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Klein, M. (1948). A Contribution to the Theory of Anxiety and Guilt. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 29:114-123.

(1948). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 29:114-123

A Contribution to the Theory of Anxiety and Guilt

Melanie Klein

In this paper I propose to present my conclusions regarding anxiety and guilt. These conclusions have been gradually evolved over a number of years, and it may be useful to retrace some of the steps by which I arrived at them.


Concerning the origins of anxiety, Freud to begin with put forward the hypothesis that anxiety arises out of a direct transformation of libido. In Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety Freud reviewed his various theories on the origin of anxiety. As he put it: 'I propose to assemble, quite impartially, all the facts that we do know about anxiety and to give up the idea of making any immediate synthesis of them.' He stated again that anxiety arises from direct transformation of libido but now seemed to attribute less importance to this 'economic' aspect of the origin of anxiety. He qualified this view in the following statements: 'The whole matter can be clarified, I think, if we commit ourselves to the definite statement that as a result of repression the intended course of the excitatory process in the id does not occur at all; the ego succeeds in inhibiting or deflecting it. If this is so the problem of "transformation of affect" under repression disappears.' And: 'The problem of how anxiety arises in connection with repression may be no simple one; but we may legitimately maintain the opinion that the ego is the actual seat of anxiety and give up our earlier view that the cathectic energy of a repressed impulse is automatically turned into anxiety.

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