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Ogden, T.H. (1980). On the Nature of Schizophrenic Conflict. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 61:513-533.

(1980). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 61:513-533

On the Nature of Schizophrenic Conflict

Thomas H. Ogden


Schizophrenia is viewed in this paper as a form of psychopathology characterized by an intense

conflict between wishes to maintain a psychological state in which meaning can exist, and wishes to destroy all meaning and thought as well as the capacities to create experience and to think. Moreover, there is an enactment of the latter set of wishes in the form of an actual attack on these capacities. Schizophrenic conflict differs from neurotic conflict in that the latter involves tension between coexisting sets of meanings that are felt to be incompatible, while the former involves a conflict between meaning and attack on meaning.

In schizophrenia, defensive efforts to deal with meaning can become exhausted and when this occurs, the sphere of conflict shifts from the sphere of psychological representations and meanings to the sphere of the person's capacities for generating such meanings. Four stages, or types of attempted resolution of the schizophrenic conflict are presented: the stage of non-experience, the stage of projective identification, the stage of psychotic experience, and the stage of symbolic thought. In each stage a different equilibrium is reached between wishes to allow meaning and thoughts to exist and wishes to destroy all meaning. In addition, each stage is characterized by a specific form of enactment beyond the psychological representational sphere, by which the schizophrenic unconsciously limits his own capacity to perceive, experience and think.

The theory of schizophrenic conflict presented in this paper represents an attempt to address the interface between the sphere of psychological meanings and representations (e.g. thoughts, motivations, and fantasies) and the sphere of the person's capacities to create meanings and representations. The concept of actualization fantasy is introduced in an effort to make steps toward the development of bridging formulations that address the interplay between phenomena in these different spheres.

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