Harry Stack Sullivan

Harry Stack Sullivan

Overview
Harry Stack Sullivan

Harry Stack Sullivan (February 21, 1892, Norwich, New York
Norwich (city), New York
Norwich is a city in Chenango County, New York, United States. Surrounded on all sides by the Town of Norwich, the city is the county seat of Chenango County. The name is taken from Norwich, Connecticut. Its population was 7,355 at the 2000 census.Lt...

 – January 14, 1949, Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

) was a U.S. psychiatrist
Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. All psychiatrists are trained in diagnostic evaluation and in psychotherapy...

 whose work in psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 was based on direct and verifiable observation
Observation
Observation is either an activity of a living being, such as a human, consisting of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of data using scientific instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during this activity...

 (versus the more abstract conceptions of the unconscious mind
Unconscious mind
The unconscious mind is a term coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge...

 favored by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 and his disciples).

Sullivan was a child of Irish immigrants
Immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

 and allegedly grew up in an anti-Catholic town. This resulted in social isolation
Social isolation
Social isolation refers to a lack of contact with society for members of social species. There may be many causes and individuals in numerous generally social species are isolated at times, it need not be a pathological condition. In human society, in those cases where it is viewed as a pathology,...

 which might have been the incentive for his later interest in psychiatry.
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Harry Stack Sullivan

Harry Stack Sullivan (February 21, 1892, Norwich, New York
Norwich (city), New York
Norwich is a city in Chenango County, New York, United States. Surrounded on all sides by the Town of Norwich, the city is the county seat of Chenango County. The name is taken from Norwich, Connecticut. Its population was 7,355 at the 2000 census.Lt...

 – January 14, 1949, Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

) was a U.S. psychiatrist
Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. All psychiatrists are trained in diagnostic evaluation and in psychotherapy...

 whose work in psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 was based on direct and verifiable observation
Observation
Observation is either an activity of a living being, such as a human, consisting of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of data using scientific instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during this activity...

 (versus the more abstract conceptions of the unconscious mind
Unconscious mind
The unconscious mind is a term coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge...

 favored by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 and his disciples).

Life and works


Sullivan was a child of Irish immigrants
Immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

 and allegedly grew up in an anti-Catholic town. This resulted in social isolation
Social isolation
Social isolation refers to a lack of contact with society for members of social species. There may be many causes and individuals in numerous generally social species are isolated at times, it need not be a pathological condition. In human society, in those cases where it is viewed as a pathology,...

 which might have been the incentive for his later interest in psychiatry. He attended the Smyrna Union School after graduating there spent two years at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 from 1909. He received his medical degree in Chicago College of Medicine and Surgery in 1917.

Along with Clara Thompson
Clara Thompson
Clara Mabel Thompson studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University and in her last year she was introduced to psychoanalysis. In the future years she developed as a psychoanalyst working with people like William Alanson White, Adolf Meyer, Harry Stack Sullivan, Joseph Cheesman Thompson, and Sándor...

, Karen Horney
Karen Horney
Karen Horney born Danielsen was a German-American psychoanalyst. Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views, particularly his theory of sexuality, as well as the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis and its genetic psychology...

, Erich Fromm
Erich Fromm
Erich Seligmann Fromm was a Jewish German-American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.-Life:Erich Fromm was born on March 23, 1900, at Frankfurt am...

, Otto Allen Will, Jr.
Otto Allen Will, Jr.
Otto Allen Will, Jr. was a U.S. psychiatrist whose work in psychoanalysis focused on treatment of schizophrenic / schizophrenia patients using intensive psychotherapy. He is also credited for his advancement of Attachment Theory and Milieu therapy .- Training :Dr. Will received his medical degree...

, Erik H. Erikson, and Frieda Fromm-Reichmann
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann was a German psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud who emigrated to America during World War II.-Life and work:...

, Sullivan laid the groundwork for understanding the individual based on the network of relationships in which he or she is enmeshed. He developed a theory of psychiatry based on interpersonal relationships where cultural forces are largely responsible for mental illness
Mental illness
A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological or behavioral pattern generally associated with subjective distress or disability that occurs in an individual, and which is not a part of normal development or culture. Such a disorder may consist of a combination of affective, behavioural,...

es (see also social psychiatry
Social psychiatry
Social psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry that focuses on the "interpersonal" and cultural context of mental disorder and mental wellbeing. It involves a sometimes disparate set of theories and approaches, with work stretching from epidemiological survey research on the one hand, to an indistinct...

)
. In his words, one must pay attention to the "interactional", not the "intrapsychic". This search for satisfaction via personal involvement with others led Sullivan to characterize loneliness
Loneliness
Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling in which a person feels a strong sense of emptiness and solitude resulting from inadequate levels of social relationships. However, it is a subjective experience...

 as the most painful of human experiences. He also extended the Freudian psychoanalysis to the treatment of patients with severe mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia
Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social...

.

Besides making the first mention of the significant other
Significant other
Significant other is colloquially used as a gender-blind term for a person's partner in an intimate relationship without disclosing or presuming anything about marital status, relationship status, or sexual orientation, as it is vague enough to avoid offense by using a term that an individual...

 in psychological literature, Sullivan developed the Self System, a configuration of the personality traits developed in childhood and reinforced by positive affirmation and the security operations developed in childhood to avoid anxiety and threats to self-esteem. Sullivan further defined the Self System as a steering mechanism toward a series of I-You interlocking behaviors; that is, what an individual does is meant to elicit a particular reaction. Sullivan called these behaviors parataxical integration
Parataxical Integration
First used by Irish psychoanalytic psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan in the 1950s, the combination of terms refers to the mutual condition of parataxic distortions...

s, and he noted that such action-reaction combinations can become rigid and dominate an adult's thinking pattern, limiting its actions and reactions toward the world as the adult sees it and not as it really is. The resulting inaccuracies in judgment Sullivan termed parataxic distortion
Parataxic distortion
Parataxic distortion is a psychiatric term first used by Harry S. Sullivan to explain the inclination to skew perceptions of others based on fantasy. The "distortion" is in the perception of others, based not on actual experience with the individual but from a projected fantasy personality...

, when other persons are perceived or evaluated based on the patterns of previous experience, similar to Freud's notion of transference
Transference
Transference is a phenomenon in psychoanalysis characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. One definition of transference is "the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person's childhood." Another definition is "the...

. Sullivan also introduced the concept of "prototaxic communication" as a more primitive, needy, infantile form of psychic interchange and of "syntactic communication" as a mature style of emotional interaction.

Sullivan's work on interpersonal relationships became the foundation of interpersonal psychoanalysis
Interpersonal psychoanalysis
Interpersonal psychoanalysis is based on the theories of Harry Stack Sullivan , an American psychiatrist, who believed that the details of a patient's interpersonal interactions with others can provide insight into the causes and cures of mental disorder.-Selective inattention:Sullivan proposed...

, a school of psychoanalytic theory and treatment that stresses the detailed exploration of the nuances of patients' patterns of interacting with others.

Sullivan was the first to coin the term "problems in living" to describe the difficulties with self and others experienced by those with so-called mental illnesses. This phrase was later picked up and popularized by Thomas Szasz
Thomas Szasz
Thomas Stephen Szasz is a psychiatrist and academic. Since 1990 he has been Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York. He is a well-known social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, and of the social...

, whose work was a foundational resource for the antipsychiatry movement. "Problems in living" went on to become the movement's preferred way to refer to the manifestations of mental disturbances.

He was one of the founders of the William Alanson White Institute
William Alanson White Institute
The William Alanson White Institute, founded in 1946, is an institution for training psychoanalysts and psychotherapists. It is located in New York City, USA, on the Upper West Side, in the Clara Thompson building....

, considered by many to be the world's leading independent psychoanalytic institute, and of the journal Psychiatry in 1937. He headed the Washington School of Psychiatry (DC) from 1936 to 1947.

In 1940, Sullivan and colleague Winfred Overholser formulated guidelines for the psychological screening of inductees to the United States military.

He made his reputation based on his experimental treatment ward for schizophrenics at the Sheppard Pratt Hospital, between 1925-29. The ward had a cure rate of approximately 86% without neuroleptic medication. All of the patients on the ward were gay men, and the specially trained ward attendants were either gay or gay-friendly. Thus the patients, who were all young male homosexuals as well as schizophrenics, in their positive interactions with the attendants, would heal the wounds from societal prejudice and missing male intimacy.

Sullivan had a long-term relationship with James Inscoe Sullivan ("Jimmie"). Jimmie was known to Sullivan's associates as his adopted son, which allowed Sullivan to keep his sexual identity in the closet.

Writings


Although Sullivan published little in his lifetime, he influenced generations of mental health professionals, especially through his lectures at Chestnut Lodge
Chestnut Lodge
Chestnut Lodge was a historic building in Rockville, Maryland, United States, well known as a psychiatric institution. It was a contributing property to the West Montgomery Avenue Historic District.-History:...

in Washington DC. Leston Havens called him the most important underground influence in American psychoanalysis. His ideas were collected and published posthumously, edited by Helen Swick Perry, who also published a detailed biography in 1982 (Perry, 1982, Psychiatrist of America). The following works are in Special Collections(MSA SC 5547)at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis: Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry, Soundscriber Transcriptions (Feb. 1945-May 1945); Lectures 1-97 (begins Oct. 2, 1942); Georgetown University Medical School Lectures (1939); Personal Psychopathology (1929–1933); The Psychiatry of Character and its Deviations-undated notes.

Works


His writings include The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry (1953) http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0393001385; "The Psychiatric Interview" (1954),Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry (1947/1966); and" Schizophrenia as a Human Process (1962). His book Personal Psychopathology (1933/1972) contains a chapter on "Male Adolescence" that has extensive data on the interaction of sexual practices, personality development, and societal strictures.

External links