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Daniel, P. (1992). Child Analysis and the Concept of Unconscious Phantasy. New Library of Psychoanalysis, 14:14-23.

(1992). New Library of Psychoanalysis, 14:14-23

Child Analysis and the Concept of Unconscious Phantasy Book Information Previous Up Next

Patricia Daniel


In this chapter I shall focus on the first phase of Melanie Klein's work, roughly between 1919 and 1934, when she was working within the theoretical framework of Freud and Abraham and before she made her own theoretical formulations. During this period there were two major developments: the working out of her play technique for child analysis, a clinical development, and a broadening of Freud's concept of unconscious phantasy, a theoretical development. These two developments were closely linked, as so often happens in psychoanalysis.

Melanie Klein's contributions to psychoanalysis are rooted in her work with children. From the beginning she was convinced that full Freudian analysis of young children was possible and, as Hanna Segal (1979) describes it, Klein's stroke of genius was to realize that play is the child's natural means of dramatizing his phantasies and working through his conflicts. I shall describe her play technique and try to show how it gave her access to the liveliness of the projective and introjective phantasies operating in the mind of the very young child. Freud and Abraham had started to conceptualize the introjects; that is, the parts and aspects of persons taken into and active within the mind as unconscious phantasies. Her play technique, like a new tool, made it possible for her to build on their work and to show the importance for psychic development of the nature of these introjects. Her understanding of the operation of unconscious phantasies in young children's minds opened up the liveliness and richness of the internal world of objects. These discoveries eventually led her and her co-workers to deepen and widen the concept of unconscious phantasy and to formulate ideas about how the infant's psychic world is gradually built up

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