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Ferenczi, S. (1926). The Problem of Acceptance of Unpleasant Ideas: Advances in Knowledge of the Sense of Reality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 7:312-323.

(1926). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 7:312-323

The Problem of Acceptance of Unpleasant Ideas: Advances in Knowledge of the Sense of Reality

S. Ferenczi

Not long after I first made acquaintance with psycho-analysis I encountered the problem of the sense of reality, a mode of mental functioning which seemed to be in sharp contrast to the tendency towards flight from 'pain' and towards repression otherwise so universally demonstrable in mental life. By means of a kind of empathy into the infantile mind, I arrived at the following hypothesis. To a child kept immune from any pain the whole of existence must appear to be a unity—'monistic, ' so to speak. Discrimination between 'good' and 'bad' things, ego and environment, inner and outer world, would only come later; at this stage alien and hostile would therefore be identical. In a subsequent work I attempted to reconstruct theoretically the principal stages in the development from the pleasure-principle to the reality-principle. I assumed that before it has experienced its first disappointments a child believes itself to be unconditionally omnipotent, and further that it clings to this feeling of omnipotence, even when the effectiveness of its power in the fulfilment of its wishes is bound up with the observance of certain conditions. It is only the growing number and complexity of these conditions that compel it to surrender the feeling of omnipotence and to recognize reality generally. In describing this development, however, nothing could at that time be said of the inner processes that must accompany this remarkable and important transformation; our knowledge of the deeper foundations of the mind—especially of instinctual life—was still too undeveloped to allow of this.

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