The author notes that the more recent exploration of the narcissistic neurosis and the direct observation of both normal and psychotic children has shifted our emphasis from the Oedipus to the earlier phases of life and their more primitive mechanisms and phenomena. The fact that these early, still undifferentiated phases exist, and the conscious or unconscious expectation of being able to influence their development, has given additional impetus to their study. Investigations are carried out by means of observations of infants, including newborn, and by long-range developmental studies. They are also being reconstructed in the analyses of neurotic and psychotic adults and children from patients' preverbal mechanisms of communication, which include the quality of their affective expressions, gestures, and posturality.
- 420 -
Rangell warns against the danger of overlooking or minimizing vast segments of observable data as a result of drawing all-inclusive generalizations from one particular component of these early phases of development. He calls attention to the fact that the function of the early psychic apparatus as a composite whole is greater than the sum of its component parts. The need to integrate the various individual components of early psychic development rather than to retain them as isolated units is stressed. In evaluating their role, one must bear in mind that they may be used as resistance against higher psychic functioning and, while disturbance of functions at the earliest level may serve as forerunners of later traumas, often the decisive trauma will occur at a more advanced level of development.
The author cites contributions already made toward the elucidation of early psychic functioning. Among the specific and crucial problems in the field are those of experimental design and validation, and the study of such constitutional psychological data as activity patterns, discharge channels, thresholds of defense, the capacity to tolerate anxiety, unusual and special sensitivities, and the quantity, balance, and distribution of drive energies.
- 421 -
(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961. Psychoanal. Q., 31:420-421