ON MELANIE KLEIN
She went straight for the primitive, and
The primitive is never transcended.
Oct 27, 2004
Melanie Klein: Innovative and Transitional Theorist (Object Relations and Self Psychology: An Introduction, by Michael St. Clair, Thomson, 2004, Chap 3)
Melanie Klein I & II (Robert Young, 2000)
… preserved Freud’s emphasis on instinct but understood instinct as intrinsically connected with objects … drives are relational … her understanding of the preverbal, inner world of a child’s object relations stands as her prime achievement … From her observations of infants, and children, she stretched and rearranged Freudian ideas of object and instinct, although not as far as her contemporary, W.R.D. Fairbairn, who fashioned a model of personality based exclusively on objects and object relations.
(2) Key Concepts:
1. Instincts: … death instinct
2. Phantasy: refer to predominantly or entirely unconscious phantasies, as distinct from the sort of conscious fantasies or imaginings we associate with daydreams or idle imaginings … the infant experiences these phantasies bodily as well as mentally … cannot differentiate at this stage between reality and her own phantasy world … “unconscious phantasies are somewhat more accessible in early childhood; in adulthood the path to them is indirect, through dreams, in imaginative constructions, sometimes in group behavior, in symptoms, parapraxes, etc., though always in disguised form” (Spillius, personal communication) … “I suggest --- and this lies at the heart of my overall argument --- that this point about misinterpreting the reality of the psyche’s experience to the point of hallucination as normal and basic is the essential point --- the ur-fact --- about human nature as depicted by Klein.” (Robert Young, 2000) … this is one of Klein’s concepts which has been “very little altered” by subsequent Kleinians. (Spillius, 1988)
3. Object: … Klein criticized Freud’s notion of instincts as objectless … every urge and instinct is bound up with an object … drives are relational … the infant first relates to part objects … Klein used the term inner object rather than object representation. The suggestion is that object representation is of an object from which separation has been achieved because the child is at a later stage of development. … Klein’s inner object corresponds to selfobject.
4. Psychic Mechanisms: … How the infant relates to the breast demonstrates some of the mechanisms of projection, introjection, splitting, and projective identification. … The projective identification process combines projection and identification in an interactional way. This manner of relating in an adult patient can induce strong feelings in the therapist who is pulled into playing a role in the patient’s fantasy life or internal world. … the motives for projective identification: to control the object, to acquire its attributes, to evacuate a bad quality, to protect a good quality, to avoid separation (Rosenfeld, 1971).
5. The Inner World of Object Relations: … In essence, the infant is creating his own world. …Kleinian inner world reflects more of the id rather than external objects …
(3) Ego and Superego:
Klein thought the superego arises at a much earlier age than Freud had assumed. … Freud separates instinctual energy and elements of structure, but Klein suggested that they are inseparable, and Fairbairn concurs. … Klein placed less emphasis on id as a structure and more on phantasy that seemed to combine id and ego as aspects of the same psychic agency … For Klein, drives are relational; she saw phantasies as representing instincts and the phantasies striving for contact with objects. Personality basically consists of the phantasies of the relationships with these inner objects. … Klein differed from Fairbairn in that she said both a good and bad breast are introjected; Fairbairn says that there is no need to internalize the good breast, only the bad breast. …
(4) Two Developmental Positions:
… Klein looked at development in terms of relationships. … Using the term position, she described the child’s different ways of experiencing, and relating to, both internalized and external objects. … The two positions suggest the occurrence and reoccurrence, during a child’s first years, of specific groups of psychological mechanisms, ways of relating to objects, and characteristic anxieties and defenses. … the paranoid-schizoid position, from approximately birth to the 4th month … the depressive position, begins at approximately the 5th month … Anxious lest the good object die or go away, the infant uses manic defenses of denial and omnipotence to defend against guilt, despair, and feelings of annihilation. …
John Steiner’s brief characterizations of the two positions:
“As a brief summary: in the paranoid-schizoid position anxieties of a primitive nature threaten the immature ego and lead to a mobilization of primitive defences. Splitting, idealization and projective identification operate to create rudimentary structures made up of idealized good objects kept far apart from persecuting bad ones. The individual’s own impulses are similarly split and he directs all his love towards the good object and all his hatred against the bad one. As a consequence of the projection, the leading anxiety is paranoid, and the preoccupation is with survival of the self. Thinking is concrete because of the confusion between self and object which is one of the consequences of projective identification. … The depressive position represents an important developmental advance in which whole objects begin to be recognized and ambivalent impulses become directed towards the primary object. These changes result from an increased capacity to integrate experiences and lead to a shift in primary concern from the survival of the self to a concern for the object upon which the individual depends. Destructive impulses lead to feelings of loss and guilt which can be more fully experienced and which consequently enable mourning to take place. The consequences include a development of symbolic function and the emergence of reparative capacities which become possible when thinking no longer has to remain concrete.”
Hanna Segal’s clear and evocative exposition of the depressive position:
“Melanie Klein considers that there is a crucial step in the infant’s development when he recognizes his mother as what she termed a ‘whole object.’ This is the time the baby starts recognizing his mother and sees her as a real, separate, person. With that recognition there is a fundamental change in the whole mental attitude of the child. Omnipotence diminishes; and there is a recognition of one’s dependence on another human being, seen as a proper person. The egocentric, narcissistic attitude, in which the infant conceives of objects in relation to himself being good for one or persecuting to one, gives way to the relationship to another another person as having her own feelings, problems, and relations to other people as well as oneself. Toward that person, on which he depends completely, the infant experiences acute ambivalence. When splitting diminishes he recognizes that he loves and hates one and the same person. With that recognition goes guilt about the hatred and fear of losing the object through one’s own aggression. This becomes the basis of a different kind of superego than the savage, hated, and hateful, figure on the part-object level. This situation leads to feeling of pining for the lost object, of the capacity to mourn the loss, and is the basis of normal mourning. But as the situation is full of pain and anxiety of loss it also can mobilize powerful manic defences. But alongside these, another mechanism develops which cannot be properly called a mechanism of defence, since it is not based on denial of the problem, characteristic of defences, but on the recognition of a problem and a new way of dealing with it: that is reparation. According to Klein, reparative impulses play a large part in good human relationships and are also the basis of all sublimation.”
There is no escape from this vacillation, only the hope that we will not be taken over, colonized, as it were, by malignant or virulent splitting and projective identification. The inner process is always dramatic, and we are only ever relatively at peace with ourselves and our internal objects. The primitive is never transcended. (Robert Young, 2000)
(5) Pathology and Therapy:
Klein kept “to the psychoanalytic procedure only, which, to put it in a nutshell, consists in understanding the patient’s mind and in conveying to him what goes on in it” (Klein, 1955)… Klein allowed little space for the modifying role of the environment and the good objects of the environment. Most of her emphasis was on instincts in the form of phantasies and inner objects. … The task of therapy is to alleviate some of these anxieties as well as to modify the harshness of the internalized objects and inner persecutors. The process of therapy is to analyze and interpret the transference. …
Biography of Melanie Klein (by Hanna Segal, for Romanian edition of “The Writings of Melanie Klein” 4 vols.) http://vatlin.chat.ru/Klein_biography_eng.htm
Melanie Klein (an obituary by W.R. Bion, H. Rosenfeld and H. Segal, IJPA, 1961, 42:4-8)
Father, Dr Moritz Reizes, came from a strictly orthodox Jewish family, and was supposed to become a rabbi. Soon rebelled against orthodoxy, studied in secret, and went to the university, became a dentist. He was never a successful wage earner. Divorced his first wife, and at an age of over 40 fell deeply in love with, and married, Libusa Deutsch, then aged 25.
Four children: Emily (6 years older than Melanie), Emmanuel (5 years older), Sidonie (about 4 years older)
Melanie, born in Vienna, 1882, conceived by accident.
The family had many financial ups-and-downs which affected her childhood.
Her relation to her father was not very close. He was well over 50 (“an old fifty”) when she was born. Also he also frequently and overtly expressed his preference to his eldest daughter. He died when Melanie was 18. … little affection shown to her by either parent.
Libusa died in 1914.
Sidonie suffered from scrofula and died at 9. Sidonie taught her to read and to write.
Emmanuel suffered from RHD and died at 25.
Engaged with Arthur Stephen Klein when she was 19. Spent two years of her engagement studying humanities at Vienna University. All he life she regretted not having studied medicine.
Married at 21 (1903).
Children: Melitta (1904), Hans (1907), Eric (1914)
Moved to Budapest 1910. There she first encountered Freud’s work.
Sought analysis with Ferenczi 1912-1919. Ferenczi encouraged her to start to analyze children.
Introduced to Freud in 1917, at a meeting between Austrian and Hungarian Societies.
Read her first paper “The Development of a Child” in 1919, based on experience of analysis with her son Eric. Became a member of the Budapest society in 1919.
Met Karl Abraham in 1920 Hague Congress, who invited her to go to Berlin.
Moved to Berlin with the children in 1921. Arthur went to work in Sweden. Divorced 1922.
At the beginning of 1924 started an analysis with Abraham, for 14 months, till he died in the summer of 1925. She considered herself Abraham’s pupil and her work a contribution and development of Freud’s and Abraham’s.
Invited by Ernest Jones to lecture in London in 1925. In the house of Dr Adrian Stephen (Virginia Woolf’s elder brother), she gave 6 lectures (in English) which formed the basis of the initial part of “The Psychoanalysis of Children”, her first book.
Moved to London in 1926. … the first Continental to be made a member of the British Psychoanalytic Society. Alix Strachey said at the time she looked like a whore run mad and a dotty woman, but one whose head was filled with things of thrilling interest. Brought Eric, then 13. A few years later, Melitta also came to London. Hans, following his father’s footsteps, became an engineer and remained in Berlin.
Between 1919 to 1925 she established the principles of the setting for and technique of child analysis.
The analysis of small children gave her insight into the extent to which the child’s mind was dominated by unconscious phantasies, and the existence in the child’s mind of a complex internal world of internal objects, formed by both projection and introjection. … Where Freud discovered the child in the adult, through her analysis to begin with of children Klein discovered the infant in the child, and therefore in the depth of the unconscious of the adult. (Where Freud discovered the child in the adult, Klein discovered the infant in the child and led us to take seriously the abiding role of infantile psychotic anxieties underlying the unconscious phantasies which constitute the inner world of the adult.)
… the only discovery of Klein that Freud referred to in a favorable way was in a footnote, in which he says he agrees with Klein and the English school that the superego does not reflect real severity of parents, but is distorted by projections.
After 1925, when Klein moved to London there developed a distinctive difference between what had become the Vienna School and the English School of psychoanalysis. … culminated in a series of controversial discussions held in the British Society during the War in the early 1940s. The Controversial Discussions centered mainly on the different views about early object relationships and the status of phantasy. … where, on one occasion, Winnicott pointed out that there was an air raid going on …“The Nature and Function of Phantasy”, by Susan Isaacs, remains a classic in psychoanalytic literature. … despite the structural compromise in the British Psychoanalytic Society, the atmosphere of implacable conflict is not gone, even now. “The Los Angeles episode, like the Controversial Discussions, tells me that there is a problem at the heart of Kleinian assertiveness.” (Robert Young, 2000) … the independents initially consisted of analysts to whom neither Anna Freud nor Klein was willing to refer training cases.
Critical in 1927 of Anna Freud for introducing educational elements into child analysis and for emphasizing the positive transference and not interpreting the negative transference. (Symposium on Child Analysis, 1927)
Her private life was marked by personal tragedies. Hans died suddenly in the spring of 1934, then 27 years old. Melitta became opposed to her from the late 1930s. …unreconciled to the end, Melitta gave a lecture in London the day of her mother’s funeral, did not attend the funeral and wore a special pair of red boots that day. … Did Klein use her children as “guinea pigs”? Erich disguised as Fritz, Hans as Felix, and Melitta as Lisa? (Kristeva, 2001)
By the time of the controversial discussions, Klein had already formulated her concept of the depressive position. … only with her description of the depressive position that Klein’s early discoveries could be brought together to give a picture of the child’s mental development. Two papers, “A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States” (1935) and “Mourning and its Relation to Manic-Depressive States” (1940) introduced the concept.
“Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms” (1946), she calls the phase preceding the depressive position the paranoid-schizoid position. Also in that paper, she describes a new mechanism, that of projective identification, which occupies only a few lines in the generally very short paper, yet it is one of Klein’s most seminal clinical concepts.