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Schlesinger-Vaccaro, R. (1983). A Relationship Between Piaget's Notion of Conservation and the Transference Phenomenon—A Clinical Example. Psychoanal. Rev., 70:83-94.

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(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(1):83-94

A Relationship Between Piaget's Notion of Conservation and the Transference Phenomenon—A Clinical Example

Renee Schlesinger-Vaccaro, M.S.W.

The psychoanalytic treatment of a woman in her mid-thirties will be used to illustrate the relationship between the transference phenomenon and Piaget's concept of conservation. This comparison touches on the persistence of egocentrism in the patient which, according to Piaget, normally persists in all individuals through adolescence. When applied to transference phenomena conservation refers to thought operations and post-sensorimotor behavior at a level where the patient is operating within an egocentric frame of reference to the world. Wolff (1960) writes:

As an achieved goal, conservation refers to those mental operations by which an individual retains the object as a concrete thing, or by which he conserves space as a set of geometric relationships independent of immediate sensorimotor cues, or by which he axiomatically accepts the mass constancy of an object although he sees it broken into pieces, flattened out, or dissolved in water. In this sense conservation comprises all those mental functions of mature intelligence which give rise to an awareness of the constancy between the individual and his environment. … (it refers to an ideal goal).

As the convergence on this final goal, conservation refers to the activity by which, at any stage in development, the individual keeps constant his relationship with the environment, to the extent that his intellectual functions make this possible. (p. 42)

For the neonate, his experience is that of being “one” with the mother—existing in a symbiotic relationship which lacks differentiation


* This paper received the Postgraduate Center Memorial Award, June 1975.

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