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March 1967

Concentration: The Phenomenon and Its Disruption

Author Affiliations

From the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1967;16(3):373-381. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1967.01730210113018

LEARNING and work disabilities are among the most common complaints brought to psychiatrists. Practitioners usually think of these as reflecting a more generalized emotional disturbance or a specific unconscious conflict. Thus, the cause underlying the disability is emphasized, while there is less interest in precise description of the work process itself. The author contends that careful study of the phenomenon of concentration, essential to learning and work, will lead to more effective help for patients with such diverse complaints as inability to study, accident proneness, poor job productivity, and failure to meet deadlines.

The ego skills required for sustained and effective concentration will be described. Evidence will be presented that this process does not proceed conflict-free, but as a struggle subject to interruption by the building up of drive energy or irrelevant associations. Knowledge that concentration is a struggle, rather than a long-term,

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