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Basch, M.F. (1982). Discussion: The Significance of Infant Development Studies for Psychoanalytic Theory. Psychoanal. Inq., 1(4):731-737.

(1982). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 1(4):731-737

Discussion: The Significance of Infant Development Studies for Psychoanalytic Theory

Michael Franz Basch, M.D.

For the psychoanalyst the significance of the work being done in the area of infant development can best be understood in the context of the historical development of Freud's ideas. Initially, Freud did not set out to do more than to further the study of the psychoneuroses. His teacher, Jean-Martin Charcot, the eminent neurologist, had already established that hysterical symptoms made sense in that, like a game of charades, they depicted the no longer consciously remembered emotional trauma that was responsible for the disease. What the nature of that truma was could be deciphered by having the patient retrace the onset of his or her illness while under the influence of hypnosis. On the theoretical level, Freud, soon after beginning to study this illness, made a contribution that was to have important consequences.

Like every other neurologist of the time, Charcot assumed that reason, consciousness, and cortical activity were equivalent, and that that which was not available to consciousness was of necessity irrational and a product of the subcortical or primitive brain. It was believed that hysterics had inherently weak brains that could not discharge emotional tension by thinking it through rationally and disposing of it effectively.

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