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Nemiah, J.C. (1963). The Significance of Intrapsychic Conflict. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 11:619-627.

(1963). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 11:619-627

The Significance of Intrapsychic Conflict

John C. Nemiah, M.D.

Intrapsychic conflict, Helen Tartakoff commented in her introductory remarks, is a nuclear concept in psychoanalytic theory. It is so much taken for granted that one rarely stops to define terms or clarify issues, and she hoped that the Panel would make a contribution in this direction.

As a background for the day's deliberations, John C. Nemiah presented a brief historical review of the development of the concept of intrapsychic conflict in Freud's writings. He traced it from the early traumatic theory of the etiology of neurotic conflict through the topographical model to the final tripartite structural scheme which is the basis for the concept of intersystemic conflict. He emphasized the fact that the concept of intrapsychic conflict between opposing forces in the mental apparatus appeared very early in Freud's psychological writings. It was the basic concept of the dynamic point of view and remained at the core of all subsequent modifications of his theory.

In "The Scope of Intrapsychic Conflict—Microscopic and Macroscopic Considerations, " Leo Rangell carried the history of the concept to the present. Earlier notions that, conflict being pathological, frustration should be avoided or minimized in child rearing gave way to a recognition that conflict was a necessary stimulus for the normal maturational process. More recent studies indicate that alternations of tension from frustration and relief of tension through gratification form a requisite for the healthy formation of psychic structure, and that the child who suffers the extremes of prolonged excessive tension on the one hand, or of the lack of opportunity to develop a sufficient amount on the other, develops serious disturbances in his affective life.

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