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Greenacre, Phyllis


GREENACRE, PHYLLIS (1894–1989), U.S. psychiatrist. Greenacre, who was born in Chicago, received a B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1913, and graduated from Rush Medical College in 1916. She was appointed clinical professor of psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College in 1935. In 1942 she joined the faculty of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and was its president from 1948 to 1950. She served as president of the New York Psychoanalytic Society from 1956 to 1957. She was also vice president, and later honorary vice president, of the International Psychoanalytical Association. She served on the editorial board of the influential annual The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, from its inception in 1945.

One of her main interests was the subject of anxiety. In 1941 she published a paper in which she sought the roots of anxiety in the birth trauma of the fetus, as revealed in the newborn child and in the memory traces of the adult patient in psychoanalysis. Birth, with its enormous sensory stimulation after the relaxed fetal state, in her view, produced a strong narcissistic drive and a defensive organization of anxiety in the infant. Her book Trauma, Growth and Personality was published in 1952.

A further focus of Greenacre's interest was the sexual anomaly of fetishism. She stressed the magical value represented by the fetish in early life as a result of disturbed mother-child relationships. She wrote, too, on identity and its relation to body image, stressing the role of visual perception and perceptual distortion in the fetish image of the genitals and face. In 1953 she edited Affective Disorders. Her analysis of the creative personality and imagination was set out in her study of two lives, Swift and Carroll (1955). Her other publications include The Quest for the Father: A Study of the Darwin-Butler Controversy as a Contribution to the Understanding of the Creative Individual (1963); and Emotional Growth: Psychoanalytic Studies of the Gifted and a Great Variety of Other Individuals (1971).


A. Grinstein, Index of Psychoanalytic Writings, 2 (1957), 6 (1964).

[Louis Miller /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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