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Gaddini, E. (1982). Early Defensive Fantasies and the Psychoanalytical Process. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:379-388.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:379-388

Early Defensive Fantasies and the Psychoanalytical Process

Eugenio Gaddini


In the infant's mind, before fantasy can be associated with an image, thus becoming a visual fantasy, it is experienced in the body—namely, a particular physical function is enacted and altered according to its mental significance. These 'fantasies in the body', as I call them, remain usually enclosed in a primitive and exclusive body-mind-body circuit, and are not available to further mental elaboration, as visual fantasies are instead. However, the study of 'fantasies in the body' can contribute to a better understanding of some normal and pathological aspects of mental functioning in the first year of life. In fact, 'fantasies in the body' may be found in this period on one hand as immediate and transitory responses—as in the case of the erroneously defined 'hallucinatory image'—and on the other hand in early psycho-physical pathologic syndromes. The latter appear to be originally an expression of the fragmentary non-integrated early organization of the self, and to be related to the fear that this organization might go to pieces and get lost in space. This 'anxiety of non-integration', as I call it, is one of two main aspects which anxiety of loss of the self gives places to, the other one being 'anxiety of integration', which is instead related to the fear that whatever change in the non-integrated organization would lead to a final catastrophe. This anxiety may strongly oppose integration and the psychoanalytic process. Clinically, it may be important to distinguish non-integration from splitting.

A further purpose of this paper is to show how, in the infant's mind, 'fantasies in the body' are followed by the earliest 'fantasies on the body' which, unlike the first ones, are visual fantasies, and in fact represent the first mental image of the separated self. It is usually an inanimate and round-shaped image, as one can see from the examples reported in the paper. The further step towards integration will be that of being able to collect and objectively acknowledge one's own body parts and body limits, a process which Greenacre rightly described as the 'development of the sense of identity'.

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