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Silbermann, I. (1961). Synthesis and Fragmentation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 16:90-117.

(1961). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 16:90-117

Synthesis and Fragmentation

Isidor Silbermann, M.D.


Once a defective drive endowment and constellation is assumed, imbalance and dysfunction of the drives may also be assumed. If, for instance, the equilibrium is shaken by an overactive aggressive drive, the process of neutralization will not succeed, and consequently too much of the unchanged id aggression will enter the ego and interfere with its manifold functions.

In many cases it appears as though instead of being first externalized and later internalized, the aggressive drive had discovered a short cut: the direct invasion of the ego. So disturbed an ego cannot carry out the tasks demanded of it; moreover, with its imperfect synthesis it cannot integrate the total Gestalt of the self. In that case the superego too, it is clear, will be faulty in its structure. One more agency for controlling the personality's functioning becomes impotent; and instead of a synthesized self we have a fragmented self.

It appears justified to assume that the neutralization of the aggressive drive must be undertaken first, and that its modification must be of greater scope and intensity than that of the sexual drive. This assumption is based on the very nature of the aggressive drive.

The struggle between the two basic drives, aggression and libido, pervades all of life, man's daily activities, his thinking, his sleep, his dreams and fantasies, his strivings for growth, as well as his tendency to regress and his longing for tensionless nonexistence. Pathology in its various forms is the outcome of unsuccessful solutions of that eternal battle in which the balance has shifted in favor of aggression, resulting in disadvantageous and unpragmatic compromise formations. In a system with faulty balance, synthesis and fragmentation will not work "at their best" but will degenerate into pathological functions, causing defective differentiation, with all its unfavorable consequences.

Man's highest aims are his cultural achievements, his struggle for the expansion of his conceptual world, for insight into the eternal laws of nature. This longing is nurtured by libido. Man is permitted to advance to far regions; but he is brought back from them by the regressive drive toward the inanimate world, by aggression, the representative of the death instinct.

Freud's remarks about culture help us to see man as both victor and victim of his drives. He said (1930p. 103):

Culture controls the dangerous drive of aggression, subdues it, and tries to render it harmless. Psychopathology, on the other hand, is movement in the opposite direction, where the drive of aggression, being far from subdued and harmless, has gained preponderance.

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