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Meltzer, D. (1975). Chapter VIII: The Relation of Autism to Obsessional Mechanisms in General. Explorations in Autism: A Psycho-Analytical Study, 209-222.

Meltzer, D. (1975). Chapter VIII: The Relation of Autism to Obsessional Mechanisms in General. Explorations in Autism: A Psycho-Analytical Study, 209-222

Section C: Implications of the Findings

Chapter VIII: The Relation of Autism to Obsessional Mechanisms in General Book Information Previous Up Next

Donald Meltzer

The experiences recorded and discussed in this book, deriving as they do from the combination of detailed observation and the panoramic backdrop of years of analytic process, have contributed to our grasp of mental mechanisms in no area so richly as in the field of the obsessional ones. The problem of ‘choice of neurosis’ with which Freud struggled, by virtue of being formulated at all (one of those wrong questions to which there can be only wrong answers), gave rise to a whole spectrum of speculative theories of one or two factor or even multiple factor type. Stage of development of the libido, fixation points, traumatic factors, mechanisms of defence, mother-baby relationship, sociological factors, heredity of constitution - these and many more have been sorted through in this quest. It might easily be misconstrued that a mechanism-specific theory of autism was being promulgated in this volume, but it would be a mistake which this present chapter should make clear. I intend to show the light thrown on the essential workings of obsessional mechanism by the way in which they are employed in this surely most primitive of all obsessional disorders. Of course, the moment one calls autism an obsessional disorder it sounds like a nosological statement with etiological implications, but it is not so intended. The experience with Piffie has been selected as the locus for this discussion as he presented obsessional mechanisms of a particularly ‘pure’ sort, as well as in near ‘pure culture’.

I must explain what I mean by this distinction from the outset, as I believe we can avoid great confusion by this means. The fundamental mechanism, which we call ‘obsessional’ after the illness which most floridly illustrates its workings, consists of the separation and omnipotent control over objects, internal or external. This statement seems to require a motivational addendum, ‘for the purpose of’ or ‘to avoid or prevent such and such’. Closer thought, however, will reveal that ‘omnipotent control over objects’ is in itself a motivational statement, to

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