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Keywords:

  • Neo-Freudian analysis;
  • neurosis;
  • psychobiography;
  • Adlai Stevenson

Using neo-Freudian analysis, this essay argues that as a child Adlai Stevenson experienced shame, anxiety, and ambivalence about the value and consequences of his initiative and autonomy. He responded with an imaginative coping mechanism, creating an idealized image in which ambition and autonomy were subordinated to duty and service. After a sequence of searing events during the Eriksonian period of identity versus role confusion, he resolved his identity crisis by becoming, in his mind, his idealized image. This conception of Stevenson's character provides a rich explanation of his behavior in the presidential nomination contests of 1952 and 1960.