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Hendrick, I. (1942). Instinct and the Ego During Infancy. Psychoanal Q., 11:33-58.

(1942). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 11:33-58

Instinct and the Ego During Infancy

Ives Hendrick

The point of departure for this paper is the opinion that psychoanalysis has created a picture of early infantile experience whose claim to adequacy and validity is in some ways questionable. Thus some analytic portrayals of the actual infant seem far more the projection of analytic theory and adult passions than scientific observation. This picture of infancy has been constructed chiefly from our special knowledge of unconscious sexual fantasies and the libido theory. The value of these two contributions needs no confirmation; what does require our attention is the frequency with which our conclusions concerning infancy imply the untenable assumption that the unconscious mental life of the adult (or of the postinfantile child) is a replica of the infant's experiences.

A comparable error would be for the student of organic evolution to assume that anatomical ontogeny exactly repeats phylogeny. Freud's remarkable generalization (7), for example, that both the oral pervert and the neurotic, whose symptoms are due to the repression of 'perverse' fantasies, perpetuate the sensual pleasures of nursing, is fully justified by analytic data; but the conclusion that the nursing infant's actual experience is the same would be unsound. Freud, of course, never made so preposterous a statement, nor, so far as I recall, has any other intelligent analyst; yet similar assumptions are implicit in many discussions of normal infancy. We should, therefore, it seems to me, focus more clearly the more probable assumption that the residuals of infancy which we study in later life are themselves the end results of very complex developments, not restatements of primary experiences.


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