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Schilder, P. Wechsler, D. (1935). What Do Children Know about the Interior of the Body?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 16:355-360.

(1935). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 16:355-360

What Do Children Know about the Interior of the Body?

Paul Schilder and David Wechsler

It has been pointed out by Hartmann and Schilder that, as far as direct experience goes, we know nothing of the various organs inside our bodies: all that we are aware of is a heavy mass. The sensations which become part of our subjective experience relate only to the superficial regions of the body (say 1 or 2 centimetres below the surface); its openings, too, from the point of view of psychology, are close under the surface. Bodily sensation (except that of weight) is concentrated on the surface and what we know of our organs is simply intellectual knowledge—something that we have learnt. Normally, our sensations would never disclose to us the existence of heart, lungs and intestines. As we have said, our experience of our own bodies is based on visual and tactile impressions, on our perception of the weight of the body and its various parts and on the happenings within the sensitive zone close to the surface. These data, with which our consciousness (Cs.) supplies us, are of importance for psycho-analysis. They relate not only to our own but to other people's bodies and enter into every sort of libidinal relationship.

It has been proved that the castration complex embraces not only the surface and the secretions of the body but its interior as well. It is reasonable to conceive of that complex as operative in the pregenital stage of development and as comprising the wish to preserve intact the whole body, including the inside of it, and also the fear of any sort of bodily injury. The fear of parting with partially digested food, the contents of the intestine, the fæces and the intestine itself (anal-intestinal castration complex) was the moving factor in the case of schizophrenia with profound regression, described by Schilder and Sugar. One of the present writers (Schilder) holds that the fear of dismemberment is one of the most powerful factors in psychosis; and Bromberg and Schilder have drawn attention to the part played by this fear in alcoholic hallucination. According to Melanie Klein, the desire to tear out and destroy the interior of the parents' bodies is conspicuous in the psychology of little children. They themselves are afraid of being robbed of their own viscera.

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