Photograph of Clifford Scott

Clifford Scott

William Clifford Munro Scott – known generally as Clifford Scott – was born on 11th March 1903 in Hillsburg, a small town in Ontario, Canada. After training in psychiatry, Scott travelled to Europe to become a psychoanalyst, and worked in London for over twenty years. He eventually returned to Canada in the 1950s, where he would remain for the rest of his life. The first Institute of Psychoanalysis (IoPA) candidate to be analysed by Klein, Scott was also among a group of pioneering figures working analytically, on a regular basis, with schizophrenic and manic-depressive patients. He was instrumental in introducing the teaching and practice of child analysis to North America, and in the broader development of psychoanalysis in Canada.

Scott co-edited the International Journal of Psychoanalysis between 1947 and 1948, and also worked as director of London’s IoPA Clinic from 1947 to 1953. He was a training and supervising analyst in the IoPA and briefly, in 1953, president of the British Psychoanalytical Society (BPAS). On returning to Canada in 1954, he became a training and supervising analyst in the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis, and the Canadian Psychoanalytical Society’s first president. He remained fascinated by and devoted to his profession throughout his long career, and published over a hundred papers, reviews and articles. He remarried after divorcing in the 1960s, and remained with his second wife, Evelyn, until his death three decades later on 19th January 1997.

Early career and training with Klein

After studying medicine and anatomy at university, Scott embarked upon a career in psychiatry. He began his training at Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, before moving to Manhattan State Hospital and then the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins University, where he worked under Swiss-born psychiatrist Adolf Meyer. In 1930 he received a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship from Harvard University and, after teaching there for a year, travelled to London to study neurology at Queen’s Square Hospital. Another motivation in relocating to London was his growing desire to become a psychoanalyst. His curiosity about psychoanalysis had begun to develop during his medical education, and encounters with several analysts during his psychiatric training had contributed to a growing conviction that this was where his real professional enthusiasm and potential lay. In particular, an encounter with Austrian-born analyst Paul Schilder had an important impact on him, and Schilder’s concept of the ‘body image’ would later play a key role in shaping Scott’s own thinking about what he called, the ‘body scheme’.

In 1931 Scott started his analytic training at the IoPA, with Melanie Klein as his training analyst. Klein herself had only been living in London for five years, and Scott was her first training analysand. He learned an enormous amount from her, both in his analysis with her and as a colleague, and he valued her ideas deeply, even though their thinking diverged on certain points. For example, Scott conceptualised a primary objectless state in the earliest stages of infant life, while Klein believed that object relations were in place from the very beginning. They also differed in their thinking about aggression, which Klein believed to be primary, while Scott considered it reactive. Meanwhile, he held her formulation of the depressive position to be the single most important discovery of her career, and a major development in psychoanalytic theory as a whole.

Psychotherapeutic hospital practice

After qualifying as an analyst, Scott initially felt too unsure of himself to set up in private practice so, instead, took up a position as Consultant Psychotherapist at the Maudsley Hospital. At the Maudsley, he worked with Henri Rey treating schizophrenic, manic-depressive and personality disordered patients. He later also worked at the Cassel Hospital, originally established in the wake of the First World War to treat traumatised civilians, and from early on structured around psychoanalytic concepts. During the Second World War, he worked for a time in the Emergency Medical Service, treating patients on a short-term yet analytically-oriented basis. This experience was valuable in aiding his understanding of the relationship between long-term, deeply rooted psychological problems and more immediate, contemporary ones.

Exploring underdeveloped aspects of analytic theory

In his writing, Scott delved into areas that had previously been neglected or underdeveloped in psychoanalytic theory, as well as offering new perspectives on concepts at the centre of mainstream analytic discourse. Though he ranged across many and diverse subjects, among those he worked on extensively were mourning and reparation, sleep and dreams, manic-depressive states, primary narcissism, and the body scheme. He wrote extensively on the subject of sleeping and waking, and, in particular, the complex dynamics and psychic significance of entering into sleep, being asleep, and emerging from sleep into wakefulness. He wrote numerous papers on this theme, exploring the role of the ego in falling asleep and waking up, and the links between these phenomena and the baby’s understanding and toleration of a dual mother: the mother of dreams and the mother of wakefulness. Contradicting a more orthodox analytic view of sleeping as an aim in itself, Scott posited that, the ‘total satisfaction of sleep is waking or the act of waking up’ (1952). He also introduced the concept of ‘self-envy’, whereby an envious part of the self can obstruct mourning and progress in analysis, while he saw the patient’s self-analysis as connected to his or her sense of playing a useful part in the analyst’s own self-analysis.

Influence of Scott’s work with psychotic and young patients

Of central importance to Scott’s thinking were his experiences working with psychotic patients, which had a strong and pervasive influence on his conceptualisations of emotional development. Learning about the inner lives of children through his work with young patients also advanced his understanding of the complex strands connecting physical and mental life, and he thought deeply about the meaning of the non-verbal sounds we make, the links between the ego and the ‘body scheme’, and psychosomatic phenomena. Throughout his life Scott was fascinated by the human mind and body, and curious about the myriad discoveries continually being made by science, medicine, psychoanalysis and the arts. He remained enthusiastically engaged in his own pursuit of a deeper, fuller, more refined understanding of the human experience until the end of his rich and energetic life.

Eleanor Sawbridge Burton, 2018

Photo credit: Robert Scott

Key publications

1948 Scott, W.M. ‘A problem of ego structure‘. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 17:71-83.

1952 Scott, W.M. ‘Patients who sleep or look at the psycho-analyst during treatment – technical considerations‘. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 33:465-469.

1954 Scott, W.M. ‘A new hypothesis concerning the relationship of libidinal and aggressive instincts‘. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 35:234-237.

1958 Scott, W.M. ‘Noise, speech and technique‘. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39:108-111.

1960 Scott, W.M. ‘Symposium on ‘Depressive Illness’ – Iii. depression, confusion and multivalence‘. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 41:497-503.

1964 Scott, W.M. ‘Mania and mourning‘. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45:373-377.

1975 Scott, W.M. ‘Remembering sleep and dreams‘. International Review of Psychoanalysis, 2:253-354.

1981 Scott, W.M. ‘The development of the analysands’ and analysts’ enthusiasm for the process of psychoanalysis‘. In Grotstein, J.S. (Ed.), Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? Beverley Hills: Caesura Press, 571-577.

1985 Scott, W.M. ‘Narcissism, the body, phantasy, fantasy, internal and external objects and the “body scheme”’Journal of the Melanie Klein Society, 3:23-48.

1987 Scott, W.M. ‘Making the best of a sad job‘. Delivered at the British Psychoanalytical Society, October 7th 1987. Published in Journal of Melanie Klein and Object Relations, 10 (1).