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(1950). Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. XIII, 1949: Notes on Aggression. Anna Freud. Pp. 143–151.. Psychoanal Q., 19:281-282.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. XIII, 1949: Notes on Aggression. Anna Freud. Pp. 143–151.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:281-282

Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. XIII, 1949: Notes on Aggression. Anna Freud. Pp. 143–151.

This remarkably clear and lucid presentation is part of a symposium on Aggression in Relation to Emotional Development—Normal and Pathological, delivered at the International Congress of Mental Health in London, August 1948.

The first section briefly outlines the historical development of the instinctual theories in psychoanalysis. For thirty years the psychoanalytic study of instinctual life was directed almost exclusively toward the manifestations of sexuality. Aggressive behavior observed in children was first understood to be a component of pregenital sexuality. Later it was believed that frustration of instinctual wishes was the starting point of aggression. Freud's last formulations conceived of aggression as a manifestation of a basic instinct equal in status to the sexual instincts which led to his theory of the life and death

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instincts, with sex as the expression of the life force and aggression of the destructive force. Clinically, neither of these forces can be studied in a pure form but they either combine with each other or act against each other. On each level of libidinal development the aggressive urges manifest themselves in different ways. If the destructive urges are not fused with the sexual urges but manifest themselves independently, they are then perceptible as criminal and dissocial tendencies.

This theory has given rise to many controversies among psychoanalysts. There are analysts who still maintain that the 'frustration theory' indicates the starting point of aggression. But even among those analysts who have adopted Freud's theories of the life and death instincts there is disagreement as to the significance of these two biological forces. Melanie Klein and her followers believe that the very existence of a life and death instinctual force is in itself sufficient to create a conflict. They further believe that this conflict is by its very nature a pathogenic one. Melanie Klein believes that every child goes through a stage of development in which it recognizes that a love object is in danger of being destroyed by virtue of being loved. When this love object becomes a whole human being instead of merely a part, the infant feels guilt. This produces a feeling of depression which is only lessened when reparative and restitutive ideas appear.

Other analysts, including Anna Freud, do not believe that the co-existence of the two opposing instinctual forces is sufficient to produce mental conflict. There are many clinical observations which point to a successful fusion between the destructive and erotic urges. Furthermore, these urges can appear in quick succession, seemingly unaffected by each other. It is only after a comparatively advanced stage of ego development is reached and there are attempts made to integrate all the instinctual strivings that conflicts do arise. Repression, reaction-formation, inhibitions, projections and displacement are typical mechanisms employed in dealing with aggression. One of the most fateful outcomes of attempts to master aggressive urges is their turning inward. This may lead to excessive superego severity, depressive states and suicidal tendencies. When aggressive urges are fused with erotic impulses they lose their destructive quality and may make a decisive constructive contribution to the life of the individual.

Anna Freud closes this survey by briefly stating some important practical considerations. Loss of love and other traumatic deprivations result in emotional retardation which then hinders the normal fusion between erotic and destructive urges. The parents' tolerance or intolerance can decisively influence the course of the child's spontaneous inner duality.

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Article Citation

(1950). Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. XIII, 1949. Psychoanal. Q., 19:281-282

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