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Hunt, S.P. (1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952: Oral Components of the Castration Complex. René De Monchy. Pp. 450-453.. Psychoanal Q., 23:144-145.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952: Oral Components of the Castration Complex. René De Monchy. Pp. 450-453.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:144-145

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952: Oral Components of the Castration Complex. René De Monchy. Pp. 450-453.

Samuel P. Hunt

De Monchy calls attention to analytic writings describing pregenital energy sources for the castration complex. Freud, in contrast, stated in Analysis Terminable and Interminable that when castration anxiety has been analyzed, 'bedrock' has been reached. De Monchy feels that Freud's remark draws attention away from highly important pregenital determinants. He attributes Freud's idea to the biological concept of primary and fixed instinct-response patterns which are independent of earlier (learning) experience, known to animal psychologists

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as 'congenital reaction schemes'. De Monchy considers the 'sucking instinct' rather than the castration complex an example in human beings of congenital, unlearned behavior. He points out that such patterns in human beings, in contrast to other animals, are open to a wide range of developmental variation, as to both stimulus and response, during the process of adaptation and maturation. For example, if the original stimulus is the nipple, the variant may be the penis. The author gives a number of clinical examples of clear associative connections between orality and genitality. He underscores the idea that the catastrophic pathogenicity of the castration complex has its origin in repressed associative connections with the oral trauma of weaning. He therefore questions whether the castration complex should retain its central position in psychoanalytic theory.

The importance of De Monchy's interesting short paper is that it represents an attempt to bring psychoanalytic theory more specifically into line with the biological continuum according to the data of animal psychologists, such as T. C. Schneirla. For the understanding of both ego and instinct psychology this is a neglected but potentially fruitful area of research already developed extensively from another point of view by Ferenczi (amphimixis) and more recently by E. Erikson (modes and zones). Premises regarding congenital reaction schemes should, however, be checked with empirical observation. For example, it has not been demonstrated that a behavioral response such as even sucking in infants actually represents 'bedrock'. By analogy, the work of Z. Y. Kuo shows that the pecking response in chicks, supposed by De Monchy to represent a fixed reaction pattern uninfluenced by environment, actually is shaped and formed in embryo by a number of specific environmental factors. This indicates that the pecking response itself is already a complex built up from simpler stimulus-response patterns. Also it should be kept in mind that the pathogenicity of both the castration fear and the weaning trauma depends not only on possible congenital reaction patterns but also on the 'quantity' of instinctual energy (aggression) in the responding subject. The fact that there are of course powerful pregenital determinants to castration anxiety would not, without much more data, persuade many analysts to remove the castration complex from the position it has always held in psychoanalytic theory.

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Article Citation

Hunt, S.P. (1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952. Psychoanal. Q., 23:144-145

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