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Lichtenberg, J.D. Slap, J.W. (1973). Notes on the Concept of Splitting and the Defense Mechanism of the Splitting of Representations. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 21:772-787.

(1973). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21:772-787

Notes on the Concept of Splitting and the Defense Mechanism of the Splitting of Representations

Joseph D. Lichtenberg, M.D. and Joseph William Slap, M.D.


We have considered the varied and confusing meanings of the term "splitting" under four headings: splitting as a general organizing principle, splitting and the organizing of mental contents in infantile life, the defense mechanism of splitting of representations,

and splitting of representations as a factor in pathological intersystemic suborganizations.

We have suggested that Hartmann's concepts of differentiation and integration, as a general organizational principle of psychic structure formation (the counterpart of synthesis), are superior to that of splitting. Also that the conception of "pathological intersystemic suborganizations" is a more precise designation for contradictory coexistent psychical groupings, as exemplified by the fetishist, than is the term "splitting of the ego."

We would restrict the term "splitting" to the tendency in infantile life by which the organization of memory traces of the earliest experiences is based on the primordial quality of pleasurable-good or painful-bad. By the term "splitting of representations," we would designate a mechanism of defense which acts to separate the representations of self and of objects in instances in which two differing currents of strong feelings and urges would arouse anxiety if experienced simultaneously toward an object. The one affective current, and the self-representation related to it, is experienced toward one object while the opposite current is linked to a separate object representation.

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