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Zetzel, E. (1964). Symptom Formation and Character Formation—Contributions to Discussion of Prepublished Papers. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:151-154.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:151-154

Symptom Formation and Character Formation—Contributions to Discussion of Prepublished Papers

Elizabeth Zetzel


Drs Arlow and Lampl-de Groot have both written such comprehensive and challenging papers that it is difficult to select specific questions for discussion. It was only however after writing and discarding several preliminary drafts that I fully realized the immense scope of our subject. The topic is one of such crucial importance that the temptation to present one's individual point of view is difficult to resist. Since, in addition, discussion of the specific problems raised in my mind can only be meaningful in relation to a conceptual frame of reference I have found myself between Scylla and Charybdis in formulating my discussion.

Out of the wealth of material available I have selected certain specific topics around which to organize my remarks. First, Lampl-de Groot's differentiation between character and symptom formation; second, her emphasis on the integrative functions of the ego; third, Arlow's orientation towards affect and early identification; and finally, the scope of signal anxiety as the motive for neurotic defence and neurotic symptom formation. Although these questions may be listed independently, they all derive from a basic problem in my mind after studying both papers. This basic problem belongs, I believe, to an area of crucial difficulty in respect to our current conceptual frame of reference.

Both papers refer to the importance of pre-oedipal experience in respect to the development of healthy and pathological character structure.

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