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Urban, E. (1992). The Primary Self and Related Concepts in Jung, Klein, and Isaacs. J. Anal. Psychol., 37(4):411-432.

(1992). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 37(4):411-432

The Primary Self and Related Concepts in Jung, Klein, and Isaacs

Elizabeth Urban


This paper has its source in some comments made by Dr Fordham in one of my supervision sessions. The patient under discussion was a boy with autistic features, who had been seeing me in analysis for three years. When Dr Fordham said, almost as an aside, that it is not possible to analyse someone who is autistic, I was considerably taken aback, because that was what I thought I had been trying to do. When I asked what he meant, he answered that analysis is of internal objects, and that autistic children have no internal objects. What do they have inside, I wondered, and Dr Fordham answered that the primary self is lacking in contents. This made me realize that I had confusions and misconceptions about the primitive mind and its contents.

This paper represents my attempt to address these questions. It is a study of early psychic contents and processes, beginning with a consideration of the differences between Jung, Klein, and Isaacs, on the one hand, and Fordham, on the other. I then examine Fordham's theory of a primary self and its actions, and attempt to describe how contents are built up in the psyche. Some of the primary processes described are illustrated by an infant observation. At the end of the paper I give clinical material through which I hope to show how the same psychic processes that contribute to psychic growth can also result in the failure of psychic development.

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