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Pick, I.B. (1988). Adolescence: Its Impact on Patient and Analyst. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 15:187-194.

(1988). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 15:187-194

Adolescence: Its Impact on Patient and Analyst

Irma Brenman Pick

The nature of the onset of puberty with its powerful and relatively speedy development carries with it a psycho-biological force of great thrust in which the body matures and the instincts may overwhelm. This produces an impact on the psyche which like all impacts may in the first instance be too much to bear. The capacity to cope is, as we know, to a large extent predetermined by the degree of ego strength built up in earlier development. The features I hope to illustrate are, of course, discernible in infantile development, but the element which I believe is particularly striking in adolescence is the power of the force by which the post-pubertal adolescent feels carried along by the impulses or the defences he constructs against them.

I hope in this paper to describe aspects of the analysis of two adolescent patients who, in their failure to meet the adolescent impact, resorted to powerful defences. The first, John, took flight into sexuality, or more correctly, sensuality; the second, Jane, escaped into competent adulthood. Whilst they are very different, I believe they share in common with each other and many adolescents the intensity of the force with which they feel carried away and they try to carry the object away with them. I shall try to show the impact of this on the analyst-patient relationship.

The upsurge forces upon the adolescent multiple immediate issues to negotiate; in addition to the new experience of the full power of a biologically mature body and the accompanying instinctual forces, his life circumstances and his own needs call upon him to differentiate himself from his family, to find his identity not just as the child of his parents, but more clearly as an individual.

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