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Nina Searl

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Mary Nina Searl (13 October 1883[1] – 26 February 1955)[2] was an English psychologist and 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.[3] She was analysed by Hanns Sachs.[4]

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

Early life and education


Searl was born in Forest Gate, Chippenham, Wiltshire.[5] She was educated at Sidcup High School before entering the University of London in 1901.[6]

Theoretic contributions


During the twenties and thirties, Searl published a number of theoretical contributions, on subjects ranging from childhood stammering to depersonalization.[7] She explored childhood phantasies of bodily destruction,[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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[11] - hostility which ultimately resulted in Searl leaving the psychoanalytic movement.[12]

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"[13] - 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. ^ 1939 England and Wales Register
  2. ^ England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995
  3. ^ Lisa Appiganesi/John Forrester, Freud's Women () p. 353
  4. ^ P. J. Graham, Susan Isaacs (2009) p. 167
  5. ^ 1911 England Census
  6. ^ UK, University of London Student Records, 1836-1945
  7. ^ Fenichel, p. 653
  8. ^ Fenichel, p. 44
  9. ^ Fenichel, p. 484
  10. ^ Fred Busch, 'Neglected Classics'
  11. ^ Louis S. Berger, Issues in Psychoanalysis and Psychology (2002) p. 273
  12. ^ Martin S. Bergmann, Understanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis (2004) p. 313
  13. ^ Quoted in Bergmann, p. 313

Further reading

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