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Ferenczi, S. (1934). Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality. Psychoanal Q., 3:200-222.

(1934). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 3:200-222

Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality

Sándor Ferenczi



"Sleep's a shell, to break and spurn!"
Faust, Part II.

To the far-reaching analogy between the strivings which are realized in coitus and in sleep we have made reference too often and too insistently to be able to retreat now from the task of examining somewhat more closely into these two biologically so significant adaptations, their resemblances and their differences. In my "Stages of Development of the Reality Sense" the first sleep of the newborn—to which the careful isolation, the warm swaddling by mother or nurse contribute—was described as a replica of the intrauterine state. The child, frightened, crying, shaken by the traumatic experience of birth, soon becomes lulled in this sleeping state which creates in him a feeling—on a reality basis, on the one hand, and on the other hallucinatorily, that is, illusorily—as though no such tremendous shock had occurred at all. Freud has said, indeed, that strictly speaking the human being is not completely born; he is not born in the full sense, seeing that through going nightly to bed he spends half his life in, as it were, the mother's womb

But if we have been compelled to compare sleep on the one hand, and coitus on the other, with the intrauterine state, then logically we must also compare sleep and coitus with each other. As a matter of fact, we believe that in both phenomena the same regressive goal is attained, even though in different degree and by quite different means.

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