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Meisel, F. (1989). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985: Internalization and Psychological Development throughout the Life Cycle. Rebecca Smith Behrends and Sidney J. Blatt. Pp. 11-39.. Psychoanal Q., 58:166.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985: Internalization and Psychological Development throughout the Life Cycle. Rebecca Smith Behrends and Sidney J. Blatt. Pp. 11-39.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:166

Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985: Internalization and Psychological Development throughout the Life Cycle. Rebecca Smith Behrends and Sidney J. Blatt. Pp. 11-39.

Frederick Meisel

In this comprehensive study, Behrends and Blatt elaborate a unified concept of internalization as persisting throughout life. The argument put forth is clear and compelling. It takes as its paradigm the gratifying infant-mother unity and the subsequent loss of certain aspects of that relationship, followed by the internalization of what is lost. The authors focus not on images or symbols but on the gratifying aspects of relatedness that are internalized in an attempt to restore disrupted "order, coherence, and integrity." That is, in the face of impending disorder and in response to the anxiety and helplessness that signal the dissolution of self-integration, internalization and the building of psychic structure occur. The precipitating disorder can result from object loss or from "the deprivation of a function, intrapsychic conflict, conflict between one's own wishes and … the environment, and maturational crisis." It occurs at every developmental crisis, when "the structures of self-identity at one developmental stage are confronted by both internal and environmental events which usher in the next stage." In this light, the loss of certain aspects of relationships promote growth, although if that loss is "too sudden or severe, the individual may not be capable of internalization and consequently resorts to less successful means of adaptation; e.g. … symptoms or pathological mourning." Finally, the authors suggest that internalization is the result of the lifelong conflict between "longing for intimate union and striving for autonomy and mastery." This is traced through the oedipal period, adolescence, and into adulthood, when love and sexual relations become possible as a result of the internalizations that take place in the face of "rivalry, death wishes, fear of castration, penis envy, and the incest taboo." They make the point that relationships between other people, i.e., the parents, are internalized as well.

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Article Citation

Meisel, F. (1989). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985. Psychoanal. Q., 58:166

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