[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
January 17, 1977

The Psychodynamics of Hostility

JAMA. 1977;237(3):276. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270300080020

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Unlike Freud, who emphasized sexual drives and did not discuss "uneroticized aggression" until very late in his life, Saul considers hostility the basis of most psychopathology and most of the problems of civilized life. He defines hostility as "a motivating force... aimed at injuring or destroying some object, animate or inanimate" and calls it "an essential evil in man."

After discussing the fight-flight reflex and pointing out its inappropriateness for life today, Saul asserts that hostility is not hereditary, but is usually developed in early childhood. When parents are overprotective or neglectful, abusive or overindulgent, they are likely to produce hostility in their children that will give lasting direction to their lives.

Numerous case histories show how improper parental care produces disordered motivation, conflict about dependency needs, inferiority feelings, resentment, projection, with consequent paranoid idealism, or cruel and violent behavior.

Some people express hostility openly and directly, others more indirectly.