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Ekstein, R. (1968). Impulse—acting Out—purpose: Psychotic Adolescents and their Quest for Goals. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:347-351.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:347-351

Impulse—acting Out—purpose: Psychotic Adolescents and their Quest for Goals

Rudolf Ekstein

In assessing the behaviour of schizophrenic adolescents as they seek life goals and direction, one cannot easily overlook the parallels between their actions and those of normal adolescents, who, in their struggle for identity and purpose, often experience growth crises which are difficult to distinguish from pathology.

Anna Freud (1937) summed up the state of affairs with a few master strokes. She describes adolescents as:

… excessively egoistic, regarding themselves as the centre of the universe and the sole object of interest, and yet at no time in later life are they capable of so much self-sacrifice and devotion. They form the most passionate love relations, only to break them off as abruptly as they began them. On the one hand they throw themselves enthusiastically into the life of the community and, on the other, they have an overpowering longing for solitude. They oscillate between blind submission to some self-chosen leader and defiant rebellion against any every authority. They are selfish and materially-minded and at the same time full of lofty idealism. They are aesthetic but will suddenly plunge into instinctual indulgence of the most primitive character. At times their behaviour to other people is rough and inconsiderate, yet they themselves are extremely touchy. Their moods veer between light-hearted optimism and the blackest pessimism. Sometimes they will work with indefatigable enthusiasm and, at other times, they are sluggish and apathetic.

Erikson (1950) characterized the adolescent's task during this phase of development as a search for a permanent adult role, for occupational, social, religious, and personal commitments.

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