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Nemiah, J.C. (1965). The Development of the Concept of Intrapsychic Conflict in Freud's Writings. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:367-371.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:367-371

The Development of the Concept of Intrapsychic Conflict in Freud's Writings

John C. Nemiah

It is, of course, the hallmark of psycho-analytic theory that it is a dynamic conflict psychology. The concept of intrapsychic conflict appears early in Freud's psychological writings and runs as the leitmotiv throughout the development of his theory. Around this central theme, however, there winds a changing growth in the details of the theoretical structure: to encompass and explain the observations that arose in the course of his work, Freud repeatedly altered his conceptions of the nature of the antagonists in the psychological conflict. The results of his scientific struggles are crystallized in his many papers and monographs, and it is our task here, in a brief review of his forty years of work, to trace the development of his concept of intrapsychic conflict.

The evolution of Freud's theory is customarily divided into three phases: (i) the theory of the traumatic etiology of the psychoneuroses; (ii) the topographical conception of intrapsychic conflict; and (iii) the structural model. If, however, one considers this same evolution from the point of view of the theory of the ego, it can be viewed as occurring in two major phases, the traumatic conception constituting a sub-stage of the first phase. Beginning in 1893, guided by his observations of the transference neuroses, Freud was busy formulating a model of intrapsychic conflict that led to his great discoveries in the realm of unconscious mental processes, and the emphasis was on these rather than on ego functions.

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