27 Chapters
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1. THE PSYCHOANALYTIC VIEW OF CHILDHOOD: LONG-DISTANCE AND CLOSE-UP

Freud, Anna Karnac Books ePub

Since the beginning of psychoanalysis, when the discovery was made that “Hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences” (Breuer and Freud, 1893), analysts have been concerned more with the past of their patients than with their present experiences, and more with the era of growth and development than with maturity.

It was this preoccupation with the early happenings in life which raised hopes in many quarters that analysts would become experts on childhood, even when they were engaged in the therapy of adults only. Their knowledge of the processes of mental growth, and their understanding of the interplay between the external and internal forces which shape the individual, were expected to qualify them automatically for being knowledgeable in all instances where a child’s emotional stability or normal functioning were in doubt.

So far as the earliest era of psychoanalytic work is concerned, a survey of the literature shows that little was done specifically to fulfill these hopes. At that time the efforts were devoted entirely to fact finding and to perfecting the technique which was unearthing such new facts as a sequence of libidinal phases (oral, anal, phallic), the oedipus and the castration complex, infantile amnesia, etc. Since these important discoveries owed their origin to deductions from the analyses of adults, the method of “reconstructing” childhood events was held in high esteem and was used consistently to produce more of the data which today form the core of psychoanalytic child psychology.

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4. THE MECHANISMS OF DEFENSE

Freud, Anna Karnac Books ePub

The term “defense”, which I have used so freely in the three last chapters, is the earliest representative of the dynamic standpoint in psychoanalytic theory. It occurs for the first time in 1894, in Freud’s study “The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence/’ and is employed in this and several of his subsequent works (“The Aetiology of Hysteria/’ “Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence”) to describe the ego’s struggle against painful or unendurable ideas or affects. Later, this term was abandoned and, as time went on, was replaced by that of “repression.” The relation between the two concepts, however, remained undetermined. In an appendix to Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926) Freud reverted to the old concept of defense, stating that he thought it would undoubtedly be an advantage to use it again, “provided we employ it explicitly as a general designation for all the techniques which the ego makes use of in conflicts which may lead to a neurosis, while we retain the word ‘repression’ for the special method of defence which the line of approach taken by our investigations made us better acquainted with in the first instance” (p. 163). Here we have direct refutation of the notion that repression occupies a unique position among the psychic processes, and a place is made in psychoanalytic theory for others which serve the same purpose, namely, “the protection of the ego against instinctual demands.” The significance of repression is reduced to that of a “special method of defence.”

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8. RESTRICTION OF THE EGO

Freud, Anna Karnac Books ePub

Our comparison of the mechanisms of denial and repression, fantasy formation and reaction formation has revealed a parallelism in the methods adopted by the ego for the avoidance of unpleasure from external and from internal sources. We trace the same parallelism when we study another, simpler defense mechanism. The method of denial, upon which is based the fantasy of the reversal of the real facts into their opposite, is employed in situations in which it is impossible to escape some painful external impression. When a child is somewhat older, his greater freedom of physical movement and his increased powers of psychic activity enable his ego to evade such stimuli and there is no need for him to perform so complicated a psychic operation as that of denial. Instead of perceiving the painful impression and subsequently canceling it by withdrawing its cathexis, it is open to the ego to refuse to encounter the dangerous external situation at all. It can take to flight and so, in the truest sense of the word, “avoid” the occasions of unpleasure. The mechanism of avoidance is so primitive and natural and, moreover, so inseparably associated with the normal development of the ego that it is not easy, for purposes of theoretical discussion, to detach it from its usual context and to view it in isolation.

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10. A FORM OF ALTRUISM

Freud, Anna Karnac Books ePub

The effect of the mechanism of projection is to break the connection between the ideational representatives of dangerous instinctual impulses and the ego. In this it resembles most closely the process of repression. Other defensive processes, such as displacement, reversal or turning round upon the self, affect the instinctual process itself: repression and projection merely prevent its being perceived. In repression the objectionable idea is thrust back into the id, while in projection it is displaced into the outside world. Another point in which projection resembles repression is that it is not associated with any particular anxiety situation but may be motivated equally by objective anxiety, superego anxiety, and instinctual anxiety. Writers of the English school of psychoanalysis maintain that in the earliest months of life, before any repression has taken place, the infant already projects its first aggressive impulses and that this process is of crucial importance for the picture which the child forms of the world around him and the way in which his personality develops.

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3. THE ASSESSMENT OF NORMALITY IN CHILDHOOD

Freud, Anna Karnac Books ePub

It is one thing for the child analyst to reconstruct a patient’s past or trace back symptoms to their origins in earliest years, and quite a different one to spot pathogenic agents before they have done their work; to assess the degree of a young child’s normal progress; to predict developments; to interfere with the child’s management; to guide his parents; or, in general, to work for the prevention of neuroses, psychoses, and dissociality. While the recognized training for psychoanalytic therapy will prepare the child analyst for the former tasks, no official curriculum has been devised so far to equip him for the latter.

Concern with problems such as prediction or prevention leads inevitably to a study of the normal, as opposed to the study of the pathological mental processes, or the sliding transitions between the two states with which the analyst of adults is concerned. This knowledge of the normal, still called an “underdeveloped” or “distressed” area of psychoanalysis by Ernst Kris in 1951, has been increased considerably in recent years, thanks mainly to the theoretical extrapolations from clinical findings made by Heinz Hart-mann and Ernst Kris. It owes a great deal also to the increasing importance played in metapsychological thinking by the principles and assumptions of psychoanalytic child psychology, which “embraces the total field of normal and abnormal development” (Ernst Kris, 1951, p. 15). The analyst of adults has little concern in his clinical work with the concept of normality, except marginally, where functioning (in love, sex, and successful work) is concerned. In contrast, the child analyst, who sees progressive development as the most essential function of the immature, is deeply and centrally involved with the intactness or disturbance, i.e., the normality or abnormality of this vital process.

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