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Klein, M. (1931). A Contribution to the Theory of Intellectual Inhibtion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 12:206-218.

(1931). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 12:206-218

A Contribution to the Theory of Intellectual Inhibtion

Melanie Klein

I intend to deal here with some mechanisms of intellectual inhibition and will begin with a short abstract from an analysis of a seven-year-old boy, dealing with the principal points of two consecutive analytic sessions. The boy's neurosis consisted partly in neurotic symptoms, partly in character-difficulties and also in quite severe intellectual inhibitions. At the time when the two hours with which I propose to deal occurred, the child had had about twelve months' treatment and the material in question had already undergone considerable analysis. The intellectual inhibitions in general had diminished gradually to some extent during this period; but it was only in these two hours that the connection of this material with one of his special difficulties in regard to learning became clear. This led to a remarkable improvement where his intellectual inhibitions were concerned.

The boy complained to me that he could not distinguish certain French words from one another. There was a picture in the school of various objects to help the children to understand the words. The words were: poulet, chicken; poisson, fish; glace, ice. Whenever he was asked what any of these words meant he invariably answered with the meaning of one of the other two—for instance, asked poisson, he would answer ice; poulet, fish; and so on. He felt quite hopeless and despairing about it, saying he would never learn it, etc. I obtained the material from him by ordinary association, but at the same time he was also playing about idly in the room.

I asked him first to tell me what poulet made him think of. He lay on his back on the table, kicking his legs about and drawing on a piece of paper with a pencil. He thought of a fox breaking into a chicken-house. I asked him when this would happen and instead of saying 'in the night', he answéred, 'At four o'clock in the afternoon', which I knew to be a time when his mother was often out. 'The fox breaks in and kills a little chicken', and while he said this he cut off what he had drawn. I asked him what it was and he said, 'I don't know'. When we looked at it it was a house, of which he had cut off the roof. He said that was the way the fox got into the house.

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