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Killingmo, B. (1989). Conflict and Deficit: Implications for Technique. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 70:65-79.

(1989). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 70:65-79

Conflict and Deficit: Implications for Technique

Bjørn Killingmo


In traditional psychoanalysis psychopathology is conceptualized in terms of intersystemic conflict. This implies various patterns of opposition between the three structural systems of personality—id, ego, superego—and reality. Furthermore, the main formula of pathological development proceeds thus: oedipal drive wish ® repression ® regression ® symptom formation. This way of conceptualizing pathology presupposes a certain degree of structural differentiation. First of all the very systems which are supposed to be in conflict with each other have to be separated. Secondly, a relatively stable differentiation between self-representation and object-representation (constancy) has to be established in order to experience the triadic interpersonal constellation of the oedipal situation. Thirdly, the individual must have reached a level of structural development which allows for utilizing repression as the main mechanism of defence.

However, both clinical experience and theoretical development, especially over the last 20 years, seem to call for a revision or at least an extension of the classical theory. First of all, a huge amount of clinical evidence tends to point to an onset of pathology before the above mentioned structural differentiation is supposed to have taken place (Call, 1980). Next, the very needs at stake in the pathological process do not always seem to be primarily of a drive nature (libidinal or aggressive).

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