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Peto, A. (1970). To Cast Away—A Vestibular Forerunner of the Superego. Psychoanal. St. Child, 25:401-416.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 25:401-416

To Cast Away—A Vestibular Forerunner of the Superego

Andrew Peto, M.D.


The experiences of the child in relation to his parents involve him in the vicissitudes of equilibrium, losing control during walking, falling or being pushed away. Further traumatic experiences ensue that are connected with giddiness and concomitant sudden and transient phases of confusion in space and in orientation about the location of the body image as a whole, and in particular the relationship of particular parts of it to one another. These experiences and the corresponding disorientation in thinking are brought into causal relationship to the main oedipal figures and to pleasant and unpleasant situations associated with these same figures.

Pleasurable experiences connected with thrills in space like being thrown in the air by an adult or being swung around by the arms of an adult expose the child to a high degree of sexual excitement. Sudden release (being dropped) creates anxiety which in turn may easily be interpreted by the child as a result and concomitant of punishment.

The excitations and the sudden letdown are attached secondarily to preoedipal and oedipal conflicts and thus are drawn subsequently into the structure of the developing superego in the second year. A traumatic vestibular experience turns into a punitive action on the part of the superego. Projective-introjective processes structuralize the threatening aspects of being dropped, losing balance, and the fear of losing hold on people. The concrete, genetic situation of "being cast away" is incorporated in a punishment and guilt complex.

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