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Kramer, S. (1974). Vicissitudes of Infantile Omnipotence. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:588-602.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:588-602

Vicissitudes of Infantile Omnipotence

Selma Kramer, M.D.

Dr. Peter Neubauer explained that the meeting was taking place under the auspices of both the American Psychoanalytic Association and the Association for Child Psychoanalysis, observing that the topic was one in which both Associations easily join interests.

Whereas "infantile omnipotence" was originally used to refer to aspects of omnipotence represented in thoughts, Neubauer said, today one would include all feelings and emotional tones that are part of psychic phenomena. As usual, one is led to the question of narcissism and the distribution and channelizations of drive expressions as significant concomitant variables. Although one could choose to follow the genetic approach and study the early beginnings of infantile omnipotence, as well as its modifications and vicissitudes during succeeding stages of development, this would demand studies and preparation that would be beyond the scope of this panel, which would limit itself to aspects based on clinical data.

Neubauer nevertheless believed that it would be difficult to approach this topic without reference to primary- and secondary-process thinking, to the relationship of thought and feeling states, and to the differentiation of object and self. Using Ferenczi's assumption that omnipotence is connected with a state of complete satisfaction, Neubauer questioned the notion that omnipotence is related to a state of symbiosis, with its satisfaction and gratification, rather than to states of magical "thinking" that derive from a particular relationship to the outside world and that often clinically link themselves to states of depression and paranoid positions. He said that one can best review the vicissitudes of infantile omnipotence, in reference to the degree of or failure of differentiation, and that we can understand certain pathological states of omnipotence as regression of ego functions with resulting disturbances in object and self differentiations.

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