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Meltzer, D. (1973). On the Apprehension of Beauty. Contemp. Psychoanal., 9(2):224-229.

(1973). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 9(2):224-229

On the Apprehension of Beauty

Donald Meltzer, M.D.

IT BECAME A FUNDAMENTAL TENET of Melanie Klein's views on infantile development that the accomplishment of a satisfactory splitting-and-idealization of self and object was a primary requirement for healthy development. By means of this mechanism, in her view, it becomes possible for an idealized part of the infantile self to ally itself with an idealized object, in the first instance the mother's breast, as the bulwark against persecutory anxiety and confusion. The confusion particularly between good and bad in self and objects is, by this means, separated in a categorical way, exaggerated and rigid, it is true, but it affords a working basis for the task of gradual reintegration of the split-off aspects in the course of development, as the values of the paranoid—schizoid position are gradually replaced by those of the depressive position, with the relinquishment of egocentricity in favour of concern for the welfare of the loved objects of psychic and external reality. This gradual shift in values has a sweeping effect upon judgment and the estimation in which are held the various attributes of human nature. Thus goodness, beauty, strength, and generosity replace in esteem the initial enthrallment to size, power, success, and sensuality.

But the mode of operation of this primal mechanism of splitting-and-idealization has remained elusive and mysterious, the more so as we have become increasingly aware of the major part played by both inadequate and excessive use of it in the genesis of mental illness.

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