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Weil, A.P. (1985). Thoughts about Early Pathology. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 33:335-352.

(1985). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 33:335-352

Thoughts about Early Pathology

Annemarie P. Weil, M.D.


In this paper, I have presented the assumption that some symptom pictures such as attachment to pain, the masochistic character, the negative therapeutic reaction, a basic depressive response, and anhedonia are rooted in a prevalence of organismic distress during the symbiotic phase.

Neuroscientists taught us that early experiences are associated with the neuronal structuring of the developing brain, which then affects concurrent or subsequent reactions. In particular I followed Ginsburg's (1982) assumption of a neuronally, genetically given aggressive drive potential which influences and is influenced by early experiences, and which can interact with other gene potentials.

In some patients aggressive drive components contributed to a less than harmonious basic core associated with failure of the early infant/mother interaction. Unpleasure prevailed during the symbiotic phase; aggressive energies predominated and enmeshed with the neuronal encoding, the early structuralization in both the neurophysiological and psychological meaning. Thus,

the structuring of the function of internalization and the emerging self-object experience were disturbed from early on. This then continued to foster a proclivity for unstable (fusion and) diminished neutralization tendencies.

As biological discharge phenomena evolve into vague psychological awareness, such an infant does not attain a sense of well-being, but rather attains a sense of "not-well-being" (Joffe and Sandler, 1965) which remains continuous or can be triggered—kindled—by any reactivating constellation, and the object is experienced as a source of unpleasure. This is in line with Mahler's bad mother and bad self-introjects. Primary narcissism has not evolved well or, said differently, is invested more with aggressive than with libidinal cathexis and is in an unfortunate association or balance with primary masochism. Aggressive drive components subsequently color fantasies, readiness for and severity of conflicts. The aggressivization of self-feelings and of the function of internalization with its influence on—and exacerbation of—the rapprochement crisis is traced into later symptomatology. The basic pathology as described in this paper then compounds the oedipally derived problems.

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