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Rosenfeld, H. (1983). Primitive Object Relations and Mechanisms. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 64:261-267.

(1983). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 64:261-267

Primitive Object Relations and Mechanisms

Herbert Rosenfeld

Melanie Klein has made so many important and original contributions to psychoanalysis that only some of them can be discussed today. Some of her work such as the contribution to technique and early infantile object relations has considerably increased our ability to treat severe neurosis successfully. But this work, in addition, has opened up the possibility of treating even more severe borderline and psychotic patients by psychoanalysis. Some of us have even been encouraged by her detailed work on early infantile psychotic object relations and anxieties to try to treat severe psychotic delusional illnesses by psychoanalysis and have actually been successful in the treatment of some cases. Melanie Klein's work is, of course, not an enclosed system, and we are only too aware how much we still have to learn and are capable of learning if we keep our eyes and ears open. I am sure this was Melanie Klein's own attitude.

In Melanie Klein's view external and internal object relations start from the beginning of life. She believed that the death instinct is active from birth and manifests itself immediately as a fear of persecution. This fear of the destructive impulse immediately attaches itself to an object and is experienced as fear of an uncontrollable overpowering object. The trauma of birth and all frustrations of body needs are from the beginning felt to be caused by bad objects, but even when these objects are felt to be external they are simultaneously changed into internal persecutory objects by introjection.

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