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Arlow, J.A. (1964). Symptom Formation and Character Formation—Summary of Discussion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:167-170.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:167-170

Symptom Formation and Character Formation—Summary of Discussion

Jacob A. Arlow

The main purpose of my pre-published paper was to examine how the structural theory may be used to clarify certain problems of symptom and character formation. In addition, I suggested some areas for future investigations inherent in the approach which I proposed. In pursuing these goals, I decided to limit the discussion to symptoms as defined by Freud, i.e. in terms of a break-through of a substitute form of drive gratification in the face of opposition by the ego. This point of departure was chosen not only to emphasize the ubiquity of conflict, but also to demonstrate the crucial role that conflict plays in the genesis of many forms of psychic resultants, e.g. character traits, symptoms, sublimations, and even normal development. It is important, therefore, to state clearly the role of conflict in psycho-analysis. This is necessary because of the tendency discernible in many quarters to trace the significant conflict in symptom formation earlier and earlier in the development of the individual and to regard both neurotic symptom formation and character traits as direct reduplications, i.e. regressive reactivations of these very early events. This trend shows itself in many forms. I will cite only a few illustrations.

On the one hand, there are those, e.g. Melanie Klein and her followers, who posit a very elaborate content to the mental life of the infant in the first months. In their view, conflict is expressed in terms of elaborately detailed concepts of objects and in a meticulously defined fantasy function.

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