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An early American contributor to post-Freudian psychoanalysis was Harry

Stack Sullivan (1892-1949; we were born in the same small town in upstate
New York!), who argued -- as Lewin did, and as I do in this course -- that
personality cannot be separated from social psychology: the individual's
personality develops in a social context, and expresses itself in social
interaction. "No man is an island", and all that. His major monograph, perhaps
not surprisingly, is titled the Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry (1947).
Sullivan's views were embraced by the so-called "Washington School" of
psychoanalysis, and provided the foundation for the work of the William
Alanson White Institute in New York City.

Whereas William James thought that the individual self was the primary datum
for psychology, Sullivan argued that the unit of study was the interpersonal
situation. He defined a dynamism as a relatively enduring, characteristic
pattern of individual behavior.Dynamisms, therefore, are like habits, or
perhaps personality traits. But Sullivan insists that these are not features of
the individual, taken out of context.

Most dynamisms operate in the service of the individual's basic needs (this
gives Sullivan's theory its psychodynamic quality). But one particular
dynamism, the self-system, protects the individual against the anxiety that
results from conflict between the individual and various societal forces. One's
self-system is acquired from one's mother, the primary caretaker, in infancy.

Sullivan's theory also has a strong cognitive component in his concept


of personifications, which are essentially mental representations of oneself
and of other people. Of particular importance are the personifications of the
caring, nurturing good mother and the anxious bad mother. There are also
other personifications of mother, including the seductive mother and
the overprotective mother. There are also personifications of the good
me and the bad me. Stereotypes are personifications that are widely shared
within a society.

In line with his emphasis on cognitive processes, Sullivan identifies three


characteristic modes of experience. The prototaxic mode is the immediate
"stream of consciousness", consisting of raw, unconnected, and unanalyzed
sensations, images, and feelings. The parataxicmode infers the causal
relations among these mental cognitive based on spatiotemporal proximity:
among other bad things, it is the source of superstitions. The syntaxic mode
consists of verbalized and consensually validated causal connections: it is the
source of logical thought.

Like all psychodynamic theories, Sullivan's interpersonal theory emphasizes


tension from two sources: the individual's needs and social anxiety. His needs
are hierarchically arranged, such that needs at a lower level must be satisfied
before needs at a higher level can be addressed. Anxiety is initially
transmitted to the infant by the mother, and the infant quickly learns various
ways of coping with it.

Unlike Freud, but very much like the other neo-Freudians, Sullivan argued for
a stage view of personality development, but like the other neo-Freudians,
Sullivan de-emphasized the role of infantile sexuality. For Freud, in the oral
stage, the infant is focused on the breast and the nipple as sources of
pleasure and sexual gratification. For Sullivan, the oral stage is about eating:
the infant gets hungry, and can satisfy that hunger through nursing at its
mother's breast. Just as there are "good" and "bad" mothers, so there are
"good" and "bad" nipples. A "good" nipple is a source of hunger satisfaction. A
"bad" nipple is attached to an anxious mother.

And so it goes. Rather than elaborate on Sullivan's social-psychological take


on the stages of personality development, we'll turn instead to the
psychosocial view of Erik Erikson, which has been much more influential.