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Little, M. (1964). Comment on Dr Sperling's Paper. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:261-262.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:261-262

Comment on Dr Sperling's Paper

Margaret Little

Sperling shows us two special instances of the function of the ego in maintaining the lowest possible level of tension—i.e. preserving homeostasis. He shows us the various ways in which the ego mobilizes id, superego, or outside world to this end, when faced with the specific unpleasure of a situation calling for modification of the ego itself, in order to avoid such modification.

The first instance is that of finding the means whereby unpleasurable material may be learnt, when such sublimations as have been formed are weak and precarious. The second is the analytic situation, where acceptance of interpretations involves modification of the ego; or rather, where acceptance of interpretations can come about only through an ego modification.

He is concerned here with the pathological aspects of what he has called the 'balancing' function of the ego, and he has made only passing reference to the normal aspects of this function. He has, however, given us some indication of the conditions in which these pathological developments occur, referring first to the tendency (in childhood) to repeat actively what has been, and is being passively experienced in infant and child care, and secondly to the pattern often set by the mother in early childhood of balancing pain with pleasure, and pleasure with pain.

The examples which Sperling quotes are familiar to all of us, and we have all suffered many times in the course of every analysis from the persistent refusal of interpretations by our analysands.

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