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Rubinfine, D.L. (1961). A Survey of Freud's Writings on Earliest Psychic Functioning. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 9:610-625.

(1961). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 9:610-625

A Survey of Freud's Writings on Earliest Psychic Functioning

David L. Rubinfine, M.D.

Assessment of the growing body of genetic and developmental hypotheses which constitute our theories of earliest psychic functioning through the end of the preverbal stage becomes ever more pressing. Mushrooming of unverifiable theories ultimately discredits our science by leading to unfounded innovations in technique. What is most needed is the development of creative research methods aimed at validation of theory rather than a further proliferation of hypotheses.

Unfortunately hypotheses concerning the earliest preverbal stages are not directly verifiable in our clinical work. An exciting beginning has been made in this direction through psychoanalytically oriented observations of infant (Fries, Spitz and Wolf; Kris et al.; Bergman, Escalona, and Leitch; Benjamin; Mittelmann).

A number of assumptions and hypotheses concerning this area appear in the writings of Sigmund Freud. Some of these are quite concisely stated, others are tacit and must be inferred (a pursuit that offers a rich yield), and still others are very fragmentary. Nowhere is there a systematic, comprehensive exposition of Freud's theories of earliest mental functioning. In attempting such a survey now, I shall deliberately limit myself to his theoretical constructs and formulations, and exclude the clinical experiences which suggested these hypotheses to him.

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