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Novick, K.K. (1974). Issues in the Analysis of a Preschool Girl. Psychoanal. St. Child, 29:319-340.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 29:319-340

Issues in the Analysis of a Preschool Girl

Kerry Kelly Novick


In presenting material from the first year of Rosa's analysis I have tried to trace the interaction between her developing sense of autonomy and the development of internal controls and defense mechanisms. This is comparable to the parallel development of the differentiation of self and object and the differentiation within the mental apparatus, i.e., between id and ego.

In Rosa's case, the abilities to fool and to have secrets were central to this ongoing parallel development: until she could fool me, she was unable to fool herself, as it were, to keep some thoughts and feelings unconscious. Rosa's ability to have her own thoughts,

to think of a secret, was a sign that she had developed a sense of herself as an independently functioning person, separate from her mother; this ability in turn further helped to define her sense of separate selfhood.

Rosa's developmental difficulties can be understood in terms of the unduly long "omnipotent honeymoon" she had as a baby. Rosa was not given the opportunity to assimilate aspects of reality gradually; therefore, when Laura was born, Rosa's emerging ego was overwhelmed with anxiety, which stemmed from her feeling abandoned by her mother and her inability to control her own aggressive impulses toward her indispensable mother. The situation was further exacerbated by the collusive life style of the parents and Mrs. T.'s own difficulty in separating from Rosa and allowing the child to have a separate existence. Since the age of 2, every progressive move Rosa made toward individuation and autonomy evoked in her the threat of the pain she suffered when Laura arrived. Hence we can understand why this little girl did not develop differentiations within herself, particularly not the ego function of defense vis-à-vis the id. Giving up her instinctual wishes, her omnipotence, and the immediate mutual knowledge of thoughts and feelings meant, to Rosa, giving up her mother. She could begin to do this only when a change in the external demands from her parents and the environment and in the internal demands posed by the development of other ego functions, such as reality testing, provided her with different sources of gratification. Usually, she now receives approval and narcissistic supplies from her loved objects for independent functioning, and she heightens her own self-esteem by exercising ego-syntonic internal controls over her impulses.

In conclusion I offer the speculation that the aspect of good ego functioning seen in Rosa at referral represented a postive correlation between her high level of primary narcissism and the unfolding of the primary autonomous ego apparatuses, while the interferences in the development of the secondary ego apparatuses, specifically the function of defense, stemmed from the disruption of the normally gradual separation from mother and the delay in individuation.

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