jones [1959], p. 239) —  to found the London Society.  The inaugural meeting of the London Society took place only weeks after the Munich Congress of the IPA  where  differences made for “an atmosphere prickly with partisanship” (Gay, p. 239).    It would prove to be Jung’s last Congress: on 20 April 1914 he resigned formally as President of the IPA.  Once the Society was founded Jones wrote to Jung as President of the IPA seeking recognition as a component society, a move designed to strengthen the opposition to Jung within the IPA, as Ferenczi recognised (Brabant et al, 1993,  p. 518), though in the event it was not wholly successful.

Writing to Jones in May 1914 Ferenczi asked him: “How are the scientific (Ψα) conditions shaping up in England? Did the break with Zurich have any after-effects in the London group?” (Ferenczi to Jones, 20 May 1914, Archives)  It was an apposite question.  The parting of the ways between Freud and Jung led to British colleagues having to decide where their allegiances lay.   Several were faced with a dilemma.  For a while Jones could report that eight members regularly attended meetings, but soon he considered that meetings were wasted in trying “to reinterpret the concrete data of the unconscious into Jung’s cloudy generalities” (Jones [1959], p. 239).   After a year or so he suggested that meetings be suspended (Paskauskas, 1993, pp. 302-03).  By December 1915 Jones was writing to Freud that although the Society had not met for a while there were informal meetings of three or four of “the soundest men” (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 313).  The war too took its toll as almost all the members threw their energies into war service and the Society became dormant. At the end of the war Jones dissolved the London Society.  He wished to get away from internal differences of allegiance in order to consolidate psychoanalytic thinking and practice.   By dissolving the Society he found a way to “expel the Jung ‘rump’” (notably David Eder, Constance Long and Maurice Nicoll) before founding the British Society in 1919 with “an improved membership” (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 328; Jones, 1959, p. 240).


The Purged British Psychoanalytical Society

Jones was not going to make the same mistakes when he reformed the Society.  Nine members attended the inaugural meeting of the British Psychoanalytical Society on 20 February, a number which soon grew to fifteen and by the end of the year to thirty. This number included six survivors of the disbanded Society.  Only four of the members of the London Society had established themselves clinically as analysts.  He was now to recruit members who were more likely to commit themselves to the practice of psychoanalysis (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 328).  By 1924 seventy-five percent of members lived in London with the majority of those outside London being Associate Members.

Although the outbreak of war had contributed adversely to the working of the 1913 Society the war also left a positive legacy for psychoanalysis.  This was despite that fact that the official Report of the War Office Committee of Enquiry into “Shell-Shock” (1922) recommended “the simplest forms of psycho-therapy, i.e., explanation, persuasion and suggestion, aided by such physical methods as baths, electricity and massage” but not “psycho-analysis in the Freudian sense” (p.192).  A significant number of the founding members and those joining the Society in its early years, most famously W.H. Rivers, had been influenced towards psychoanalytic thinking by their exposure to the war neuroses, whether in military and Red Cross hospitals, or in the numerous private hospitals funded by subscription, or at the Medico-Psychological Clinic which had expanded to cater for “shell-shocked” soldiers.

In his desire to create an unadulterated Freudian Society Jones was as cautious about the dangers of eclecticism as he was about divergence.  This left him suspicious of the Medico-Psychological Clinic.  It was not only eclectic but had been set up in 1913 by two therapists with Jungian leanings, Jessie Murray and Julia Turner (Raitt, 2004; Valentine, 2009). It cannot but have been galling to Jones to see the Clinic thrive to the point of initiating a substantial training programme in 1915 – much more substantial than Jones could ever give it credit for — whilst the London Society struggled and passed into oblivion.   Ironically it would prove to be an important source of future analysts.  After Jessie Murray’s death, and shortly before the  Clinic’s dissolution, James Glover had taken over as its Joint-Director.  Having already had some therapy with Murray’s co-founder Julia Turner in 1920 he travelled to Berlin for analysis with Karl Abraham, becoming a member of the British Society on his return in 1921.  It was through his influence as well as Edward Glover’s (who helped with the training of the Clinic’s students in its last days) that many of those trained at the Clinic became members of the British Society: Marjorie Brierley, Mary Chadwick, Iseult Grant-Duff, Susan Isaacs, Sylvia Payne, Nina Searl, Gwen Lewis, and Ella Sharpe.   Whereas Constance Long had been the only female member of the London Society; in 1919 there were five female members (17% of the total membership) and by 1930 there were 23 female members (40% of the membership).  As Jones was later aware, these women brought with them a special interest in the development of the child that would have a crucial impact on the British Society (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 628).

Jones was also suspicious of the Cassell Hospital (founded 1919) and even more so of the Tavistock Clinic (founded 1920) whose founding Medical Director, Hugh Crichton-Miller, had by 1919 taken Jung as his “great hero”.  He was also closely associated with the apostate Maurice Nicoll who analysed several of the early Tavistock staff, including Crichton-Miller’s successor, J.R. Rees (Hugh Crichton-Miller, 1961, p.9; Dicks, 1970, p. 23).  But for all that Jones tried to put a protective fence around the British Society, he and his colleagues were remarkably active in working with other organisations with whom psychoanalysis might make common cause.  In the case of the Medical Section of the British Psychological Society, for example,  he worked side by side with the very Jungians he had ousted from the London Society.  When the British Journal of Psychology: Medical Section  was launched in 1920, edited by his British Society colleague T.W Mitchell, Jones’s name appeared alongside Constance Long’s as an assistant editor.   Amongst the contributors to the first volume was Maurice Nicoll.   Between them the early members of the Society maintained good working connections with cognate disciplines within and without medicine, academia, education and the arts.  There is an interesting expression of such inter-disciplinary work in a collection of lectures given by members of the Society under the auspices of the Sociological Society, published in 1924 and edited by Jones, Social Aspects of Psycho-Analysis. Hinshelwood (1995) has outlined the “points of cultural access” to psychoanalysis in this early period.  Although he is not concerned primarily with the routes into practice, his findings are helpful in understanding the composition of the early British Society with its membership of both non-medical and medically trained analysts. By 1925 members of the Bloomsbury Group rub shoulders with a G.P. as well as practitioners in various medical specialisms (Psychiatry, Neurology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology), psychologists, teachers, university dons (in Education, Psychology, Botany, English, Logic and Anthropology), a professional translator and a clergyman.


A Period of Stable Identity

The period from 1919 to about 1933 was one of remarkable stability during which  Jones could try to put psychoanalysis in London on a footing to rival that in the major centres of Vienna, Budapest and Berlin.   He recognised that if public awareness of psychoanalysis was to grow in Britain he had to make it more accessible.   In 1922 the Society instituted a “Propaganda Committee”, primarily to be responsible for education and engendering public interest. Jones had already set about recruiting translators to make essential German texts available in English translation. He himself translated Ferenczi, and amongst others Douglas Bryan, Edward Glover, Riviere, and the Stracheys, helped him with  Freud,  with further Ferenczi and with Abraham.  In April 1921 he could write to Jane Suttie (wife of Ian Suttie)  who would translate Ferenczi that: “We have the translation rights of practically all that is written in German on Psycho-Analysis, and are gradually making it available to the English speaking public, partly in book form and partly in Journal articles” (Archives).  The journal was, of course, the International Journal which he had started in 1920; the following year saw the first publication of the International Library of Psychoanalysis.  Jones and his colleagues also began to lay the foundations for an institutional structure which would support the advance of psychoanalysis. With considerable help from John Rickman, the Institute of Psycho-Analysis was founded in 1924, followed by the establishment of the Clinic and with it the acquisition of premises for both the Institute, the British Society and the Clinic at 96 Gloucester Place (1926).  In response to Eitingon’s International Training Commission the Society adopted formal requirements for training in 1926.

Both the Clinic and the training were created on the Berlin model. Berlin was widely held to be the best centre for psychoanalysis in the twenties and early thirties. In 1920 Eitingon and Simmel opened the Policlinic in Berlin, setting a model for the psychoanalytic clinic in general (Eitingon, 1923). Those who had seen the Berlin Clinic at first hand argued for a similar clinic in London.   Barbara Low was especially vociferous, first advancing the idea of a Clinic in 1920 (Glover, 1966, p. 537).  Had it not been for his premature death James Glover, one of Abraham’s analysands,  would have been its first Director.  As it was, the role was taken by his brother, Edward, who had also been analysed by Abraham.  Like Berlin the London Clinic asked colleagues irrespective of seniority, to donate their time, at least one analytic hour throughout the week, and it offered analysis to those who could not afford private treatment (free for those who could not afford to pay fees and reduced fees for others).  In the same year that he founded the Policlinic Eitingon established a training in Berlin which also provided a template for the British training.  As in Berlin the London training was closely associated with the Clinic, providing training patients for candidates.

The Society’s task of defining its identity as the British Society kept its members relatively unified, especially where there was an external enemy to fight.  Through the Propaganda Committee the Society monitored its press coverage:  where there were attacks on psychoanalysis or where there was quackery it responded.  The most important challenge came, however, not from the press but from the British Medical Association which in 1927 set up a “Special Committee… to investigate the subject of Psycho-Analysis” so as to help GPs better understand what it constituted.  In his usual forthright way Jones ensured proper representation for the Society.  He and his colleagues had been working hard to establish psychoanalysis on a secure footing.   They were not about to allow its standing and reputation to be tarnished through ignorance or prejudice.  The Committee concluded that it was “not in a position to express any collective opinion either in favour of the practice [of psychoanalysis] or in opposition to it,” leaving its claims “to be tested by time, by experience, and by discussion,” but Jones helped to steer it towards recognising that “the term ‘psycho-analyst’ is properly reserved for members of the International psychoanalytical Association” and that “psycho-analysts should not be held responsible for the opinions or actions of those who are not in the proper sense psycho-analysts”.   This was a considerable triumph, as was the Report’s further conclusion that “even among many of those most hostile to psycho-analysis there is a disposition to accept the existence of the unconscious mind as a reasonable hypothesis” (BMA, 1929, pp. 266 and 270).

Successful as Jones was in fending off hostility from members of the medical profession, he was in a more difficult position within his own Society on the question of lay analysis.  The BMA Report was remarkably silent on the status of lay analysts, but this was a problem that went of the heart of the Society’s conception of the identity of a psychoanalyst.  The question of how to value lay analysis had  been present from the early days of the Society, but it surfaced afresh after Freud published his Question of Lay Analysis (1926).  Shortly before the BMA met, the Society appointed a Sub-Committee on Lay Analysis which reported in May.  Its conclusion, on the basis of a questionnnaire, was that “the British Psychoanalytical Society is practically unanimously of the opinion that most analysts should be medical but that a proportion of lay analysts should be freely admitted provided that certain conditions are fulfilled”.   This looks benign, but it conceals divisive feelings.  Jones  presided over a Society forty per cent of whose members were lay but he was nevertheless adamant that the lay analyst “should not engage in practice independently of the medical profession” (Jones, 1927, p. 182).  Glover and Rickman  shared his view (Glover, 1927, p. 219 and Rickman, 1927, 211).  It is not surprising, therefore, that Jones preferred that any lay person seeking training should normally be directed towards medical training as a prerequisite.  He saw lay analysts essentially as “assistants”, carrying out the prescription of medically qualified colleagues. His language is significant beyond the question of clinical responsibility because medical analysts also played the lead role in the running of the Institute and the Clinic.  This had been a source of conflict from their foundation, as we know, for example, from the reactions of Mary Chadwick and James Strachey. (Letter Chadwick to Rickman, 6 September 1929, Archives; Meisel and Kendrick, 1986, pp. 78-79) Here Rickman, who had listened to Chadwick’s complaints, disagreed with Jones and was instrumental in changing the rules so that lay analysts could both sit on committees from which they had been barred and see patients in the Clinic (King, 2003, pp. 20-21).

The Changing Identity of the British Analyst

The ad hoc training of the pre-war period was a parochial affair. Only Jones and Eder had sought analysis outside London – Eder with Tausk in Vienna.  Those who did have analysis went to Jones: seven of the first fifteen members of the British Society had been on his couch..  After the war future analysts increasingly travelled to Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin for their analysis.  James and Alix Strachey, Joan Riviere, and David Forsyth, for example, went to Freud (and Alix then to Abraham).  David Eder went to Ferenczi, James and Edward Glover to Abraham and Ella Sharpe, Sylvia Payne, Barbara Low and Mary Chadwick to Hanns Sachs.  There they learnt through their own experience of analysis (and through exposure to seminars and discussions) a classically Freudian practice of analysis which they brought back to London.  Before 1919 there was very little understanding of what constituted a reasonably sophisticated psychoanalytic technique.  Many used Jung’s word association tests and dream interpretation, some continued to use hypnotism, some even used crystal-gazing.  From 1919 a much more recognisable practice emerges.  David Forsyth and Sylvia Payne both described their experience of psychoanalytic technique before and after they were initiated into the arts of psychoanalytic technique in their analyses with Freud and Hans Sachs respectively (Forsyth, 1913; Forsyth, 1922; and King and Steiner, 1991, p. 650).  Of those who travelled abroad for analysis three played an especially  key role in the transmission of Freud’s clinical tradition into and within Britain: Edward Glover, Sylvia Payne and Ella Sharpe (Robinson, 2008). They typify what may be called the British Freudians most of whom eventually belonged to the Middle (later Independent) Group of the British Psychoanalytical Society.   Between them they had a particularly marked impact on the transmission of Freudian psychoanalysis through their influence as training analysts and as teachers. All of them lectured to candidates on technique and in their different ways they all emphasise “in all essentials the classical norm of Freudian technique” (Sharpe, 1930, p. 252).

From 1926 under the new training requirements candidates were analysed by a member of the training committee. Edward Glover was appointed to the training committee in 1926, Sylvia Payne in 1927 and Ella Sharpe in 1930.  In the first ten years of the training sixteen analysts came and went on the training committee.  In that time Payne, Glover and Sharpe provided around a third of all training analyses, control supervisions, and teaching, this despite Sharpe only joining the training committee in 1930.   Payne and Sharpe did the lion’s share of work.  Although Glover was less active, he stands alone with Jones in seeing all his trainees through the training successfully, though like Glover Jones took few training analyses.  Both Payne and Sharpe also saw a large number of their trainees qualify, whereas over the same period just over half of total number of candidates qualified.

In the interwar years they together represent the foundations of a British Freudian tradition which existed before Melanie Klein’s arrival in 1926 and before Anna Freud’s emigration in 1938.


“The So-called English School”

With the process of institutionalisation well under way Jones now turned to establishing the identity of British psychoanalysis.  He found a way forward in facilitating Melanie Klein’s move to London.   In 1923 he had published her “The Development of a Child” in the International Journal (Klein, 1923); in 1924 he heard her deliver her controversial paper at the Salzburg Congress on the technique of early analysis in which she began to shift back the date of the Oedipus Complex. As chair of the Congress’s symposium on Psychoanalytic Technique he argued that her views should be properly considered.  There was already a burgeoning interest within the British Society in child psychoanalysis and in the pregenital phase. In 1927 Jones wrote to Freud that “for many years  there has been a rather special interest taken in the problems of childhood in London, perhaps more than elsewhere. I suppose the reason is that we have a number of women analysts … who have done a good deal of child-study and child analysis” (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 628).  He might have said that the Society had been interested from its outset for at its first Scientific Meeting (15 May 1919) David Forsyth had spoken on “The Psychology of the New Born Infant”. More recently Nina Searl, Mary Chadwick, Sylvia Payne, Ella Sharpe, Joan Riviere and Gwen Lewis had all contributed papers at Scientific Meetings.  In early December 1924 Nina Searl and Sylvia Payne had spoken on technique in child analysis to a lively response.  Discussion of Searl’s paper continued in the first Scientific Meeting of 1925 followed by discussion of a précis of a paper on technique by Melanie Klein, read by James Strachey. Klein had read her paper in Berlin in December.  Alix Strachey, in Berlin for her analysis with Abraham, was in the audience. She conveyed her enthusiasm for Klein’s paper so forcefully to her husband that with Rickman’s encouragement James asked her to get hold of a copy for him to read at the next Scientific Meeting in London.  In the event he read the  précis (Meisel and Kendrick, 1986, pp145-154, 159, 164-166, 170-176; Alix’s précis is printed as an appendix, pp, 325-29).    A week later Strachey approached Jones with Klein’s idea that she should give a series of lectures in London.   Jones agreed and the foundations of the “so-called English School” were laid.  Klein spent “the happiest time of [her] life” for three weeks in July lecturing in London  (Grosskurth, 1986, pp. 134 and 137).  In a little over a year she would settle in London after her happiness and security had been shattered by the death on Christmas Day of her champion, Karl Abraham.

Klein moved to a milieu in London that was broadly sympathetic to her explorations of the pre-oedipal period and infantile fantasy.  She was taking further Abraham’s work which was widely prized in the British Society, not least by those who had had first-hand of experience of him in Berlin.  She was also advancing the work of her first analyst, Sandor Ferenczi.   As another of Ferenczi’s analysands, John Rickman, noted in his obituary of Ferenczi, Melanie Klein, was carrying Ferenczi’s work into her study of “the magical beliefs ….of children” (Rickman, 1933, p. 124).     Klein took up residence in London two years before Rickman entered analysis with Ferenczi – he would later have a spell of analysis with Klein too – but the British Society already included other analysands of Ferenczi: David Eder, Estelle Cole, William Inman,  and Ethilda Budgett-Meakin Herford.   They would soon be joined by another, Marjorie Franklin. All had been exposed to the Hungarian interest in infantile development. They may have known Ferenczi’s exploration of sphincter  morality as “the physiological forerunner of the super-ego” (Ferenczi, 1925) which as Edward Glover recognised seemed to support Klein’s researches (Glover, 1927b, pp 420-21).  And, of course, there was Jones himself who had been on Ferenczi’s couch in 1913.   Jones already had a growing interest in pre-oedipal functioning that would bring him into collision with Freud and place him close to Klein.  Space prohibits a more detailed examination of the relation of his theory to Klein’s: suffice it to say that in 1926 he published what Zetzel rightly considered a landmark paper, “The origin and structure of the superego” in which he sought to show how severe sadistic pregenital impulses find their way into the formation of the superego with the demolition of the Oedipus complex (Jones, 1926; Zetzel, 1958, p. 314).   The following year both he and Klein would enter the debate about the early development of female sexuality.

Although in 1926 there was already a growing interest in pregenital functioning there was as yet little awareness amongst British analysts that Klein’s explorations of the child’s fantasies might put them on a path of divergence from Freud.  Much of what she was proposing was inspired by Abraham and Ferenczi who had remained broadly within the Freudian fold.  Even those who had been to Freud in Vienna for analysis (David Forsyth, R.M. Riggall, Riviere, the Stracheys and Rickman) seem to have seen no difficulties. James Strachey, for example, translated Klein’s London lectures (Meisel and Kendrick, 1986, pp. 266-287), and Riviere was already interested in Klein’s thinking and took an active role in welcoming her to London (Hughes, 1991, pp. 22-23).  By the time of her paper “Womanliness as a Masquerade” in 1929 she shared with Jones and Klein their interest in early female sexuality (Riviere, 1929).

In 1926  Melanie Klein and the British Society complemented each other.  Personally and professionally she needed a sympathetic home after the death of Abraham.  Jones and the Society saw in her someone who could help take forward the interest in pregenital development that was beginning to mark out British psychoanalysis as distinct from the Viennese.  In particular Klein brought to London  her emerging theory of internal objects and a technique based on it.  In her remarkable contribution to the 1927 Symposium on Child-Analysis Nina Searl made it clear that she, like other colleagues, knew Klein and her work before the London lectures in 1925.  Searl described the importance of her discovery of Klein’s work and Klein’s help in her own development as a child analyst (Searl, 1927, p.379).

In London this exploration of the pregenital phase seemed a “logical outcome” of Freud’s thinking (Paskauskas, 1993, p. 579). Vienna and Berlin took a different view, however, that brought the British Society into conflict with them.  If the British response to Klein’s London lectures was positive, the Vienna reaction to her 1925 Congress paper was the opposite.  Following Anna Freud’s Innsbruck Congress paper “The Theory of Child Analysis” and the 1927 publication of her Einführung in die Technik der Kinderanalyse  acrimonious dispute broke out.   In his long letter to Freud on 30 September 1927 Jones spelt out his position and the position of the Society in the face of Freud’s complaint that Jones was “organising a definite campaign against Anna”.  Taken at face value Jones was supporting fair-mindedness and scientific rigour.   Melanie Klein, he argued, was being denied right of reply to Anna Freud’s critique of her approach to child analysis.  The British Society, he noted, with its long tradition of interest in childhood had itself entertained reservations rather like Anna’s, but it had gone on to give Klein’s work “a fair hearing” by subjecting her technique and theory to the test of analytic experience. The results had been “so favourable,” he went on, “that we have come to regard her extension of psycho-analysis into this new field as not only a valuable addition to our powers, but as opening up the most promising avenue to direct investigation of the earliest and deepest problems”.(Paskauskas, 1993, pp. 627-630).  Jones had helped with the 1927 Symposium at which Klein offered a critique of Anna Freud’s Introduction as trenchant as Anna Freud’s own critique had been mild (Klein, 1927).   No matter how we understand the politics of Jones’s letter, he does, I think, represent the British attitude at this point, shared by figures like Glover and Riviere who were to find themselves on opposite sides in the Controversial Discussions.  British analysts tended to work within the framework of classical Freudian metapsychology and practice.  Within it they enjoyed the freedom to explore new observations and developments, accommodating them where possible, as Jones did in his 1926 paper on the superego.  As Glover argued, Freud’s metapsychology  provided a useful check on the validity of hypotheses not directly amenable to clinical accountability (Glover, 1947).  We see this check in action not only in Glover’s papers but in Payne’s letters, especially her letters to Marjorie Brierley (Archives). This is how they approached Klein.


“Bad conditions” within the British Society

When Bibring wrote his famous paper “The So-Called English School of Psychoanalysis” (1947) he was aware that the school of thought he was describing, centred on Melanie Klein, was not identical with the British Psychoanalytical Society.   It was not simply that the Society also included Freudians headed by Anna Freud, by that time the “B” Group, but that from 1934 there was marked dissent from Klein in the second phase of her thinking.  This second phase was ushered in by her paper “The Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States” delivered in a truncated version at the Lucerne Congress and then in full to a Scientific Meeting of the British Society in January 1935 (Klein, 1935).  The term “English School” increasingly applied to the group of colleagues who continued to subscribe to, and before long to help clarify, Klein’s evolving theory.   The British Freudians  continued to take from Klein what they felt could be accommodated into Freud’s metapsychology and remained interested in pregenital development.  Many had taken on board Klein’s preoccupation with internal objects.  They were, however, more likely to agree with Abraham’s version of the early phases of libidinal development.  Indeed, Sylvia Payne liked to remind colleagues and students that Abraham had influenced British analysts before the British Psychoanalytical Society felt the impact of Klein’s influence (Robinson, 2003, p.10).

Nevertheless, for all that Freud’s tradition was fostered by British Freudians the conceptual language of the British Society had become so different from that of the Viennese that by 1934/5 exchange lectures were arranged between Vienna and London to try to arrive at mutual clarification and understanding.  Joan Riviere represented the British Society, Robert Waelder the Viennese, but to little effect: the divisions remained.   After a period of enthusiastic exploration that carried the Society along, divisions were appearing within the Society and between the Society and the Vienna Society.


The First Émigrés

This is the professional context then which faced the émigrés.  There were already growing conceptual differences between Kleinian and non-Kleinian analysts which ran deep.  By 1933 when the first Berlin émigrés arrived Glover was making common cause with Klein’s daughter Melitta Schmideberg to attack Klein. She had relocated in 1932 and was in analysis with Glover.   Between 1932 and 1933 he had with Marjorie Brierley’s help, collected information from British Society colleagues (already unhappy about  the impact of Klein’s methods) about various aspects of their technique.  As Brierley noted there were already “bad conditions” within the British Society well before 1938.  Some even hoped that the arrival of the Viennese might help with the atmosphere of the Society (King and Steiner, 1991, p.  625).  Klein had gathered around herself a small band of devotees: Susan Isaacs, Joan Riviere were the most prominent with Jones as her protector. In 1929 she took on her first candidate for analysis.  She was now in a position to have greater influence.  Klein was understandably cautious about the influx of continental émigrés from Societies which were at best sceptical about her work.


The Émigrés’ Experience: Germany

Only a handful of analysts came to Britain from Germany and settled,  the most prominent being Paula Heimann and Kate Friedländer in 1933, Barbara Lantos in 1935 and Eva Rosenfeld in 1936.   We are fortunate to know something of  how they experienced their new home.

Heimann and Rosenfeld, analysed respectively by Theodor Reik and Freud, had both been dissatisfied that the Berlin group in their view did not emphasise sufficiently the capacity for destructive aggression (King, 1989, p.2;  Heller, 1992, p. 44).  When they arrived they both gravitated towards Klein.  Rosenfeld had known her in Berlin.   Heimann had begun training in Berlin Psychoanalytical Society after Klein had left, qualifying in 1932 as an Associate Member. It had become too dangerous to remain in Berlin.   She fled to London with  Kate Friedländer.  Heimann was fond of telling an amusing story about their experiences when they first arrived (King, 1989, p. 2-3), but it barely disguises the loneliness and disorientation of emigration.

They had arrived in London in July 1933, when most analysts were away.  In time, however, Heimann renewed acquaintance with Melitta and Walter Schmideberg, Melanie Klein’s daughter and son-in-law, whom she had known in the Berlin Society.  It was through them that she received a message that Klein would like to see her in response to a note of condolence that she had written to Klein on the death of her eldest son in a climbing accident.  When Heimann called on her Klein poured out her most intimate feelings and thoughts.  “The English were too alien, and anyhow they could not speak German,” Klein told her. Heimann then visited her regularly, eventually acting as her secretary as she tried to conceptualise the mourning process she had gone through in relation to her son.   Like Eva Rosenfeld who emigrated in 1936 Heimann felt that she looked after Klein.  Rosenfeld remembered her as “a lonely woman – I had to comfort her and show that she did not frighten me”  (Heller, 1992, p 44).  But Heimann and Rosenfeld themselves needed help.  It was loneliness and loss that brought them together with a grieving Klein.  In Heimann’s case, not only was she isolated from the friends whom she had left behind in Germany, but her marriage had failed.  She was both emotionally and  economically insecure. One day Melanie Klein told Heimann that she believed that she desired analysis with her.    Klein offered reduced fees to make the analysis possible (King, 1989, p. 3-4).   Rosenfeld asked Klein to refer her a case and find her a supervisor from whom she might learn “the technique she thought should be applied in severe illnesses – e.g. in depression and its relation to mourning and manic states.”  But the young girl Klein referred to her, who was in a near-psychotic state, disturbed her.  “Without warning the deep afflictions of my past, the loss of my children, language, landscape … flared up.” (Heller, 1992, p. 44).  In 1938 she entered analysis with Klein.

Rosenfeld would write that: “One never became friends with Melanie Klein.  One was either for her or against her.  She fought for her ideas and nothing but true discipleship was acceptable to her.”  Rosenfeld was temperamentally no disciple. Because she maintained her long-standing friendship with Klein’s arch-rival Anna Freud, Klein disowned her:  Klein told her: “You have sacrificed your analysis to the friendship with Anna Freud.”  (Heller, 1992, p.45).

Initially things were different for Heimann.  She would become, as Pearl King puts it so memorably “Klein’s crown princess” (King, 1989, p.6), representing her views at Scientific Meetings and playing a key role in the Controversial Discussions, until from 1949 onwards she increasingly returned to the classical tradition that she had learned in Berlin from her analyst Reik and from teachers like Fenichel, finally leaving the Klein group in 1955.

Klein’s loneliness was partly that of a pioneer, but it was also that of the émigré.  The  same loneliness of displacement is there, too, in Rosenfeld, in Heimann, in Friedländer and in Lantos.  Just before her death Lantos wrote a moving account of her friendship  with Friedländer in relation to their struggle to find a new home in the British Society.  Friedländer had come to London in 1933 and Lantos in 1935 at her friend’s suggestion.  Lantos remembers that “the reception given us by the whole British Society … was heartwarming”.  She and Friedländer met up with “many distinguished senior colleagues in the British Society whom [they] had known in Berlin in the twenties when they had their own training analyses there with Karl Abraham and Hanns Sachs.”  But for all this welcome they felt out of place.  Lantos writes:

I expressed concern about my poor English, which I thought prevented me all too often from understanding problems read and discussed in meetings.  Kate remarked that although her English seemed good enough she frequently experienced the same difficulty. “They do speak a different language,” she said, “a different analytic language.”  This was why she urged me to come to London, to have someone near her with whom she could speak in the analytic language we had learned in our training. (Lantos, 1966, p. 511-512).

For Lantos it was Klein who “created this different analytic language … most of the members were not aware that her psychoanalytic language, her theories, and the content of her interpretations differed in many ways from the opinions generally held elsewhere”.  When in 1936 Robert Waelder came to London to discuss the divergences, few of the members took notice of his comments. The bulk of the British Society remained firmly convinced that they held the true Freudian views”. If the British Society treated them with “unchanging friendliness” they for their part examined together the Kleinian concepts but could not accept them.  They were described as “old-fashioned continental analysts”.  Lantos recalled “the small private seminars we held with those of our colleagues who did not give in to the Kleinian views”.  But like other analyst refugees they resigned themselves to the fact that their “position as guests made [them] reticent and anxious not to cause trouble through recurrent criticism”.  It was a situation that made Friedländer in particular “acutely unhappy” (Lantos, 1966, pp. 512-13).  They continued to feel outsiders in the Society until the arrival of the Freuds and their followers in 1938.  Whereas the Viennese would come as a group, the other continental émigrés were more isolated.  Heimann’s allegiance to Klein had provided her to a degree with membership of a group, but Friedlander and Rosenfeld were on their own.  In 1938 Friedlander and Lantos joined with the Viennese.  When Gyomroi arrived in 1941 she too joined the Anna Freudians.


The Arrival of the Viennese

Throughout the period of Nazi persecution and forced emigration Jones was in a particularly difficult position.  Not only was he President of both the British Society and the International Psychoanalytical Association,  he was also a personal friend of the Freuds and Melanie Klein’s champion.  The Freuds needed his help  and Klein cautioned him against taking them in with the other Viennese. John Rickman, then in analysis with Klein visited Vienna and conveyed to Anna Freud the resistance of some British colleagues towards the Freud’s emigrating to England (Steiner, 2000, pp. 13-37; King, 2003, pp. 28-29). In ordinary human terms Jones needed to provide for individual analysts whose lives and careers were endangered, as President of the IPA he needed to protect as best he could the future of the component societies and as President of the British Society he had to bear in mind the best interests of his own Society and its members.  It was a difficult balancing act.  Whilst on the surface he extended a welcome to all to find refuge in the British Society if necessary, in practice he carefully weeded out those who would have posed problems.  His correspondence shows the effort he put into diverting unwanted analysts, like Theodor Reik and Robert Waelder, whilst at the same time finding an alternative home for them (see Steiner, 2000, passim).

According to Helene Deutsch Jones had intended to transplant to London all those analysts from the Vienna Society who had remained in Vienna, except for Richard Sterba whom as non-Jewish he wished to remain so as to maintain a foothold in Vienna for psychoanalysis and the Vienna Society.  In the event only 17 Viennese emigrated to Britain, many of them in transit.  By 1944 a mere 5 remained as Members of the British Society: Dorothy Burlingham, Anna Freud, Hedwig Hoffer, Wilhelm Hoffer, and Erwin Stengel.  Martin Freud and Josephine Stross relinquished their membership and the rest moved on to America.  But for a while the émigrés enjoyed the colleagueship of  the Bibrings, Hitschmann, the Isakowers, the Krises, amongst others.  It cannot have been easy to see the number dwindle.  Nor was it easy for all concerned that the dynamics of the British Society shifted so dramatically.  The groups around Melanie Klein and Anna Freud propelled each other towards negative identity with those in the middle who were not lumbered with group allegiance best placed to escape defining themselves by what they were not — though how far they could seize the opportunity varied from individual to individual.

This was the newly configured British Society.  In 1937 there were 13 émigrés out of a total membership of 71.  By 1941 there 34 out of a total of 90 members. With the outbreak of war many analysts either served in the Emergency Medical Service or  moved out of London.  Émigré colleagues could not, however, leave London easily because as enemy aliens they were not permitted to move freely around the country, though Balint settled temporarily in Manchester, setting up a Northern training in 1940 with Alfred Gross (and with help from the Isakowers in Liverpool) (Willoughby, 2004, p. 180).  Half of those present at Scientific Meetings in the first half of 1939 were often continental colleagues: from September and for the next couple of years they were regularly a majority.  No doubt this helped the émigrés to settle and consolidate their new membership, especially since Klein and her key followers were out of London.  But, as Barabara Lantos recalled,  they were also careful, without giving up their scientific convictions, “to respond with gratitude to the obvious friendliness [they] were shown”.  Anna Freud’s motto was “We are guests in this country and were not brought here to create trouble” (Lantos, 1966, p. 513-14).  At Kate Friedländer’s initiative seminars and discussion groups had been set up after Freud’s death  for the continental Freudians and those British Freudians who wished to attend.  Soon there was a weekly evening meeting at Maresfield Gardens with Anna Freud in the chair.  Here they could all speak the same psychoanalytic language.

When members started to return to London in 1941, especially when Klein returned in October 1941 there were marked anxieties.  Identities rooted in a common language and practice of analysis were about to be challenged.  Instead of being eased by the presence of Viennese colleagues, the existing “bad conditions” were exacerbated and the Controversial Discussions became necessary for individuals and groups to make and debate position statements.

There is not space enough to do justice to the debates around metapsychology and technique and the relation between them that have been  documented and discussed comprehensively by Pearl King and Riccardo Steiner (King and Steiner, 1991).   I wish simply to emphasise that the Society was faced with two leaders,  Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, each determined to pursue and disseminate her particular form of psychoanalysis. The Society had the task of deciding whether their views were compatible.  Each felt she was the one who was taking Freud’s work further.  Klein demanded discipleship.  She and her colleagues were widely felt by their opponents to be proselytisers, through supervisions, private seminars and re-analysis of analysts, as happened with Heimann and Eva Rosenfeld. Anna Freud was driven not just by being her father’s daughter, and by her development of his thinking into child analysis but by a vow taken before leaving Vienna.

It had mattered to Freud more than anything that psychoanalysis should survive despite persecution.  At the final meeting of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society held at Berggasse 19  on 13 March 1938 the members decided to disband and to reform wherever Freud settled.  Freud remarked that “after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Titus, Rabbi Jochanan ben Sakkai asked for permission to open a school at Jabneh for the study of the Torah.  We are going to do the same.  We are, after all, used to persecution by our history, tradition and some of us by personal experience” (Jones, 1957, p. 236).[1]  The Viennese analysts who settled in London did not re-form their Society, nor did they re-form the British Society to resemble the Vienna Society, but they did fulfil Freud’s vow through their teaching at the Hampstead War Nurseries and later the Hampstead Clinic.  Anna Freud gathered around her at this time a refugee community, with figures like the Dann sisters, the sixteen-year old Hanna (Hansi) Engl (later Kennedy),  Alice Goldberger, and Ilse Hellman.  In January 1941 Anna Freud with Dorothy Burlingham opened the “Children’s at Rest Centre” with financial support from the American Foster Parents’ Plan for War Children. By the summer two more buildings were acquired and became known as the Hampstead War Nurseries (Midgeley, 2007).  Only four staff were British, the rest were refugees (Mühlleitner, E. and Reichmayr, 1998, II, 1451).  There were also the homes at Bulldog’s Bank and Lingfield House where child and adolescent survivors of concentration camps were cared for (Moskovitz (1983).

Although some British Freudians made common cause with the continental Freudians, the British Society came seriously close to a split.  Anna Freud withdrew from training until 1946 when through the efforts of Sylvia Payne she agreed to participate again. Two parallel courses of training were created, the “A” course and the “B” course.  The latter was the province of the Anna Freudians, the former served the Kleinians and those who were aligned to neither.  Candidates opted for one of the courses.  Course “B” trainees had lectures on technique from Anna Freudians and shared all other lectures with Course “A”. In their third year all trainees had clinical seminars with teachers from both courses.  But the most significant requirement was that  candidates in analysis with a Kleinian or an Anna Freudian must choose the supervisor for their second training case from training analysts who were neither Kleinian nor Anna Freudian.  Although both Melanie Klein and Anna Freud later agreed to let this rule lapse it in effect created three groups: the Kleinian the “B” Group and what came to be known as the Middle Group.  It took almost another three decades for the Middle Group to have formal status as the Independent Group after the training had been reconstructed to create a common course. A new committee structure was put in place at the same time to ensure the equitable delivery of the course.

These three groups were the basis for the “Gentleman’s Agreement”, again brokered by Payne, that ensured equal representation on the committees of the Institute and Society to prevent any one group becoming too powerful.   It was part of the agreement that the President would be chosen from what would become the Middle Group, following in Payne’s footsteps.  This arrangement held until 1957 when Willi Hoffer, from the “B” Group was elected President.  Thereafter by informal agreement the presidency rotated among the groups.  Only very recently was the Gentleman’s Agreement  dissolved.  It had provided an equitable structure in which the business of the Society could be managed, but it did not solve the problem of radical scientific disagreement and suspicion.

Before all these structures could be put in place there had to be significant rule changes.  Discontent was not confined to the battles over theory and technique: there was also building dissatisfaction with the autocratic style of senior officers, especially Ernest Jones and Edward Glover, and their attitude towards public relations.   By the time that the Society voted for rule changes limiting the time that office holders could serve, Glover, the most vociferous of Klein’s opponents, had resigned, convinced that her thinking was incompatible with Freud’s metapsychology and should, therefore, not be taught within the Society.  With the rule changes the Society could now attempt to move forward, though there were deep scars and though considerable suspicion remained (King and Steiner, 1991, pp. 847-900).   As Charles Rycroft put it, “intense loyalties and enmities were imperfectly concealed behind a façade of tolerance and broad-mindedness” (Rycroft, 1985, p.120)  He was not alone in finding the atmosphere at Scientific Meetings in the years following the Gentleman’s Agreement noxiously unscientific.

Whereas Anna Freud settled for a more heterogeneous training in the British Society and taught on it together with Freudian colleagues, at the Nurseries and later the Clinic she was able to set up an environment where teaching and then formal training could take place.  This was the equivalent of  “a school at Jabneh”.   It had a profound and lasting effect on British psychoanalysis with a considerable knock-on effect internationally.  Leo Rangell has argued that in effect Anna Freud removed Freudian child analysis from the British Society locating it at the Hampstead Clinic, and handed child analysis within the Society to the Kleinians.  This powerful position with respect to training in child analysis within the Society then spread to work with adults.    Anna Freud did not win back some of the ground that she lost by moving Freudian child training outside the British Society until 1972 when, after negotiations which brought her close to splitting from the Society to form a separate IPA Study Group, she reached agreement locally to provide training in child analysis for graduates of the Society and to have graduates of the Hampstead Clinic proceed by special arrangement to train in work with adults and become psychoanalysts (Rangell, 2004, pp. 155-166).

But there were also more positive results from the upheaval of the Controversial Discussions and the radical changes to the structure of the Society.   Whereas, for example, Jones had kept his distance from the Tavistock Clinic, Sylvia Payne on behalf of the Society took a quite different line.  She was equally strong in trying to heal the wounds inflicted by Glover’s attack on army psychiatry in a radio broadcast.  She herself had found her way to psychoanalysis partly as a result of her work in a Red Cross Hospital for wounded soldiers in WW1 and now she supported the Society’s wish to encourage the interest in psychological medicine that the war had fostered in both the medical profession and lay people (King and Steiner, 1991, p. 866).  The Society welcomed back those like Rickman and Bowlby who had served as army psychiatrists, and Bion completed his training.  Others would follow: Tom Main, Harold Bridger, Milicent Dewar, Jock Sutherland are only a few of the thirty or more who had worked alongside psychoanalysts in the war and went on to train with the Society in the post-war years. (King, 1989b, p. 27; Harrison, 2000).

Another outcome of the Controversial Discussions was that they galvanised members into clarifying the basic premises on which they stood as psychoanalysts and into conceptualising further their particular inflections of Freudian metapsychology.  The Kleinians, at Eva Rosenfeld’s suggestion, set up their Internal Object Group in 1939 to collaborate on making  Kleinian thinking more comprehensible  (Grosskurth, 1986, p. 244).  The papers of Isaacs and Heimann in the Discussions are witness to just how much the challenge of the Discussions benefitted this process of elucidation.   Similarly we have Marjorie Brierley’s brilliant critical engagement with Kleinian thinking, a fitting tribute to the woman whose plea for “a self-denying ordinance on personal vendettas” and whose proposal that there should be scientific enquiry into theoretical differences prompted the Discussions (Hayman, 1986, p. 384; King and Steiner, 1991, p. 165).  And we have Sylvia Payne’s characteristically straightforward restatement of the basics of psychoanalysis:  (1) The concept of a dynamic psychology, (2) The existence of the Unconconscious, (3) The theory of instincts and of repression, (4) Infantile sexuality, (5) The dynamics of the transference (King and Steiner, 1991, p. 54)  In essence Payne was articulating afresh the pre-controversy British Freudian position which now characterised the Middle Group.  Its analysts have sometimes been characterised in negative terms, as “non-aligned” or  “uncommitted”, terms that express something of the sectarianism of the Controversial Discussions, whereas their roots lie earlier in the Society’s development, pre-Klein, pre-Anna Freud.

Object Relations Thinking

The major development associated with this middle group is object relations  theory and practice.   Of course, in some sense all three groups are concerned with object relations.  The Kleinians can lay a claim to be object relationists, but Middle Group object relations thinking puts much greater emphasis on the environment. In this respect  they are closer to Anna Freud’s extension of the role of the object on the basis of early drive satisfaction into the way that early relationships structure the personality.  Like the Middle Group itself its object-relations theory is, however, difficult to define: it is probably best grasped through its family resemblances, the series of overlapping similarities that link the work of Balint, Fairbairn, Winnicott, Bowlby and, although not a psychoanalyst, Ian Suttie.  They share some of the following concerns:

  • the idea that from the first the infant is object-seeking rather than pleasure-seeking,
  • a conviction that the infant’s inter-relationship with its environment, especially in the mother-infant dyad, plays a crucial role in the evolving organisation of its internal world, thought of in terms of introjected internal objects (or mental representations) in relation to one another,
  • the idea that the individual’s relationship to external objects is governed by fantasied internal object relations.


In the development of the Object Relations theory associated with the Middle Group we see a distinctively British phenomenon.  It draws, as Riccardo Steiner has shown, on an indigenous interest in the observation of babies and their mothers which was not confined to psychoanalysis, though it was shared by the female analysts who pioneered child analysis in Britain (Steiner, 2000b, pp. 160-200). It includes the contribution of the radically minded Ian Suttie.   Fairbairn apart, it builds on Freud’s metapsychology, and it incorporates Klein’s shift of focus towards internal objects whilst acknowledging the importance of environmental factors. It also draws on Abraham and Ferenczi, the two other main theoretical influences, especially for analysts who travelled to Berlin and Budapest for their analysis in the immediately post-war period:   Abraham for his exploration of libidinal stages and Ferenczi for his emphasis on regression to the mother-infant dyad.  The arrival of the Balints into the British Society in 1939 strengthened the  influence of Ferenczi and the Hungarian School, characterised by Roheim as “emphasiz[ing] the passive object love … of the infant, its insatiable desire for the care and nurture of the mother”. “This psychic attitude,” Roheim wrote, “is a state in which the independent existence of the object is not yet recognized and might be called primary (archaic) object love” (Roheim, 1941, p. 158)

Although the Middle Group’s object relations thinking was not simply a product of the Controversial Discussions it was significantly advanced by the discussions.  When Brierley formulated the questions to be answered in the  Discussions:

Is a theory of mental development expressed mainly in terms of  the vicissitudes of infantile object-relationship compatible or incompatible, in principle or in detail, with theory in terms of instinct vicissitude?  Are such theories antithetic or complimentary?

She went to the heart of the matter. Where the Kleinians found their answer in conceptualising the relationship between internal objects in terms of the conflict of instinctual drives, in the Middle Group  the subject’s need to relate to objects became central.  Some, like Winnicott, tried to graft object relations onto classical theory, whereas others, like Fairbairn at his most radical, wished to dispense with instinct theory.  The Middle Group was sympathetic to Klein’s etiological emphasis on disturbance in the infant’s relation to its mother, but they differed  from her in the degree of importance she accorded innate aggression, giving more weight, like Fairbairn and Winnicott, to environmental frustration.   It fell to each Middle-Group analyst to find his or her own theory of object relations, making it remarkably difficult for us to generalise.  Winnicott, for example, who became so central to the development of the Group agreed with Anna Freud that object relations are absent at birth and must await a degree of psychic organisation before they can come into being, whereas Balint took the Hungarian view that they exist from the beginning of life even if they are at first egotistic. Influenced by Ferenczi’s emphasis on primary relatedness and “the role of real life events” and by Imre Hermann who was already interested in ethology in relation to the infant’s “clinging attitude” (as well as by Suttie, Lorenz and contemporary ethologists) Bowlby left behind both his Kleinian training and Freud’s instinct theory to mark out a form of object relations theory that pushes the boundaries of psychoanalytic thinking (Bacciagaluppi, 1994, p. 97; Hermann, 1976[1935])

This is not to say that the Middle Group might be called the Object Relations Group: its membership has been and still is too heterogeneous.  Nor by concentrating on object relations do I wish to downplay the developments that have have taken place and continue in both the Kleinian and Anna Freudian traditions:  for the Kleinians in the work of Money-Kyrle, Bion, Herbert Rosenfeld, Hana Segal, Betty Joseph, Edna O’Shaughnessy, John Steiner and so on and for the Anna Freudians in the work of  amongst others of Clifford Yorke, Joseph and Ann-Marie Sandler, Moses and Egle Laufer, Mervin Glasser, and Dinora Pines.  Space does not permit description of these developments.  It is important to note, however, that living together, however uneasily, under the Gentleman’s Agreement has led to mutual influence between the groups. Some have welcomed cross-fertilisation and others have been suspicious of it.  One example must suffice to make the point: Joseph and Anne-Marie Sandler’s Internal Objects Revisited (1998) which is based on papers from 1976 onwards and addresses the question posed by Brierley.  It offers “a theoretical basis for integrating a theory of internal object relations into an ego-psychological—or, more properly, a post-ego-psychological—frame of reference, taking what is appropriate from [their] own clinical experience and from object relational and Kleinian theory while trying to avoid simplistic formulations”(Sandler, 1998, p. xii).  Brierley asked: are they compatible or incompatible?  For some British Society colleagues the Sandlers have shown that a unified theory is not only possible but coherent.  Others are less convinced.  The Sandlers robustly distinguish points of disagreement with Kleinian thinking in the process of creating their unified theory; but for others, like Clifford Yorke, there are such irreconcilable ”basic differences of clinical practice and the theoretical understanding on which it is based”, that it is “in the interests of both groups to acknowledge the fact”  and to accept conflict rather than compromise.  (Yorke, 1994, p. 375).   Yorke admired Glover and like Glover before him published “a critique of Kleinian psychology” (Yorke, 1971),  but whereas Glover had felt there was no place for him in a Society that taught what he took to be in conflict with Freud,  Yorke writing in 1991 felt that the Gentleman’s Agreement held the Society together so that groups and individuals whose metapsychologies and clinical practices conflict with one another can co-exist, if at times uneasily (Yorke, 1991, p. 299).   It is an interesting fact in this respect that in the late sixties and 1970 Yorke delivered his critique to candidates by invitation from the Curriculum Committee as part of the course on Melanie Klein.   It speaks of an attempt to put creative conflict in place of  destructive controversy.

In conclusion I return to the beginning, to the London Society that metamorphosed into the British Society.  Despite the change of name, the British Society remained very much a London Society.   There was the brief wartime training in Manchester and in the early sixties there was discussion about helping a group of analysts in Scotland move in that direction.  It looked promising but fizzled out.  Only in recent years has a Regional Training scheme been created.  The Society has yet to grow into the new name that it was given in 1919 and to relinquish a London-centric identity.



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[1]                 Freud used the same reference in Moses and Monotheism (Freud, 1939 [1934-38])


Published in 100 Years of the IPA: The Centenary History of the International Psychoanalytical Association 1910-2010: Evolution and Change: edited by Peter Loewenberg, Nellie L. Thompson; International Psychoanalytic Association/Karnac, London, 2011.