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(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: Some Early Prototypes of Ego Defenses. René A. Spitz. Pp. 626-651.. Psychoanal Q., 31:422-423.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: Some Early Prototypes of Ego Defenses. René A. Spitz. Pp. 626-651.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:422-423

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: Some Early Prototypes of Ego Defenses. René A. Spitz. Pp. 626-651.

The author considers the possible physiological prototypes of several defense mechanisms. He stresses that he is referring to the available innate capacities for making use of neurophysiological and morphological givens for the purpose of coping with environmental conditions. Under the decisive influence of the relationship with the mother, the child creates the defense mechanisms from these innate capacities. Prototypes are chosen from what is available during the child's first two years of life, and the mother plays an important role in the choice, utilization, and elaboration of these into defenses, as, in the beginning, she is the exclusive representative of the child's environment. A single mechanism may be related to several different prototypes and, conversely, a single neurophysiological given may be a prototype for several defenses. For example, modes of functioning of infantile perception and its inhibition have their analogue in repression, denial, projection, introjection, and isolation.

The stimulus barrier is the prototype of repression. Repression shares with denial a lack of cathexis, but in repression there is in addition a countercathexis. Closing of the eyelids should be considered the prototype of withdrawal of cathexis in both repression and denial: it is the precursor of denial. The lack of a boundary between the 'I' and the 'non-I' forms the necessary prerequisite for both introjection and projection. Food intake is the prototype available for the former; at three-months regurgitation and vomiting are available as prototypes for the latter.

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From neonatal sleep, purely a physiological phenomenon devoid of psychological content, real sleep, a regression to satiation at the breast, develops. This earliest regression is the prototype of the later ego defense mechanism of regression. Sleep in which cathexis is withdrawn from the sensorium can also be considered a prototype of denial, while the dream is a prototype for undoing where an intention of the drive is manifested and nullified in the same act.

In a footnote the author notes that sublimation, reaction-formation, and intellectualization belong to a series of psychological devices developed at a higher level; they are based on previously established psychological devices. Sublimation and probably reaction-formation are predicated upon the presence of the superego.

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Article Citation

(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961. Psychoanal. Q., 31:422-423

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