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Devereux, G. (1966). Loss of Identity, Impairment of Relationships, Reading Disability. Psychoanal Q., 35:18-39.

(1966). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 35:18-39

Loss of Identity, Impairment of Relationships, Reading Disability

George Devereux, Ph.D.

There is a relationship between loss of identity, the withdrawal of cathexis from reality leading to its fragmentation, and neurotic reading disability.

A proper understanding of the data to be presented is possible only if one specifically assumes that, epistemologically speaking, the external world, as the source of nearly all our sense data, can be viewed as containing no configurations (Gestalten) whatsoever. This is to say, in principle, and on the level of the most primitive perceptual patterns, one can reasonably argue that the world contains only perceptual elements ('details') which are then organized into configurations by the percipient. The 'size' and degree of coherence of the configurations is demonstrably a function of the percipient individual's neurological development and intellectual potential.

Elsewhere I have shown the possibility of demonstrating at least a synchronicity between the incomplete motor and perceptual coördination of the infant (which is due partly to incomplete neural myelinization) and his tendency to view his mother ambivalently, as a partial object (mother=breast) (6). While the infant remains incapable of coördinating his movements and thus of perceiving his own body as a whole configuration, he is correspondingly unable to organize parts of an external person into a whole. He therefore is unable to view the breast as the mother, but only as a component of a (total) mother.

This thesis can be supported by zoölogical evidence. It is possible to 'teach' one half of a sea anemone that a piece of blotting paper soaked in bouillon is not food; the other half of its body has to be taught the same lesson all over again.

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