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Vorus, N. (2003). Disquieting Phantasy: Klein-Freud Controversies. Psychoanal. Rev., 90(1):63-99.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Review, 90(1):63-99

Disquieting Phantasy: Klein-Freud Controversies

Neal Vorus, Ph.D.

I wish to point out, therefore, that from the beginning of life, on Freud's own hypothesis, the psyche responds to the reality of its experience by interpreting them—or, rather, by misinterpreting them—in a subjective manner that increases it pleasure and preserves it from pain. This act of a subjective interpretation of experience, which it carries out by means of the process of introjection and projection, is called by Freud hallucination; and it forms the basis of what we mean by phantasy-life.

Joan Riviere

I have always insisted on the necessity of postulating the primary reality function of the primitive ego. Indeed, without such a postulate, there is nothing to prevent us falling into a primitive variety of mysticism.

Edward Glover


In 1941 the British Psychoanalytic Society entered into what has become known as the Controversial Discussions. These were an institutional response to a schism within the Society that began after Klein presented her paper introducing the depressive position


The author thanks Steven Ellman for invaluable discussions about Freud and Klein during the formative stages of this paper. The author also thanks Anni Bergman, Diana Diamond, Allan Frosch, Larry Gould, Laura Kleinerman, and Michael Moskowitz for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.

An abbreviated version of this work, entitled “Freud-Klein Controversies: A Historical Perspective,” was presented at “Contemporary Freud-Klein Controversies: Clinical and Technical Implications,” a conference sponsored by the Institute of Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York City on April 15, 2000.

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