Michael Fordham was a British child psychiatrist, co-editor of Carl Jung’s Collected Works in English and founder of the Journal of Analytical Psychology. During his lifetime, he became instrumental in the dissemination of Jungian ideas throughout post-war Britain, while his pioneering research into infancy and childhood led to a new understanding of the self and its relations with the ego. Alongside Gerhard Adler, he founded the Society of Analytical Psychology (SAP), yet the two men parted ways in 1977 after disagreements over their approach to analytical psychology.
Fordham was born in London in 1905 and studied Natural Science at the University of Cambridge before enrolling for clinical training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in 1927. Upon completion of his studies in 1932, he was assigned as a junior medical officer at Long Grove Mental Hospital in Surrey where he first came across the writings of Carl Jung. He met the Swiss psychologist on a trip to Zürich in 1934, yet it wasn’t until 1945 that he was to begin co-editing the English translation of Jung’s Collected Works, a feat that put him into close contact with his co-editor, Gerhard Adler.
That same year, the two of them, together with six other colleagues, founded SAP with the aim of professionalising and developing analytical psychology in the UK by providing training to candidates, offering psychotherapy to the public through the C. G. Jung Clinic and conducting research. In the 1970s, thanks to the influence of Fordham, the society focused increasingly on examining early child development in the analysis of adults. However, this renewed focus caused the organisation to split into two distinct camps: one led by Adler who promoted the archetypal school aligned to classical Jungian teaching, and the other by Fordman, who promoted the approach concerning early child development.
During his lifetime, Fordham made two significant and lasting contributions to the field of analytical psychology, termed the primary self and de-integration.
The primary self, derived in part from the Jungian concept of the archetypal self, is a concept intended to account for the fundamental unity of the infant and how the infant functions as a psychosomatic whole. It describes the whole of the embodied personality and its potential, including its source, sum and what it might become. According to Fordham, the primary self is characterised by homeostasis, or ‘steady state’, in which self and other are undifferentiated, there is no distinction between the internal and external world and there are, as yet, no different components in the internal world.
De-integration is the term coined by Fordham to describe a process whereby the primary integrate ‘reaches out’ to relate to the outside world, and so to de-integrate. A typical example used by Fordham to illustrate the concept of de-integration is how a baby is awakened by hunger and signals this to the mother, who proceeds to pick up and feed the baby. De-integration, in this case, is the baby’s spontaneous engagement in and relating to various aspects of its emotional environment. Experiences such as these activate the inherent internal ‘archetypal’ dynamics of the baby’s perceptions and expectations, triggering the foundations of the person’s internal and social development.
Fordham carefully outlined his theories in several publications and journals right up until his death in 1995 at the age of 89.
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