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McLaughlin, J.T. (1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: Regression and Fixation: Considerations Concerning the Development of the Ego. Phyllis Greenacre. Pp. 703-723.. Psychoanal Q., 31:133-134.
    
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: Regression and Fixation: Considerations Concerning the Development of the Ego. Phyllis Greenacre. Pp. 703-723.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:133-134

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: Regression and Fixation: Considerations Concerning the Development of the Ego. Phyllis Greenacre. Pp. 703-723.

James T. McLaughlin

The author outlines the evolution of her theoretical concepts of ego development and pregenitality against the background of her accumulated clinical experience and the expanding analytic theory of the past twenty-five years. Therapeutic efforts with extremely difficult cases led to the concept of a permanent predisposition to anxiety determined by early and prolonged traumata in the prenatal and neonatal periods. Particularly noxious were disturbances in the mother and gross impairment of integrity due to anatomic anomalies or extensive disease processes. Later studies elaborated the adolescent and adult consequences of these early extremes and concomitant primitive anxiety: inability to think and act adequately, to synthesize experiences, and make solid identifications; inability to sustain object relationships; diffuse feelings of loss of body integrity, overwhelming anxiety, and erotization of the anxiety itself; and the clinical entities of the perversions and psychopathies. Studies of fetishism emphasized severe disturbances in the developing body ego, distortions in preoedipal development involving overly close dependence on mother or sister, absence of sustaining experiences with father, prolonged confusion in sexual identity, and shattering traumata centering around witnessing various evidences of maternal castration. The feeling of genital fault is so deeply impressed on the body image that only a poor recovery from the basic disturbance is achieved; instead, a severe fixation results which contributes thereafter to a continuing distortion of all levels of subsequent development.

All libidinal phases are normally present in incipient form in the first year of life as part of the biological inheritance of the human infant. The maturational rate of each varies markedly from the rest, and the succession of their maturational peaks underlies what are commonly described as discrete libidinal phases. The timing of these peaks is normally dependent upon biological growth processes, but may be forcibly altered by phase-specific traumata or by exaggerated stimulation of another phase. Thus the various manifestations of infantile masturbation are steplike stages in the development of genitality which ordinarily do not 'take hold' in the first two years of life unless genital excitation is pathologically re-enforced by body image concerns or by direct local overstimulation by some environmental factor. This premature arousal is a forced affair that may interfere with the adequate development of the libidinal phase naturally ascendant at the time; the result is a strong fixation to the substituted function and phase-hunger for the slighted function. In well-developed conditions of perversion and imposture there is such a degree of traumatic fixation that the individual never develops a capacity for object relations sufficient to experience the sort of Oedipal crisis which institutes regression in a psychoneurosis. Fixation in such severe preoedipal disturbances is more crucial than regression. The Oedipal phase is flamboyantly expressed in narcissistic terms. This adds to the distortion in ego development with marked increase in prematurity of the castration complex and interference in the development of sound object relations. The factor of phase-timing of the traumata may also be crucial to the problem of masochism. The occurrence of excessive pain excitations in the

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first two years of life, when the differentiation of aggressive and libidinal instincts is occurring, may result in pathological distortions sadomasochistic tendencies and the exaggeration of primary masochism.

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Article Citation

McLaughlin, J.T. (1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960. Psychoanal. Q., 31:133-134

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