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Kris, A.O. (1976). On Wanting Too Much: The 'Exceptions' Revisited. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:85-95.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:85-95

On Wanting Too Much: The 'Exceptions' Revisited

Anton O. Kris

When Freud (1916) described the 'exceptions' sixty years ago, with their claims to special rights and their demands for treatment without suffering, they were relatively uncommon in his clinical practice. 'One comes upon [such] individuals, ' he wrote (p. 312). Although he demonstrated the resonance of Shakespeare's Richard III, the envious hunchback, who 'set the murd'rous Machiavel to school' with an unconscious attitude to be found in everyone, it was not then so frequently manifest. Today the 'exceptions' are very nearly the rule.

Changes in the patients seen by psychoanalysts have been accompanied by important changes in psychoanalytic theory and technique over the same period. These advances in so many areas—the theory of aggression, ego and superego, anxiety and defence, and the focus on earliest development—have curiously not been paralleled by advances in libido theory (Dahl, 1968). The present discussion is directed towards bringing up to date one aspect of libido theory, the distinction between active and passive aims, as it applies to the problem of the 'exceptions'. For Freud the active-passive dimension was one of 'the three great polarities that dominate mental life' (1915p. 140). While it has played a significant role in ego-psychology and in object-relations theory (Rapaport, 1953); (Schafer, 1968), it has had very little attention on the libidinal side in the past sixty years.

The application of the distinction between active and passive

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