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Spillius, E.B. (1983). Some Developments from the Work of Melanie Klein. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 64:321-332.

(1983). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 64:321-332

Some Developments from the Work of Melanie Klein

Elizabeth Bott Spillius

The fact that I find it impossible to give a comprehensive review of developments from Melanie Klein's work is in itself a tribute to the richness and originality of her discoveries and ideas. There have been so many developments by so many psychoanalysts and in so many countries that if I were to cover them all I would end up with a bare list of topics, people, places. I have decided to limit discussion to developments concerning four topics: projective identification, thinking, technique, and the workings of the death instinct and the inner world.

I will confine discussion to developments in Britain and will therefore make no attempt to describe the effects of Klein's work on psychoanalysis in Europe or South America. Nor will I try to assess the mutual effects of interaction between Kleinian psychoanalysts in Britain and British psychoanalysts of other schools of thought. Further, I take it for granted that readers are familiar with the Kleinian approach; I am of course aware that parts of it are controversial, but apologia is not my aim.


Klein developed the idea of projective identification in the course of describing the paranoid-schizoid position (Klein, 1946). She had been talking for a long time about the child having phantasies of getting inside the mother's body, but this was a different emphasis. She thought of projective identification as a phantasy in which bad parts of the self were split off from the rest of the self and, together with bad excrements, were projected into the mother or her breast to control and take possession of her in such a fashion that she was felt to become the bad self.

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