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Anzieu, D. (1968). Comment on Dr Brenner's Paper. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:429-430.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:429-430

Comment on Dr Brenner's Paper

Didier Anzieu

I agree with Brenner that the secondary psychic processes do not exist in a state of separation. The primary psychic processes are always involved in them. For this reason there is a difference of degree rather than of kind. The more secondary process functioning depends on the primary process the more is it pathological.

I agree also with Brenner on a further point. The idea that the adult conscious ego admits simultaneous contradictory beliefs is a fact established from clinical as well as from non-psychoanalytical observations. During the past fifty years, Lévy-Bruhl's researches in ethnology, Piaget's in the intellectual development of the child, William James's in the "stream of consciousness" philosophy have all established this idea. The belief that the ego could think and act perfectly and continuously in accordance with reality, logicality, and consistency is a view we generally come across in obsessive and paranoid patients at the beginning of psychoanalysis. The defence mechanism employed here is that of idealization.

I cease to agree with Brenner's explanation of the need for logic and consistency. According to what he says, the need would be on the one hand for calculated pleasure-seeking (in accordance with the reality principle) and on the other for avoidance of shame (in accordance with the demands of the superego). But the examples given by Brenner show something else. Nearly all of them consist of linguistic facts: the ambiguity of words, curses, the pleasure of playing on words and in word sounds. In these examples it is not a question of adult or achaic ego functions; it is a question of the fundamental properties of speech. To say least when you are thinking most is a rhetorical practice which the Greeks called "litote" and the English now call "understatement".

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