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Peto, A. (1959). Body Image and Archaic Thinking. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 40:223-231.

(1959). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40:223-231

Body Image and Archaic Thinking

Andrew Peto, M.D.


I wish to discuss in this paper a particular type of transference phenomenon which shows features of deepest regression. Similar regressions have been described by several authors in the past twenty years (I refer here in particular to Isakower's observations (11) and to Lewin's studies (14) and have been observed or adumbrated in papers dealing with schizophrenia and fetishism (Bak, Greenacre and Mahler) (1), (6), (16).

In recent years I have had under my treatment several patients who showed the transference phenomena I am going to describe. They were young people between 15 and 25, with high intelligence ratings and (with one exception) excellent high school and university records. They had in their history 'breakdowns' which were diagnosed by academic psychiatrists in most cases as psychotic episodes. The precipitating causes of the 'breakdown's were the usual factors we find in juvenile psychotic episodes or in grave personality disturbances: intellectual stress, separation of parents, a physical illness of moderate severity, etc. The patients were referred to me after ECT, narco-analysis, prolonged insulin treatment with the aim of causing hypoglycemic precoma had proved to be ineffective. Most of them went through some kind of so-called psychotherapy.

The anamnestic data or the course of the analysis revealed in most cases at least one period of prolonged severely abnormal behaviour in childhood, which may have manifested itself as (i) grave depression and inertia in the first or second year of life; (ii) withdrawals of several months' duration, probably accompanied by hallucinations around the climax or passing of the oedipus conflict; (iii) confusional states with temper tantrums, sleeplessness, periods of extreme phobic reactions.

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