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Reich, W. (1931). Character Formation and the Phobias of Childhood. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 12:219-230.

(1931). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 12:219-230

Character Formation and the Phobias of Childhood

Wilhelm Reich

In our clinical experience we are constantly called upon to deal with the problem of what Freud has named 'the narcissistic barrier'. By this we mean in psycho-analysis all those difficulties which the patient's narcissism opposes to our efforts. Unless we have a clear theoretical comprehension of this mechanism, to which we attach the term 'narcissistic barrier', we shall have considerable difficulty in finding the way to overcome it. Protected as we are against any overweening therapeutic optimism by the bitter experiences of our work and the efforts it demands, we are justified in the view that it is just these therapeutic difficulties which make it possible to formulate the most valuable and fruitful problems in scientific psychology. In fact therapeutic activity presupposes an understanding of psychical movement and dynamic; and in this case also we are compelled, owing to the problem in technique offered by this 'narcissistic barrier', to undertake the study of characterological reactions.

In two papers ('ber Charakteranalyse' and 'Der genitale neurotische Charakter') I have attempted a theoretical discussion of the problems involved; though thorough substantiation of my views by clinical case-material had to be omitted owing to lack of space. In the following paper I hope in part to develop further the general theoretical formulations of the above-mentioned papers, while at the same time illustrating them with clinical material.

The main idea of those papers was as follows: that in our practice we become aware of the narcissistic barrier as a sort of 'armour' or 'rampart' of defence, against which our interpretations and therapeutic efforts rebound, unless we are able to break up this narcissistic defence by means of analysis and interpretation of its purposive mode of action. Further, that this narcissistic armour represents an expression, which has been definitely formed and permanently crystallized in the psychical structure, of a narcissistic defence. Finally, that this defence finds formal expression in a specific mode of reaction on the part of the patient, which is independent of the matter of the repressed


1 Int. Zeitschrift f. PsA., 1928 and 1929.

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