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Székely, L. (1962). Symposium: The Psycho-Analytic Study of Thinking. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:297-305.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:297-305

Symposium: The Psycho-Analytic Study of Thinking Related Papers

Lajos Székely


A uniform systematic psycho-analytical theory of thinking does not as yet exist. It is possible, however, to indicate the position occupied by thinking within the framework of psychoanalytic theory. In the first part of the paper it is shown that thinking occupies, in the drive-theoretical phase of psycho-analysis, a different position from that which it holds in the present structural phase. At present, thinking is conceptualized as a function of the ego.

The process, the means (or instruments), and the product of thinking are distinguished. On the basis of clinical material two instruments of thought are described: first, the controlled temporary regression, while retaining reality testing and the synthetic function of the ego, and also the disturbances of this mechanism of thinking; second, the selective style of thought which is frequently used in, for example, mathematical thinking. An instance is given where it is used incorrectly, and the relation between the style of thought of the patient and the technique of interpretation is touched upon.

The main emphasis of the paper rests on the developmental-psychological aspect, namely the development of the instruments. Two particular problems are chosen and elucidated in greater detail: the development of apprehensive thinking (or the way in which experiences are made), and the development of intolerance to contradictions. It is shown that in the first presymbolic phase of apprehensive thought, optical impressions are incorporated in the body schema, and the experiences are organized by the aid of archaic meaning-schemata. Intolerance to contradiction emerges throughout several developmental phases and is linked up with the development of certain instruments of thought, operations in Piaget's meaning of the term. The operations are internalized actions, i.e. experimental actions as understood by Freud. The internalization of actions (i.e. the structuralization of operations), and the elimination of contradictions from thinking are interconnected.

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