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Rubinfine, D.L. (1959). Some Theoretical Aspects of Early Psychic Functioning. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 7:561-576.
(1959). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 7:561-576
Some Theoretical Aspects of Early Psychic Functioning
David L. Rubinfine, M.D.
Leo Rangell opened the panel with a panoramic orienting statement on "The Role of Early Psychic Functioning in Psychoanalysis." Observing the confluence of many streams of psychoanalytic theory, practice, and research into a torrent of questions regarding the earliest origins of psychic phenomena, it was felt desirable to attempt a unified discussion of these earliest phases of mental life.
Psychoanalysis, which has always been a genetic psychology, unearthed first the nuclear oedipus complex and later the more archaic preoedipal, pregenital area. The motivation for this gradual shift derived from several separate sources, including not only a pragmatic therapeutic motivation, such as was occasioned by our growing interest in the narcissistic neuroses, but also a scientific interest to understand, merely because the challenge "was there." Furthermore, just as we believe that a trauma has a more fateful effect the younger and more tender the organism, so it is hoped that increased understanding of these beginning phases will lead to methods of nurturing unfolding structure, especially where there are innate defects or special gifts, to achieve a maximum yield in functioning.
In speaking of the various methods of study of these early phases, Rangell mentioned the work of reconstruction in the analysis of both children and adults; the method of direct infant observation, pioneered, among others, by a number of the members of this panel; and finally a method which combines the two and fills in the inevitable gap between them, namely, the longitudinal, long-range developmental studies currently in progress in a number of places.
Rangell then cautioned about some pitfalls which may exist for workers in these earliest phases. He warned that "total immersion" in any method or point of view may result in the formation of "all-inclusive systems, " which explain everything, minimizing other data and approaches. The principles of multiple function and multidetermination are thus neglected. He further cautioned against the growing tendency to reduce all clinical phenomena to roots in earliest psychic functioning.
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