Isabel Menzies Lyth has formulated a way of thinking about social structures as forms of defence - as ways of avoiding experiences of anxiety, guilt, doubt and uncertainty - that is as challenging as it is persuasive. She believes that the individual is engaged in a lifelong struggle against primitive anxiety. A psychoanalyst writing in the tradition of Klein and Bion, her writings span more than thirty years of research in applied psychoanalysis and are here collected in the first of two volumes. In her classical paper on nursing, she writes: "By the nature of her profession the nurse is at considerable risk of being flooded by intense and unmanageable anxiety." The organisation and bureaucracy of the nursing profession have failed to contain the high levels of anxiety and stress that nurses experience, attempting instead to take practical steps to enhance recruitment and stem job wastage. The 'real nature' of the problem remains untouched. This is a controversial collection, which makes available to a wider public an important part of the research tradition of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.
The author extends her analytic range to cover themes of children in long-stay hospitals and day-care institutions, and the maternal role today. All the essays combine her two main professional interests: the dynamics of the individual in his or her own right and the psychodynamics of the social world.