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Friedlander, K. (1938). Clinical: Michael Bálint. 'Frühe Entwicklungsstadien des Ichs. Primäre Objektliebe.' Imago, 1937, Bd. XXIII, pp. 270–288.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 19:229-231.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Clinical: Michael Bálint. 'Frühe Entwicklungsstadien des Ichs. Primäre Objektliebe.' Imago, 1937, Bd. XXIII, pp. 270–288.

(1938). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 19:229-231

Clinical: Michael Bálint. 'Frühe Entwicklungsstadien des Ichs. Primäre Objektliebe.' Imago, 1937, Bd. XXIII, pp. 270–288.

K. Friedlander

The author makes an attempt to compare and contrast the differences in the theoretical opinions about the earliest development of the human psyche as held in the three analytical centres, London, Vienna and Budapest. He maintains that the material upon which the three contradictory points of view are built is entirely the same, namely, the description of the infantile psyche as given by Freud in his paper on 'Female Sexuality.' Bálint presupposes that with that description scientists in London, Vienna and Budapest agree, as it contains all the facts and abstains from any theoretical explanation. In London, analysts would see in this description a corroboration of their own opinions. According to J. Riviere's paper, 'On the Genesis of Psychical Conflicts in Earliest Infancy' the most important assumptions underlying the English theories are the following: (1) The child is born in the condition of primary narcissism. (2) Sadistic and aggressive impulses appear very early; it remains undecided what proportion of these aggressive impulses originates in the primary death instinct and what proportion is due to hatred arising out of actions of the surrounding. But it is taken for granted that loving emotions make their appearance considerably later and are much weaker. (3) There is uncertainty, when and how reality sense begins to develop. (4) It is assumed that the perception of the primary experiences happens mainly by way of introjection and projection.

Here the criticism of the Vienna school starts. Wälder in his paper, 'The Problem of the Genesis of Psychical Conflicts in Earliest Infancy' doubts the ubiquity and intensity of oral-sadistic manifestations and therefore also the truth of the consequences which are won by a generalization of these so-called observations. He also criticizes the inexact use of the terms introjection and projection and the way in which in London phantasy and reality or rather external and psychical reality is described. He doubts whether the experiences of these earliest developmental stages can ever become conscious and be expressed in words.

These objections are important and convincing. But nevertheless they do not make anything clearer. If one deserts the London point of view and agrees with Vienna, one does not understand the qualities of the infantile mind as described by Freud. Why are children so greedy, so impossible to satisfy, why is there always hostility and the reproach that the mother has not properly fed them? The situation seems rather

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hopeless; on the one hand a theory which is able to throw light on a number of very important qualities of the infantile psyche, but whose assumptions cannot stand severe criticism; on the other hand criticism which cannot be disproved, but which does not give any explanation of the points in question.

Here the work done in Budapest offers a solution. The authors, A. Bálint and I. Hermann have come to the same result by different ways and independently of one another. Influenced by Ferenczi, the underlying idea of their work was to consider the formal elements of the analytical situation as transference appearance. It could be observed that certain characteristics of the transference situation were present in each analysis and became the clearer the more the patient was freed from mechanisms which could be made conscious. As a working hypothesis they assumed that these attitudes are to be considered as sediments of the first psychical experiences and further how far from these observations one could assume the infantile psychic processes. The results of this work are the following: the author observed that after the analysis has proceeded to some depth, the patient claims urgently satisfaction of primitive desires from the analyst or the surrounding. If these wishes are frustrated, despair, inferiority feeling, bitter disappointment, very hostile aggressions, wild sadistic phantasies, anxiety attacks followed. If the wishes were fulfilled, a maniacal stage happens followed by the same disappointment after the first frustration. The wishes in itself are harmless; a kind word from the analyst, to see the analyst outside the hour, to touch or to be touched by the analyst and so on. These desires have two distinct qualities; they are directed towards an object and they never surmount the initial pleasure. Bálint assumes that these constant attitudes of the patients are reaction formations from the very earliest times. Therefore, in his opinion, the first phase of the extra-uterine life is not narcissistic but directed towards an object. This object relationship is of a passive nature, its aim is: I want to be loved and satisfied without giving away anything on my part. This is the aim of every erotic desire. Reality later on changes this form of desire. One way out is narcissism. The clinically observed narcissism is therefore always a protection against the bad or obstinate object. The other way out is active object love. We love the partner and satisfy him in order to be loved again. Hermann's investigations into the desire for bodily contact confirm the theory just mentioned and he brings it in connection with the primitive contact reflexes. Further, Hermann states that the clinging to a person is the primary stage of a number of object relationships. A. Bálint in her investigations confirms the above-mentioned theory by showing that also for the mother there is a libidinal desire to feel the child as a part of her body as well as to feel it hostile, in the same way as the child feels the body of the mother.

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This primitive egoistical form of love cannot discriminate between the own and the object's desires. Therefore desires of the object which are not identical with the own desires are intolerable and cause anxiety and aggression. This happens also during the analytical treatment.

The common result of these three lines of investigation are the following:—

(1) The described primitive phase of object relationship is a very early developmental phase. (2) This phase is a necessary stage of the psychical development. (3) This form of object relationship is not bound to an erotogenic zone but is something in itself comparable to autoeroticism, narcissism or object-love. (4) The biological basis of this primary object-relationship is the instinctual clinging together of mother and child, they form a dual-unity. (5) This dual-unity becomes very soon disturbed in our culture. The result is the tendency to clinging on and also the general dissatisfaction and greediness of our children. (6) Should this instinctual desire become satisfied, the satisfaction never surmounts the initial pleasure satisfaction. Frustration causes violent reactions.

This theory, so Bálint assumes, makes it possible to understand and perhaps clear up the differences between London and Vienna. In London only the violent reactions after frustration were studied. The Vienna criticism saw this, but could not explain the reactions. The basis for the differences actually is the assumption of a primary narcissism. Bálint gives a number of reasons with which he intends to show that the primary narcissism could clinically never be observed and that his theory of the primary object relationship serves better the task to understand the manifestations of the pre-oedipal instincts.

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Article Citation

Friedlander, K. (1938). Clinical. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 19:229-231

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