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Schmideberg, M. (1938). Intellectual Inhibition and Disturbances in Eating. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 19:17-22.

(1938). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 19:17-22

Intellectual Inhibition and Disturbances in Eating

Melitta Schmideberg

Psycho-analysis has shewn that the infant's first relation is to the mother's breast, and that this relation, together with his attitude to food, may prove significant for the whole of his reactions to the external world. In the words of a schizophrenic patient: 'At bottom everything, reading, going to the theatre, paying a call, is like eating. First you expect a lot, then you're disappointed. When I come to analysis, I eat your furniture, clothes, and words. You eat my words, clothes, and money. If you work, your employer eats you up. But at the same time you do some eating yourself. At times I'm very hungry, then once again I can eat nothing'.

The functions of the sense organs stand in the service both of the instinct of self-preservation and of (modified or unmodified) libidinal instinctual aims. Furthermore, reception via the sense organs, like intellectual assimilation, is equated with oral incorporation, so that affects of greed, pleasure, anxiety, inhibition, etc., get transferred from food to these (cf. the expressions 'intoxicated with beauty', 'devour with the eyes', 'a feast for the ears', etc.). Instinctual conflicts can accordingly either inhibit or favour the function of the sense organs, and the sense of reality based on them, in two ways: (1) Through conflicts relating to the libidinal instinctual aim in whose service the sense perceptions stand (e.g. inhibition or impulses to sexual curiosity). (2) Through disturbances of libidinal trends which become secondarily amalgamated with the function of the sense organs or with the processes of thought (e.g. if seeing, smelling, or thinking are perceived as oral activities, inhibitions in eating can be replaced by inhibitions affecting sight, smell, or thought).

Our attitude to external reality corresponds for the most part to our attitude to internal reality, to our affects; for only through them do we acquire a relation to the external world. The affects are generally equated with the contents of one's body, with the incorporated objects.

Abraham shewed that the receptive function in eating forms the prototype for all later intellectual understanding, and this has been confirmed by other analysts.

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