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Apfelbaum, B. (1966). On Ego Psychology: A Critique of the Structural Approach to Psycho-Analytic Theory. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 47:451-475.

(1966). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47:451-475

On Ego Psychology: A Critique of the Structural Approach to Psycho-Analytic Theory

Bernard Apfelbaum

The Ever-Seething Cauldron

A compelling case has been made in support of the structural approach to psycho-analytic theory. It rests on the view that if instinctual drive consists of pure motive force—violent, spasmodic, and blind—then there must also be structures through which this force operates. For such force to exist without structure is 'inconceivable', in Gill's words, 'because a force must be somehow confined and the confining must be itself a structure' (1963p. 143). Since early psycho-analytic theory could be seen as lacking these necessary structural conceptions, Gill (1959p. 5) maintains that

if the early psychoanalytic view of motivation had been taken seriously, the most ordinary item of behavior could be conceived as occurring only as a result of powerful forces—what Rapaport called 'a battle of the Titans'.

Papaport (1951bpp. 249f) attempted to capture this early view of the internal world in still another metaphor (one originated by Freud), that of 'an ever-seething cauldron' in which

strivings clashed continuously with each other without mitigation, in a perpetual revolution and every time something happened in consciousness or behavior it issued from a new equilibrium reached by clashing drives.

Rapaport goes on to suggest that Horney and others, in their desire to avoid this seething cauldron concept—'to get away altogether from the beasts that struggle down under somewhere'—focussed exclusively on 'the adaptive and social functions of the ego' thereby 'rejecting the drive psychology of psychoanalysis.

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