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Spillius, E.B. (1994). Developments in Kleinian Thought: Overview and Personal View. Psychoanal. Inq., 14(3):324-364.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 14(3):324-364

Developments in Kleinian Thought: Overview and Personal View

Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Ph.D.

Of crucial importance in Klein's work is that it began in the study and treatment of children. Klein was not the first analyst to treat children, having been preceded by the father of Little Hans under Freud's guidance, and by Hug-Hellmuth; Anna Freud had started analytic work with older children at about the same time as Klein, though along rather different lines. But Klein invented an analytic technique involving play that gave even very young children (under three years) a suitable medium for expressing their thoughts and feelings, a medium that could easily be combined with their developing capacity to express themselves in language. This new technique uncovered new data that slowly gave Klein an unshakable conviction in the reality of the clinical facts she was discovering.

I find the clinical material of her early papers about children absolutely compelling. These papers were among the first I read in psychoanalysis, and certainly the first that seemed real. Rita, Trude, Peter, Ruth, Fritz, and Felix all became persons in a new but somehow familiar world. Later on I was puzzled that many of my analytic colleagues found Klein very hard to read and her theory sometimes preposterous. Her style is not particularly felicitous, and I had difficulties with the more theoretical papers, but each of the early clinical papers


Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Ph.D. is a Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst of the British Psycho-Analytical Society.

Many colleagues have made helpful suggestions about this paper, most particularly Ronald Britton, Michael Feldman, Peter Fonagy, Betty Joseph, Ruth Riesenberg Malcolm, Edna O'Shaughnessy, Eric Rayner, Helen Schoenhals, and John Steiner.

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