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Kay, P. (1958). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 27:155-156.

(1958). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 27:155-156

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York

Paul Kay

DISCUSSION. Dr. Max Stern praised the merits of attempting to connect specific forms of infantile pavor nocturnus with later development. He surmised that the hypermotility in these children represents a subsequent reaction to the preceding pavor nocturnus. Such a 'somnambulistic' reaction to a preceding pavor nocturnus indicates a weakness of adaptation to reality. Dr. Max Schur took issue with the theoretical formulations. The superego disturbance of these children rather than being causative is the result of a series of interrelated traumata: flooding of immature ego by environmental overstimulation leading to nightmares and pavor nocturnus; also, the effect of repeated attacks of pavor nocturnus on the weak ego. Dr. Schur disagreed with ascribing an 'intentional' therapeutic function to the dream (to master a trauma). The function of the dream is to protect sleep. The nightmare, however, may help in 'the gradual working through' of traumata arising from the day's residue. Dr. Otto Sperling stated that 'sexual overstimulation' itself does not cause pavor nocturnus if it is not combined with the 'split' superego of the child. The ego is faced with repetition compulsion and tries to make the best of it, while a part of the superego 'commands' the child to 'go crazy', 'suffer', etc. Dr. Jan Frank questioned whether the first type of pavor nocturnus is a serious premonitory sign of a schizophrenic or psychotic development. In emotionally wayward families, the children seem to be deprived of the necessary protection against the intensity of their drives. As a result, the ego is impaired. Without parental aid in transforming the primitive drives of the infant, the ego and superego remain primitive. Dr. Melitta Sperling in closing noted that pavor nocturnus of children is not somnambulism or psychosis, and that it represents not an 'inability' to awaken but an 'unwillingness' to do so.

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