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Scott, W.M. (1984). Primitive Mental States in Clinical Psychoanalysis. Contemp. Psychoanal., 20:458-463.

(1984). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 20:458-463

Primitive Mental States in Clinical Psychoanalysis

W. Clifford M. Scott, M.D.

FIRST, I WILL DESCRIBE BRIEFLY four clinical examples:

1. A man in his twenties came to analysis, on account of a disorganized life at a university, expecting a magic cure and God-like advice. He soon talked about his feeling about his Jewish family members who had given up religion to depend on themselves.

After several months of analysis, while analysing his conflict between omnipotent fantasies and actual incompetence, he said in a dreamy voice: "I guess I'd better not believe I'm everything". He startled and said in an alert voice: "Did I say 'I guess I'd better not believe I am everything'?" He then remembered recurrent episodes of short durations that he had had throughout his life for as long as he could remember, of standing awestruck looking at the world and believing, as he put it: "I am doing it all. I understand everything. I know what is going to happen. I am making it all happen." He soon became disillusioned and forgot each episode. In the transference one could surmise that the omnipotent fantasy or dream was followed by the dreamy waking feeling, "I guess I'd better not believe I am everything". He startled, and roused, and asked, "Did I say I guess I'd better not believe I am everything?" He wanted confirmation that he could be listened to, that he could be agreed with and understood as he developed. His statement showed great condensation: childhood partial resolution of beliefs, guessing, decisions about what is better and what is worse, a conception of everything, and of self being everything, and of self being less than everything. Had this view persisted, he would have been in a megalomanic catatonic schizophrenic state. The relationship between moments of wondering, "Will I develop any competence and tolerate my limits?" or; "Will I think of mother and father as unlimited providers?" began to be worked through.

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