Nina Searl

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Nina Searl (died 1955) was one of the earliest British child psychoanalysts, who came by way of the Brunswick Square Clinic to become a member of the British Psychoanalytical Society.[1] She was analysed by Hanns Sachs.[2]

Among her supervisees was John Bowlby while she also helped train D. W. Winnicott and Susan Isaacs.

Theoretic contributions[edit]

During the twenties and thirties, Searl published a number of theoretical contributions, on subjects ranging from childhood stammering to depersonalization.[3] She explored childhood phantasies of bodily destruction,[4] as well as the repeated flight to reality where the individual seeks reassurance again and again that underlying fears are indeed imaginary, without ever reaching full reassurance.[5]

Perhaps her most significant contribution was however her article on technique of 1936, which has been described as a neglected classic, anticipating much later work on ego resistance in analysis.[6] While previously Searl had been closely associated with the movement around Melanie Klein, the article aroused considerable hostility from Kleinians, in a way anticipating the later Controversial discussions[7] - hostility which ultimately resulted in Searl leaving the psychoanalytic movement.[8]

Searl's downplaying of the role of theory in the article - "The function of theory is to help the analyst's weakness on extra-analytical occasion and is of use to the patient only in this indirect fashion"[9] - may have contributed to this hostility; though again it can be seen as anticipating later positions such as those held by Joseph J. Sandler.


  • 'A Case of Stammering in a Child' International Journal of Psychoanalysis, VIII, 1927
  • 'The Flight to Reality' IJP, X, 1929
  • 'Danger Situations of the Immature Ego' IJP, X, 1929
  • 'A Note on Depersonalization' IJP, XIII, 1932
  • 'The Psychology of Screaming' IJP, XIV, 1933
  • 'Freudian Light on Children's Behaviour' The New Era, XVII 1936
  • 'Some Queries on Principles of Technique', IJP, XVII 1936 [1]


  1. ^ Lisa Appiganesi/John Forrester, Freud's Women () p. 353
  2. ^ P. J. Graham, Susan Isaacs (2009) p. 167
  3. ^ Fenichel, p. 653
  4. ^ Fenichel, p. 44
  5. ^ Fenichel, p. 484
  6. ^ Fred Busch, 'Neglected Classics'
  7. ^ Louis S. Berger, Issues in Psychoanalysis and Psychology (2002) p. 273
  8. ^ Martin S. Bergmann, Understanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis (2004) p. 313
  9. ^ Quoted in Bergmann, p. 313

Further reading[edit]

  • Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein, 1986.
  • Nina Searl, Psychoanalytikerinnen. Biografisches Lexikon, [2]

External links[edit]