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Riviere, J. (1952). The Unconscious Phantasy of an Inner World Reflected in Examples from English Literature. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:160-172.

(1952). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 33:160-172

The Unconscious Phantasy of an Inner World Reflected in Examples from English Literature

Joan Riviere

The inner world which in our unconscious phantasy each of us contains inside ourselves is one of those psycho-analytical concepts that most people find especially difficult to accept or understand. It is a world of figures formed on the pattern of the persons we first loved and hated in life, who also represent aspects of ourselves. The existence even in unconscious phantasy of these inner figures and of their apparently independent activities within us (which can be as real, or more real and actual, to us in unconscious feeling than external events) may seem incredible and incomprehensible; it might therefore perhaps be useful to approach the problem from the opposite end, as it were, that is from the conscious level. My aim in this contribution is essentially to forge a link between certain conscious experiences, which will be familiar to most people, and the proposition that phantasies of our containing other persons inside ourselves, though deeply unconscious, do exist. For this purpose I have selected some relevant passages from literature. Before discussing these, however, I will consider shortly the question why this proposition of internal objects seems so difficult to accept.

It was of course Freud who first recognized the existence of the 'introjected object' as a regular phenomenon, a normal part of the personality, namely, in his formulation of the mental institution he called the super-ego, mainly based on the person of the father and represented consciously in our minds by what we call the conscience in each of us.

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