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Sterba, R.F. (1957). Oral Invasion and Self-Defence. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 38:204-208.

(1957). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38:204-208

Oral Invasion and Self-Defence

Richard F. Sterba, M.D.

In her paper 'Negativism and Emotional Surrender', presented at the International Congress in Amsterdam in 1951, Anna Freud pointed out that certain children go through a negativistic stage in their early development. These negativistic children refuse the slightest demand or assistance from the part of their surroundings, because they want to be independent. Such negativistic behaviour might be repeated in pre-adolescence, in adolescence, and to an extreme degree in psychosis. In the case of such negativism any approach on the part of the surrounding persons is experienced as a claim or a hostile attack.

Anna Freud enumerated the explanations given for this type of behaviour, such as early disappointment in the love object, early seduction, temptations by the object, excessive narcissism. All of these explanations she found insufficient to explain this type of negativism. Anna Freud pointed out as an important reason for the negativistic attitude that for these persons love is a loss and not a gain. Love for them means impoverishment and subjugation. In these persons there exists the misconception and fear that to love anyone means to surrender to the object to an extent which would make them lose their own identity and would transform them into the person whom they love. They would thus be 'invaded' by the love object. Anna Freud illustrated this negativism with very impressive case material. One of her cases in particular demonstrated the fear against which the negativism was established as a defence.

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