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Hoffer, W. (1952). The Mutual Influences in the Development of Ego and Id Earliest Stages. Psychoanal. St. Child, 7:31-41.

(1952). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 7:31-41

The Mutual Influences in the Development of Ego and Id Earliest Stages

W. Hoffer, M.D.

I should like to narrow my task and concentrate on one aspect only: the earliest differentiation of id and ego. In doing so I shall not be in a position to contribute anything relevant from the clinical point of view. Mental functioning in its onset is too controversial a subject to allow a satisfactory examination with a simultaneous view of the clinical problems related to it.

Some discrepancy between theory of clinic (psychopathology) and theory of early mental functioning will most likely be felt when research work on the psychogenesis and psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis-like states are under discussion, and this has been recognized for some years past. In The Problem of Anxiety(1926), (Inhibition, Symptom and Anxiety) Freud already made this quite clear. He tentatively examined there the regressive processes which take place in early development resulting in obsessional mechanisms. He asked whether regression from the phallic to the anal-sadistic level of instinct transformation should perhaps be accounted for by—as he called it—a time factor and not by a constitutional factor, which would promote fixation. "It may be," these are Freud's words, "that regression is rendered possible not because the genital organization of the libido is too weak but because the opposition of the ego begins too early, while the sadistic phase is at its height." Clinical thought has since reorientated itself frequently on facts and theories referring to the development of the young ego but, no doubt, the balance is still in favor of pure reconstruction of early mental life based on clinical impressions. Direct investigations and observations made by psychoanalysts are still scanty and though in themselves most valuable are often unduly overrated or made up into generalizations. Today it can safely be assumed that a fast-growing new generation of psychoanalysts will finally tolerate and accept only those hypotheses related to the onset of mental life which have been arrived at by a close confrontation of factual material concerning early development with hypotheses primarily derived from clinical experience.

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