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Tip: To see Abram’s analysis of Winnicott’s theories…

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In-depth analysis of Winnicott’s psychoanalytic theorization was conducted by Jan Abrams in her work The Language of Winnicott. You can access it directly by clicking here.

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(1956). British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955. Critical Observations on Fairbairn's Theory of Object Relations. Karl M. Abenheimer. Pp. 29–41.. Psychoanal Q., 25:456-457.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955. Critical Observations on Fairbairn's Theory of Object Relations. Karl M. Abenheimer. Pp. 29–41.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:456-457

British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955. Critical Observations on Fairbairn's Theory of Object Relations. Karl M. Abenheimer. Pp. 29–41.

Abenheimer, a Jungian analyst, states in his preamble that he is 'basically sympathetic to Fairbairn's work', in so far as Fairbairn is willing to discard 'the freudian ideas'. Most of his criticism of Fairbairn's theory seems directed either toward Fairbairn's unwillingness wholly to abandon classical psychoanalytic principles or, as Fairbairn points out, toward his 'somewhat misguidedly making the

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views of Freud the starting point of my struggle toward the light', instead of using Jung's teaching. Thus Abenheimer accepts the essence of Fairbairn's concept of the 'dynamic structures', but contends that Jung said it all much better with the idea of complexes (an idea that has so many meanings and connotations as to be both unwieldy and confusing). Abenheimer rejects the concepts of primary identification and incorporation of objects, holding that 'objects belong from the start, wholly or partially, to the internal world'. Likewise, without consideration for clinical data, he dismisses the libido theory and the concept of the instinctual basis of aggressive drives. He treats Fairbairn's ideas on the structuralization of psychological content as a rather odd innovation, completely disregarding the numerous (and certainly more sophisticated and less mysterious) contributions of more orthodox psychoanalysts on the subject. He criticizes Fairbairn's attitude as both not scientific enough and too scientific (or, as he contemptuously calls any attempt at objective study of psychological phenomena, 'pseudoscientific').

Fairbairn reiterates his postulates of dynamic structure, of aggression (which he considers 'a tendency called into operation in the setting of libidinal situations involving frustration or rejection, viz. [situations relating to a] "bad object"'), and of libidinal aims (aims to establish satisfactory relation with objects). He rejects such concepts as erotogenic zones and the dualistic theory of instincts. Fairbairn eloquently assails Abenheimer's insistence that analytic psychology belongs to the 'interpretive human studies' rather than to natural science, and that from it we cannot 'formulate general natural laws and a general scientific theory'. Fairbairn himself does not consider psychoanalysis a natural science and does not see any need for the analyst to adopt the methods appropriate to the physical sciences. However, psychoanalysis is to be regarded as a scientific discipline that provides 'a legitimate field for the harnessing of scientific method to the task of exact conceptualization'.

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Article Citation

(1956). British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955.. Psychoanal. Q., 25:456-457

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