Infant Analysis : 1923 : Melanie Klein

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1923

Published:

P87-116 of  Contributions to Psycho-Analysis 1921-1949, Melanie Klein: edited by Ernest Jones : No 44 of The International Psycho-Analytical Library : The Hogarth Press : 1948

Available here

Referenced by Jacques Lacan

in Seminar VII: Session of 27th January 1960: p115 of Dennis Potter’s translation:

Chapter IX: On creation ex nihilo : I will take up my discussion of the function I attribute to the Thing in the definition of sublimation with an amusing anecdote.

After leaving you the other day, I was conscious-stricken as I often am when I feel that I haven’t exhausted the bibliography on a subject I am treating, and I looked up that very afternoon two articles by Melanie Klein that are referred to by Glover. They have been collected in ‘Contributions to Psychoanalysis’.

The first of the articles, “Infant Analysis,” of 1923, contains some very important things on sublimation and on the secondary phenomenon of inhibition – that is to say, on how, in Klein’s conception, functions in the child that are sufficiently libidinalized through sublimation are subsequently subjected to an effect of inhibition.

I am not going to spend time on this, for it is to the very conception of sublimation that I want to draw your attention; all the misunderstandings that follow derive from the lack of insight into this problem.

It was the second, 1929 article, entitled “Infantile Anxiety Situations Reflected in a Work of Art and in the Creative Impulse”, that I regretted not having looked at. It is short, but as sometimes happens, it gave me the satisfaction of fitting my purposes like a glove.

For more detail, see Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: from 18th November 1959 : Jacques Lacan or here &

Protecting the Child from the Family Delusion : 8th November 2008 (Barcelona) : Éric Laurent or here

References to Sigmund Freud

The original Freud is displayed at the end where it has been found. Melanie Klein seems to be quoting from the earlier translations so the wording does not necessarily match the Standard Edition.

It appears that these notes to Melanie Klein’s paper still need work & I have no time.

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis: 1916-1917[1915-1917]:

Quote from Klein p89: We know that anxiety is one of the primary affects. (from p342 of Standard Edition) ‘I said that conversion into anxiety, or better, discharge in the form of anxiety, was the immediate fate of libido which encounters repression’.

[From Lecture 25 Anxiety : p459 of Penguin Freud Library – pfl, Volume 1. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis: I have said that transformation into anxiety – it would be better to say discharge in the form of anxiety – is the immediate vicissitude of libido which is subjected to repression. For a fuller quote, see endnote [i] ] In thus reacting with anxiety the ego repeats that affect which at birth became the prototype of all anxiety and employs it as (from p337) ‘the general current coin for which all the affects are exchanged, or can be exchanged.’

[From Lecture 25 Anxiety : p452 of Penguin Freud Library, Volume 1 – Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis : Anxiety is therefore the universally current coinage for which any affective impulse is or can be exchanged if the ideational content attached to it is subjected to repression. (In a footnote James Strachey references a discussion beginning about the middle of Freud’s paper on ‘Repression’: 1915d). A fuller quote is in the endnote [ii]]

Repression: 1915d : Standard Edition Vol 14 p141-158 : pfl- Penguin Freud Library – Vol 11 On Metapsychology p139-158 :

Quote from p89 of Melanie Klein: From p92 of Collected Papers ‘We recall the fact that the motive and purpose of repression were simply the avoidance of “pain”. It follows that the fate of the charge of affect belonging to the presentation is far more important than that of the ideational content of it and is decisive for the opinion we form of the process of repression. If a repression does not succeed in preventing feelings of “pain” or anxiety from arising, we may say that it has failed, even though it may have achieved its aim as far as the ideational element is concerned.’

Quote from p153 of pfl Vol 11 [p2332] We recall the fact that the motive and purpose of repression has nothing else than the avoidance of unpleasure. It follows that the vicissitude of the quota of affect belonging to the representative is far more important than the vicissitude of the idea, and this fact is decisive for our assessment of the process of repression. If a repression does not succeed in preventing feelings of unpleasure or anxiety from arising, we may say that it has failed, even though it may have achieved its purpose as far as the ideational portion is concerned. Repressions that have failed will of course have more claim on our interest than any that may have been successful; for the latter will for the most part escape our examination.

A fuller quote is in endnote [iii].

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis: 1916-1917[1915-1917]

Quote from p89 of Melanie Klein : If the repression is unsuccessful the result is the formation of symptoms. (From p342 of Collected Papers) ‘In the neuroses, processes take place which are intended to prevent the development of anxiety, and succeed in so doing by various means.’

[From Lecture 25 Anxiety : p459 of Penguin Freud Library, Volume 1. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis: [p2699] In the neuroses processes are in action which endeavour to bind this generating of anxiety and which even succeed in doing so in various ways. For fuller quote, see endnote [1] ]

Repression : 1915 : Standard Edition Vol 14 p141-158 : pfl- Penguin Freud Library – Vol 11 On Metapsychology p139-158 :

Quote from p90 of Melanie Klein : Now what happens to a quantity of affect which is made to vanish without leading to the formation of symptoms – I mean in cases of successful repression? With regard to the fate of this sum of affect, which is destined to be repressed, Freud says: (from Collected Papers p91-92) ‘The fate of the quantitative factor in the instinct-presentation may be one of three, as we see by a cursory survey of the observations made in psycho-analysis: either the instinct is altogether suppressed, so that no trace of it is found, or it appears in the guise of an affect of a particular tone, or it is transformed into anxiety.’

From p153 pfl vol 11 : The quantitative factor of the instinctual representative has three possible vicissitudes, as we can see from a cursory survey of the observations made by psycho-analysis: either the instinct is altogether suppressed, so that no trace of it is found, or it appears as an affect which is in some way or other qualitatively coloured, or it is changed into anxiety. For fuller quote see footnote iii

The Unconscious (1915e): Standard Edition Vol 14 p159-215 : pfl11- Penguin Freud Library – Vol 11 On Metapsychology p159-222:

Quote from p90 of Melanie Klein : This process is frequent in anxiety-hysteria, and we also assume its existence where such hysteria is not actually developed. In such a case anxiety would really be present unconsciously for a time (Collected Papers vol iv p110 ) ‘… we find it impossible to avoid even the strange conjunction, “unconscious consciousness of guilt”, or a paradoxical “unconscious anxiety”’. It is true that in discussing the use of the term ‘unconscious affects’ Freud goes on to say (ibid.): So it cannot be denied that the use of the terms in question is logical; but a comparison of the unconscious affect with the unconscious idea reveals the significant difference that the unconscious idea continues, after repression, as an actual formation in the system Ucs, whilst to the unconscious affect there corresponds in the same system only a potential disposition which is prevented from developing further.’

Pfl p179 : Introductory Lectures ??? : The following may be laid down as the distinguishing characteristics of the inhibitions which we are discussing: (1) … (2) a quantity of anxiety is so distributed amongst these tendencies that it no longer appears in the guise of anxiety but in that of ‘pain’, Footnote: Writing of the connection between ‘pain’ and anxiety in dreams, Freud says (from Standard Edition p183) ‘The hypothesis which holds good for anxiety-dreams without any distortion may be adopted also for those which have undergone some degree of distortion and for other kinds of unpleasant dreams in which the accompanying unpleasant feelings approximate to anxiety’. [p2910 ??? BEYOND THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE (1920)This provides a basis for a hypothesis into which I propose to enter in greater detail elsewhere. According to this hypothesis, every psycho-physical motion rising above the threshold of consciousness is attended by pleasure in proportion as, beyond a certain limit, it approximates to complete stability, and is attended by unpleasure in proportion as, beyond a certain limit, it deviates from complete stability; while between the two limits, which may be described as qualitative thresholds of pleasure and unpleasure, there is a certain margin of aesthetic indifference. . . .’]

P89 Klein Freud ‘On the transformation of Instincts with special reference to Anal Erotism Collected Papers vol ii : 1917c : Standard Edition Vol 17 pfl Vol 7

Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis: ???

Klein p93 :This mechanism of displacement from one inhibition to another seems to me to present analogies with the mechanism of the phobias. But, while in the latter all that happens is that the ideational content gives place through displacement to a substitutive formation, without the sum of affect disappearing, in inhibition the discharge of the sum of affect seems to occur simultaneously. (from Standard Edition p338) ‘As we know, the development of anxiety is the reaction of the ego to danger and the signal preparatory to flight; it is then not a great step to imagine that in neurotic anxiety also the ego is attempting a flight from the demands of its libido, and I treating this internal danger as if it were an external one. Then our expectation, that where anxiety is present there must be something of which one is afraid, would be fulfilled. The analogy goes further than this, however. Just as the tension prompting the attempt to flee from external danger is resolved into holding one’s ground and taking appropriate defensive measures, so the development of neurotic anxiety yields to a symptom-formation, which enables the anxiety to be “bound”’. [p2695 LECTURE XXV ANXIETY]

Totem and Taboo: 1912-1913 : ????

Three Essays on the theory of sexuality: 1905d:This conception agrees also with Freud’s assertion that the process of sublimation opens up an avenue of discharge for over-powerful excitations emanating from the separate component-sources of sexuality and enables them to be applied in other directions. Thus, he says, where the subject is of an abnormal constitutional disposition the superfluous excitation may find outlet not only in perversion or neurosis but also in sublimation.

Hysterical Phantasies and their Relation to Bisexuality: 1908a; SE vol 9, pfl Vol 13 : Freud has comprehensively summed up the essential characteristics of hysterical symptoms.

The most prevalent form of degradation in erotic life, Collected Papers vol iv: Yet we shall come to attribute to these a very great importance when we consider at how big a sacrifice of instinctual energy the normal man purchases his health. ‘If, however, instead of attributing a wide significance to the term psychical impotence, we look about for instances of its peculiar symptomatology in less marked forms, we shall not be able to deny that the behaviour in love of the men of present-day civilization bears in general the character of the psychically impotent type’. [p1857 ON THE UNIVERSAL TENDENCY TO DEBASEMENT IN THE SPHERE OF LOVE
(CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LOVE. II)
(1912)

Introductory Lectures: 1916-1917 [1915-1917] : There is a passage in the ‘Introductory Lectures’ in which Freud discusses what possibilities of prophylaxis can be held out to educationalists. He comes to the conclusion that even rigid protection of childhood (in itself a very difficult thing) is probably powerless against the constitutional factor, but that it would also be dangerous if such protection succeeded too well in attaining its aim.

P354 pfl Vol 1 Lecture 20, The sexual life of human beings.

[p2072 INTRODUCTION TO PFISTER’S THE PSYCHO-ANALYTIC METHOD (1913)] [p2219 (H) THE EDUCATIONAL INTEREST OF PSYCHO-ANALYSIS

Endnotes

[i] Lecture 25 Anxiety : p458 to 460 of Penguin Freud Library – pfl, Volume 1 [p2698-2700] : As you will recall, we have dealt with repression at great length [Lecture 19], but in doing so we have always followed the vicissitudes only of the idea that is to be repressed – naturally, since this was easier to recognize and describe. We have always left on one side the question of what happens to the affect that was attached to the repressed idea; and it is only now that we learn [pflp452 – see footnote 2] that the immediate vicissitude of that affect is to be transformed into anxiety, whatever quality it may have exhibited apart from this in the normal course of events. This transformation of affect is, however, by far the most important part of the process of repression. It is not so easy to speak of this, since we cannot assert the existence of unconscious affects in the same sense as that of unconscious ideas. [Strachey footnote 1 p458] An idea remains the same, except for the one difference, whether it is conscious or unconscious; we can state what it is that corresponds to an unconscious idea. But an affect is a process of discharge and must be judged quite differently from an idea; what corresponds to it in the unconscious cannot be declared without deeper reflection and a clarification of our hypotheses about psychical processes. And that we cannot undertake here. We will, however, emphasize the impression we have now gained that the generation of anxiety is intimately linked to the system of the unconscious.

I have said that transformation into anxiety – it would be better to say discharge in the form of anxiety – is the immediate vicissitude of libido which is subjected to repression. I must add that that vicissitude is not the only or the definitive one. In the neuroses processes are in action which endeavour to bind this generating of anxiety and which even succeed in doing so in various ways. In phobias, for instance, two phases of the neurotic process can be clearly distinguished. The first is concerned with repression and the changing of libido into anxiety, which is then bound to an external danger. The second consists in the erection of all the precautions and guarantees by means of which any contact can be avoided with this danger, treated as it is like an external thing. Repression corresponds to an attempt at flight by the ego from libido which is felt as a danger. A phobia may be compared to an entrenchment against an external danger which now represents the dreaded libido. The weakness of the defensive system in phobias lies, of course, in the fact that the fortress which has been so greatly strengthened towards the outside remains assailable from within. A projection outwards of the danger of libido can never succeed thoroughly. [Strachey footnote 1 p459] For that reason, in other neuroses other systems of defence are in use against the possible generation of anxiety. That is a most interesting part of the psychology of the neuroses; but unluckily it would lead us too far and it presupposes a deeper specialized knowledge. I will only add one thing more. I have already spoken to you [p406 pfl: Lecture XXIII The paths to symptom-formation] of the ‘anticathexis’ which is employed by the ego in the process of repression and which must be permanently maintained in order that the repression may have stability. This anticathexis has the task of carrying through the various forms of defence against the generating of anxiety after repression.

Let us return to the phobias. I can safely say that you now see how inadequate it is merely to seek to explain their content, to take no interest in anything but how it comes about that this or that object or some particular situation or other has been made into the object of the phobia. The content of a phobia has just about as much importance in relation to it as the manifest façade of a dream has in relation to the dream. It must be admitted, subject to the necessary qualifications, that among the contents of phobias there are a number which, as Stanley Hall insists, are adapted to serve as objects of anxiety owing to phylogenetic inheritance. It tallies with this, indeed, that many of these anxiety-objects can only establish their connection with danger by a symbolic tie.

We thus find ourselves convinced that the problem of anxiety occupies a place in the question of the psychology of the neuroses which may rightly be described as central. We have received a strong impression of the way in which the generation of anxiety is linked to the vicissitudes of the libido and the system of the unconscious. There is only a single point that we have found disconnected – a gap in our views: the single, yet scarcely disputable, fact that realistic anxiety must be regarded as a manifestation of the ego’s self-preservative instincts.

Footnotes

1 p458 pfl : Strachey : For more information on what follows, see the beginning of the third section of the metapsychological paper o ‘The Unconscious’: 1915e and Chapter II of ‘The Ego and the Id’: 1923b

1 p459pfl : Strachey : More technical accounts of the structure of phobias will be found towards the end of ‘Repression’: 1915d and in Section IV of ‘The Unconscious’: 1915e

[ii] Lecture 25 Anxiety : p449 to p453 of Penguin Freud Library, Volume 1. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis: 1916-1917[1915-1917] [p2693-2695]: Two questions now arise. Can we relate neurotic anxiety, in which danger plays little or no part, to realistic anxiety, which is invariably a reaction to danger? And how are we to understand neurotic anxiety? We shall certainly be inclined in the first instance to hold fast to our expectation that where there is anxiety there must be something that one is afraid of.

Clinical observation affords us a number of hints towards understanding neurotic anxiety, and I will give you their tenor:-

(a) It is not difficult to establish the fact that expectant anxiety or general apprehensiveness is closely dependent on certain happenings in sexual life, or, let us say, certain employments of the libido. The simplest and most instructive case of this sort occurs in people who expose themselves to what is known as unconsummated excitation – that is, people in whom violent sexual excitations meet with no sufficient discharge, cannot be brought to a satisfying conclusion – men for instance, while they are engaged to be married, and women whose husbands are insufficiently potent or, as a precaution, perform the sexual act in an incomplete or curtailed fashion. In such circumstances the libidinal excitation vanishes and anxiety appears in its place whether in the form of expectant anxiety or in attacks and anxiety-equivalents. Interruption of the sexual act as a precaution, if it is practised as a sexual régime, is such a regular cause of anxiety neurosis in men, but more particularly in women, that in medical practice it is advisable in such cases to begin by investigating this aetiology. It will then be found on countless occasions that the anxiety neurosis disappears when the sexual abuse is discontinued.

The fact of there being a connection between sexual restraint and anxiety states is, so far as I know, no longer disputed even by physicians who have no contact with psycho-analysis. But I can well believe that an attempt is made to reverse the relation and to put forward the view that the people concerned are such as are already inclined to apprehensiveness and for that reason practise restraint in sexual matters as well. This, however, is decisively contradicted by the behaviour of women, whose sexual activity is essentially of a passive nature – is determined, that is to say, by their treatment by the man. The more passionate a woman is – the more inclined, therefore, to sexual intercourse and the more capable of being satisfied – the more certain she is to react with manifestations of anxiety to a man’s impotence or to coitus interruptus, whereas in the case of anaesthetic women or those without much libido such ill-treatment plays a far smaller part.

Of course, the sexual abstinence now so warmly recommended by doctors only has the same importance in generating anxiety states when the libido which is prevented from finding a satisfying discharge is correspondingly strong and has not been dealt with for the greater part by sublimation. Indeed, the decision on whether the outcome is to be illness or not always lies with quantitative factors. Even where what is in question is not illness but the form assumed by a person’s character, it is easy to recognize that sexual restriction goes hand in hand with some kind of anxiousness and hesitancy, while intrepidity and impudent daring bring along with them a free indulgence of sexual needs. However much these relations are altered and complicated by a variety of cultural influences, it nevertheless remains true of the average of mankind that anxiety has a close connection with sexual limitation.

I am far from having told you of all the observations that speak in favour of the genetic relation I have asserted to exist between libido and anxiety. Among them, for instance, is the influence on anxiety disorders of certain phases of life to which, as in the case of puberty and the time of the menopause, a considerable increase in the production of libido may be attributed. In some states of excitement, too, it is possible to observe directly a mixture of libido and anxiety and the final replacement of libido by anxiety. The impression one gains from all these facts is twofold: first, that what is in question is an accumulation of libido which is kept away from its normal employment, and secondly, that here we are entirely in the sphere of somatic processes. How anxiety arises from libido is not at first discernible; we can only recognize that libido is absent and that anxiety is observed in its place.

(b) A second pointer is to be found in the analysis of the psychoneuroses, and especially of hysteria. We have seen that in this illness anxiety often appears in company with the symptoms, but that unbound anxiety appears, too, manifested as an attack or as a chronic condition. The patients cannot say what it is they are afraid of, and, by the help of an unmistakable secondary revision, link it to the first phobias that come to hand – such as dying, going mad, or having a stroke. If the situation out of which the anxiety (or the symptoms accompanied by anxiety) arose is subjected to analysis, we can as a rule discover what normal course of psychical events has failed to occur and has been replaced by phenomena of anxiety. To express it in another way: we construct the unconscious process as it would have been if it had not experienced any repression and had proceeded unhindered into consciousness. This process would have been accompanied by a particular affect, and we now learn to our surprise that this affect accompanying the normal course of events is invariably replaced by anxiety after repression has occurred, no matter what its own quality may be. Thus, when we have a hysterical anxiety-state before us, its unconscious correlate may be an impulse of a similar character – anxiety, shame, embarrassment – or, just as easily, a positive libidinal excitation or a hostile aggressive one, such as rage or anger. Anxiety is therefore the universally current coinage for which any affective impulse is or can be exchanged if the ideational content attached to it is subjected to repression.

(c) We make a third discovery when we come to patients suffering from obsessional actions, who seem in a remarkable way exempt from anxiety. If we try to hinder their carrying out of their obsessional action – their washing or their ceremonial – or if they themselves venture upon an attempt to give up one of their compulsions, they are forced by the most terrible anxiety to yield to the compulsion. We can see that the anxiety was screened by the obsessional action, and that the latter was only performed in order to avoid the anxiety. In an obsessional neurosis, therefore, anxiety which would otherwise inevitably set in is replaced by the formation of a symptom, and if we turn to hysteria we find a similar relation: the result of the process of repression is either a generating of anxiety pure and simple, or anxiety accompanied by the formation of a symptom, or a more complete formation of a symptom without anxiety. It would thus seem not to be wrong in an abstract sense to assert that in general symptoms are only formed to escape an otherwise unavoidable generating of anxiety. If we adopt this view, anxiety is placed, as it were, in the very centre of our interest in the problems of neurosis.

Our observations on anxiety neurosis led us to conclude that the deflection of the libido from its normal employment, which causes the development of anxiety, takes place in the region of somatic processes.

[iii] From Repression: 1915d : pfl- Penguin Freud Library – Vol 11 On Metapsychology p152-153 [p2331-2332] : In our discussion so far we have dealt with the repression of an instinctual representative, and by the latter we have understood an idea or group of ideas which is cathected with a definite quota of psychical energy (libido or interest) coming from an instinct. Clinical observation now obliges us to divide up what we have hitherto regarded as a single entity; for it shows us that besides the idea, some other element representing the instinct has to be taken into account, and that this other element undergoes vicissitudes of repression which may be quite different from those undergone by the idea. For this other element of the psychical representative the term quota of affect has been generally adopted. It corresponds to the instinct in so far as the latter has become detached from the idea and finds expression, proportionate to its quantity, in processes which are sensed as affects. From this point on, in describing a case of repression, we shall have to follow up separately what, as the result of repression, becomes of the idea, and what becomes of the instinctual energy linked to it.

We should be glad to be able to say something general about the vicissitudes of both; and having taken our bearings a little we shall in fact be able to do so. The general vicissitude which overtakes the idea that represents the instinct can hardly be anything else than that it should vanish from the conscious if it was previously conscious, or that it should be held back from consciousness if it was about to become conscious. The difference is not important; it amounts to much the same thing as the difference between my ordering an undesirable guest out of my drawing- room (or out of my front hall), and my refusing, after recognizing him, to let him cross my threshhold at all. (Freud/Strachey footnote 1) The quantitative factor of the instinctual representative has three possible vicissitudes, as we can see from a cursory survey of the observations made by psycho-analysis: either the instinct is altogether suppressed, so that no trace of it is found, or it appears as an affect which is in some way or other qualitatively coloured, or it is changed into anxiety. (Strachey footnote 2) The two latter possibilities set us the task of taking into account, as a further instinctual vicissitude, the transformation into affects, and especially into anxiety, of the psychical energies of instincts.

We recall the fact that the motive and purpose of repression has nothing else than the avoidance of unpleasure. It follows that the vicissitude of the quota of affect belonging to the representative is far more important than the vicissitude of the idea, and this fact is decisive for our assessment of the process of repression. If a repression does not succeed in preventing feelings of unpleasure or anxiety from arising, we may say that it has failed, even though it may have achieved its purpose as far as the ideational portion is concerned. Repressions that have failed will of course have more claim on our interest than any that may have been successful; for the latter will for the most part escape our examination.

We must now try to obtain some insight into the mechanism of the process of repression. In particular we want to know whether there is a single mechanism only, or more than one, and whether perhaps each of the psychoneuroses is distinguished by a mechanism of repression peculiar to it.

Footnotes

1 Freud: This simile, which is thus applicable to the process of repression, may also be extended to a characteristic of it which has been mentioned earlier : I have merely to add that I must set a permanent guard over the door which I have forbidden this guest to enter, since he would otherwise burst it open. (See above – pfl p151.) Strachey: The simile had been elaborated by Freud in the second of his Five Lectures : 1910a

2 Strachey: Freud’s altered views on this last point were stated by him in ‘Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety’: 1926d. especially at the end of Chapter IV and in Chapter XI, Section A (b); pfl Vol 10, p263-264 and from p320

Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

Further texts

By Melanie Klein here

Of the clinic : here

Lacanian Transmission : here

Some Lacanian History : here

Topology : here

From LW working groups : here

Reading Seminar VII : here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here