On This Day … 25 December

People (Births)

  • 1875 – Francis Aveling, Canadian psychologist and priest (d. 1941).

People (Deaths)

  • 1925 – Karl Abraham, German psychoanalyst and author (b. 1877).

Francis Aveling

Francis Arthur Powell Aveling DD DSc PhD DLit MC ComC (25 December 1875 to 6 March 1941) was a Canadian psychologist and Catholic priest. He married Ethel Dancy of Steyning, Sussex in 1925.

Life

Francis Aveling was born at St. Catharines, Ontario 25 December 1875. He went to Bishop Ridley College in Ontario and McGill University before studying at Keble College at the Oxford University, England. Aveling was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Father Luke Rivington in 1896 and entered the Pontificio Collegio Canadese in Rome. There he earned his doctor of divinity degree. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1899, and served as a curate in Tottenham, before becoming first rector of Westminster Cathedral Choir School. He was also a chaplain at the Cathedral, and to St. Wilfrid’s Convent, Chelsea.

In 1910, Aveling obtained a doctor of philosophy degree at the age of 35 from the University of Louvain (his advisor was Albert Michotte), and in 1912 he was recipient of a doctor of science degree from the University of London, and received the Carpenter Medal following his work On the Consciousness of the Universal and the Individual: A Contribution to the Phenomenology of the Thought Process. Subsequently, Aveling received his doctor of letters degree from the University of London.

Career

Aveling taught at University College, London from 1912 as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor), under the leadership of Charles Spearman, until the First World War. During that war he served in France as a chaplain in the British Army, after which he returned to the University of London. In 1922, he transferred to King’s College, London where he was promoted to reader (associate professor), and later to professor of psychology. He was an extern examiner in philosophy at the National University of Ireland; and a lecturer in pedagogical methods for the London County Council.

Aveling authored several books. He was the doctoral advisor of Raymond Cattell From 1926 until 1929, Aveling was also a president of the British Psychological Society. Aveling was a member of the Council of the International Congresses, of the Aristotelian Society, of the council and advisory board of the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, of the council of the British Institute of Philosophical Studies and of the Child Guidance Council.

He was a contributor to the Dublin Review, The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Catholic World, The nineteenth Century, The Journal of Psychology, and the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

Karl Abraham

Karl Abraham 03 May 1877 to 25 December 1925) was an influential German psychoanalyst, and a collaborator of Sigmund Freud, who called him his ‘best pupil’.

Life

Abraham was born in Bremen, Germany. His parents were Nathan Abraham, a Jewish religion teacher (1842-1915) and his wife (and cousin) Ida (1847-1929). His studies in medicine enabled him to take a position at the Burghölzli Swiss Mental Hospital, where Eugen Bleuler practiced. The setting of this hospital initially introduced him to the psychoanalysis of Carl Gustav Jung.

Collaborations

In 1907, he had his first contact with Sigmund Freud, with whom he developed a lifetime relationship. Returning to Germany, he founded the Berliner Society of Psychoanalysis in 1910. He was the president of the International Psychoanalytical Association from 1914 to 1918 and again in 1925.

Karl Abraham collaborated with Freud on the understanding of manic-depressive illness, leading to Freud’s paper on ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ in 1917. He was the analyst of Melanie Klein during 1924–1925, and of a number of other British psychoanalysts, including Edward Glover, James Glover, and Alix Strachey. He was a mentor for an influential group of German analysts, including Karen Horney, Helene Deutsch, and Franz Alexander.

Karl Abraham studied the role of infant sexuality in character development and mental illness and, like Freud, suggested that if psychosexual development is fixated at some point, mental disorders will likely emerge. He described the personality traits and psychopathology that result from the oral and anal stages of development (1921). Abraham observed his only daughter Hilda Abraham reporting on her reaction to enemas and infantile masturbation by her brother. He asked that secrets be shared with him but he was careful to respect her privacy and some reports were not published until after Hilda.s death. Hilda was later to become a psychoanalyst.

In the oral stage of development, the first relationships children have with objects (caretakers) determine their subsequent relationship to reality. Oral satisfaction can result in self-assurance and optimism, whereas oral fixation can lead to pessimism and depression. Moreover, a person with an oral fixation will present a disinclination to take care of him/herself and will require others to look after him/her. This may be expressed through extreme passivity (corresponding to the oral benign suckling substage) or through a highly active oral-sadistic behaviour (corresponding to the later sadistic biting substage).

In the anal stage, when the training in cleanliness starts too early, conflicts may result between a conscious attitude of obedience and an unconscious desire for resistance. This can lead to traits such as frugality, orderliness and obstinacy, as well as to obsessional neurosis as a result of anal fixation (Abraham, 1921). In addition, Abraham based his understanding of manic-depressive illness on the study of the painter Segantini: an actual event of loss is not itself sufficient to bring the psychological disturbance involved in melancholic depression. This disturbance is linked with disappointing incidents of early childhood; in the case of men always with the mother (Abraham, 1911). This concept of the prooedipal “bad” mother was a new development in contrast to Freud’s oedipal mother and paved the way for the theories of Melanie Klein (May-Tolzmann, 1997).

Another important contribution is his work “A short study of the Development of the Libido”, where he elaborated on Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917) and demonstrated the vicissitudes of normal and pathological object relations and reactions to object loss.

Moreover, Abraham investigated child sexual trauma and, like Freud, proposed that sexual abuse was common among psychotic and neurotic patients. Furthermore, he argued (1907) that dementia praecox is associated with child sexual trauma, based on the relationship between hysteria and child sexual trauma demonstrated by Freud.

Abraham (1920) also showed interest in cultural issues. He analysed various myths suggesting their relation to dreams (1909) and wrote an interpretation of the spiritual activities of the Egyptian monotheistic Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (1912).

Death

Abraham died prematurely on 25 December 1925 from complications of a lung infection and may have suffered from lung cancer.

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