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Klein, M. (1929). Personification in the Play of Children. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 10:193-204.

(1929). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 10:193-204

Personification in the Play of Children

Melanie Klein

In an earlier paper I gave an account of some of the mechanisms which I have found in my analysis of children to be fundamental in their play. I pointed out that the specific content of their play, which recurs again and again in the most varied forms, is identical with the nucleus of the masturbation-phantasies and that it is one of the principal functions of children's play to provide a discharge for these phantasies. Further, I discussed the very considerable analogy which exists between the means of representation used in play and in dreams and the importance of wish-fulfilment in both forms of mental activity I also drew attention to one principal mechanism in games in which different characters are invented and allotted by the child. My object in the present paper is to discuss this mechanism in more detail and also to illustrate by a number of examples of different types of illness the relation between the 'characters' or personifications introduced by them into these games and the element of wish-fulfilment.

My experience so far is that schizophrenic children are not capable of play in the proper sense. They perform certain monotonous actions, and it is a laborious piece of work to penetrate from these to the Ucs. When we do succeed, we find that the wish-fulfilment associated with these actions is pre-eminently the negation of reality and the inhibition of phantasy. In these extreme cases no 'characters' ever appear.

In the case of my little patient, Erna, who was six years old when we began the treatment, a severe obsessional neurosis marked a paranoia which was revealed after a considerable amount of analysis. In her play Erna often made me be a child, while she was the mother or a teacher. I then had to undergo fantastic tortures and humiliations. If in the game anyone treated me kindly, it generally turned out that the kindness was only simulated. The paranoiac symptoms showed in the fact that I was constantly spied upon, people divined my thoughts, and the father or teacher allied themselves with the mother against me—in fact, I was always surrounded with persecutors.

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