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Wangh, M. (1984). 1. Metapsychological Reflections. Am. Imago, 41(3):211-224.

(1984). American Imago, 41(3):211-224

I. The Threat of a Nuclear Holocaust

1. Metapsychological Reflections

Martin Wangh, M.D.

I address myself tonight to the reverberating relationship between external events and the evolution of psychoanalytic theories. Specifically, I shall examine the reciprocity of more recent psychoanalytic conceptualizations with our present anxiety about human self-extinction through a nuclear catastrophe.

From early on, by focussing our attention on the impact of the “Day-Residue” on the formation of dreams, Freud pointed to this reciprocity of influence between imagination, action and reality. More recently, Brenner has emphasized the all-pervasiveness of intrapsychic conflict. This conflict does not stem from the opposition of purely biologically pre-existing inner forces, but takes place between them as they have been modulated caused through impacts of external, environmental forces. The compromise formations which are the resultants of this antagonistic interplay in turn reshape the perception or modify through action the external situation itself. (cf. Arlow)

Whether we think in terms of topographic or structural theory, in both of them reality dynamically alters its components. What can become conscious or what has to stay in the unconscious is linked to the receptivity by the environment for a respective content. In terms of the structural theory, we find that the discharge of instinctual drives, i.e. id-phenomenology, depends for its facilitation or inhibition on the environment at which it is aimed. Or, if we wish to speak in terms of the Ego, ego functions are diminished or increased in their executive power by the quality of the external instruments at their disposal.

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