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Bálint, A. (1943). Identification. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:97-107.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:97-107


Alice Bálint


So far we have been mainly concerned with the content of the conflicts of childhood and we have said very little of the ways in which those conflicts are dealt with. And, now that we are approaching that side of the problem, we must for the time being leave the firm ground of direct observation and turn to a more theoretical consideration of the means adopted by children for the solution of their conflicts. I have already referred in passing to a few of these methods: repression, for instance, and displacement, and (something that is akin to the latter) sublimation. Repression enables us to blot out of our consciousness any wishes that have proved incapable of fulfilment, while displacement and sublimation enable some of our instincts to pursue their existence in a new and legitimate sphere. In the course of my remarks upon displacement I hinted at the existence of another method—namely, identificatory thought. I mentioned that displacement is closely related to this peculiarity of primitive thought, to the fact, that is, that children from the very first get to know the external world by means of 'identifications'. For instance, a small child will regard any thick mass of material as fæces, and any liquid as urine, because fæces and urine are things that are already familiar to him. One advantage of these identifications is that they enable the child to find substitutes for primitive sources of pleasure that have to be given up under the pressure of education.

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