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Langer, M. (1964). Symptom Formation and Character Formation—Contributions to Discussion of Prepublished Papers. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:158-160.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:158-160

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

Marie Langer


I shall discuss some of the concepts dealt with in the two papers presented by Drs Lampl-de Groot and Arlow, introducing clinical material, so as to bring out some points for further discussion and also to show the nature and character of our work in Argentina. My contribution, in so far as it has been discussed with my colleagues Geneviève de Racker, Grinberg, and Rodrigué, can be said to be representative of our way of thinking.

To begin with, I bring a brief clinical example. The patient concerned is a pleasant young woman, successful in her profession, in her married life, and also as a mother. She might be looked upon as almost a normal person. However, she was in great need of analysis. According to Lampl-de Groot, there exist healthy, well-functioning egos without impairment. How then can we account for the fact that analysis always improves people's mental health, even when they are regarded as 'normal'? In reference to persons of this kind Freud says that we can only consider them as almost normal because 'their ego resembles that of the psychotic in one point or another, in a greater or lesser degree, and by its distance from one end of the scale and its proximity to the other, we may provisionally estimate the extent of that which we have so indefinitely called the "modification of the ego".'

This leads us to a discussion of Lampl-de Groot's definition of character as the ego's typical way of dealing with the inner and outer world, though she holds that when dealing with borderline cases or psychotics we can no longer talk about character but only about 'unpredictable ways of behaviour'.

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