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Primary Love and Psychoanalytic Technique

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One of the eternal problems of mankind is that of love and hate. Why and how does it happen that we love this one of our fellow-men, feel safe in his affection, expect satisfactions of our needs from him and are attracted to him, while we hate and avoid other? Ever since the publication of Freud's first works one of the main objects of psycho-analytic research has been the study of these powerful currents of the human mind. Dr. Michael Balint contributed several important papers on this subject, and Primary Love and Psychoanalytic Technique is a collection of his material from 1930 to 1952.The first half of this volume is a collection of all his papers on this topic. The first, "Psycho-Sexual Parallels to the Fundamental Law of Biogenetics", is an attempt to trace the development of the erotic instincts from their earliest biological beginnings in unicellular organisms to their highest manifestations in human beings. Other papers deal with the problems of "Genital Love". "Transference of Emotions", of "Love and Hate" and so on. Dr. Blaint shows that the complexities of human love and hate can be better understood if they are considered as derivatives of a very primitive relation such as exists between mother and child, or between two lovers, and which he describes as "primitive love".Perhaps the most important field of research where this peculiar form of human relation can be studied is the psycho-analytical situation, the relation between the patient and his analyst. This relation is the central problem of psycho-analytic technique and Dr. Balint's ideas make many old problems appear in a new light, but also give rise to many intriguing new ones. It is well known that theories about the true nature of the infantile mind, about the development of a child's sentiments towards his early love objects, and the theories of psycho-analytic technique are closely inter-related. The second half of this volume contains Dr. Balint's contributions to this topic; they include, among others, papers on "Character Analysis"," Strength of the Ego"," Transference and Counter-transference", and Termination of Analysis".

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1. Psychosexual Parallels to the Fundamental Law of Biogenetics (1930)

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1. The Career of Eros

IN discussions about biology, and especially about the great variety of forms of life, it is often said (Freud also made the remark)2 that biology is indeed a realm of unlimited possibilities. Is not the psychological meaning of such an exclamation one of astonishment that our boldest fantasies have not been able to conjure up anything not actually found in the living world? For a long time I made use of the recognition of this fact merely as a theme for conversation, and in the company of analysts often passed the time by quoting some type of animal that corresponded to every perverse activity, however absurd, to every myth or every infantile theory of sex.

I was finally startled by the exactitude of the parallel. If true, it must mean that the human mind knows all about phylogenesis, indeed that it knows nothing else but phylogenesis and cannot really produce anything that has never existed before. Perhaps this can be put the other way round: The human id contains potentially the entire phylogenesis, and the actual experience only releases the one or the other form of reaction.

 

2. Two Notes on the Erotic Component of the Ego- Instincts (1933)

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1. Adaptation and Educability

To introduce some order into the vast domain of the ego-instincts, their erotic component appears to provide a suitable basis of classification. At one end of the line would come ego-functions which cause little or no erotic pleasure; at the other end such functions as one would hesitate to count as ego rather than as sexual functions. Such a line could be constructed as follows: heartbeat … breathing … muscular activity … intake of fluids … of solids … the diverse excretory functions … the considerably erotised ‘herd instincts’, such as ambition, domination, submissiveness, etc… . and lastly one could include the various character traits which in an adult certainly appear to be of a libidinal nature, but which doubtless contain also a strong ego-component, such as: obstinacy, steadiness, envy, but also magnanimity, generosity, cold-bloodedness, imperturbability, etc. Such a series could be continued farther in both directions, and many more items could be inserted; for the purpose of this paper, however, it will serve in its present preliminary form.

 

3. Critical Notes on the Theory of the Pregenital Organisations of the Libido (1935)

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1

ACCORDING to our present theory, the first outline of which appeared only in the third edition of Freud‘s Three Contributions 2 in the year 1914, the two developments—that of sexual aims and that of sexual object-relations—run parallel to each other. It is not expressly said, thereby, but only tacitly assumed, that the biological nature of the leading component instinct, the gratification of which at the time is the most important because it causes the greatest pleasure, decides unequivocally the form of the child‘s object-relations. According to this the chief stress was laid on the changing instinctual aims and their respective sources, that is to say, on the biological aspect. The question of how and why these leading instincts succeed one another was never seriously raised by a psychologist, and consequently never investigated either. Here also our theory strove to shelve the problem and to await the explanation from biology. My Dresden paper 3 also originated from this tendency. Our colloquial usage is under the same influence: we not only speak of the primacy of the oral, anal, genital component instincts respectively, but also of oral, anal and genital love. This parallel is somewhat broken up by the fact that still another stage, called the polymorphous-perverse, is assumed to exist before this succession of development begins. But, according to theory, there is also a preliminary stage of object-relations, or rather two stages: auto-erotism, in which the child has as yet no object at all, and narcissism, in which he takes his own ego as first love-object. Only by the way is it then mentioned that oral object-relations can be observed very early, that, in fact, it is impossible to separate them in time from auto-erotism. I wish to emphasise that we shall often meet this kind of uncertainty in dating.

 

4. Eros and Aphrodite (1936)

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IN classical antiquity there are two sovereign deities of Love, figures which are no mere doublets but separate and distinct beings. The one, Aphrodite, probably belongs to the same group of goddesses as Istar, Astarte and Isis; that is to say, she was originally a mother-goddess. In the more highly developed conception of the classical period, however, she is represented as a young, enchantingly beautiful woman, who kindles love on all sides and is herself in love as a rule. She is subject to no moral law and has many lovers, amongst them Adonis and Anchises. She has also several husbands, Hephaestus, Ares and Hermes. She leads, indeed, a mature sexual life, though not always with the same partner, and when she loves anyone she gives herself up to her love. The other love-deity is Eros, a mighty god and yet a child, a mischievous, wanton, impudent rogue. Ethnologists will, of course, prove that he really symbolises the penis, but we need not at the moment trouble about this. The important point for us is that Eros is never conceived of as a grown man; he is the constant companion of Aphrodite, but never her sexual partner. He only plays, yet in his play he performs most difficult tasks. He is a child and yet mightier than the major gods. A favourite subject for plastic representation is the Triumph of Eros, in which Zeus himself is led behind the triumphal chariot, smiling but in chains. Or again, the Loves are represented as playing with the insignia of the high gods or taming wild beasts. Eros is indeed a child, but his arrows spare no one. First of all the gods, he issued forth directly from Chaos, and Plato wrote the finest of his dialogues in his honour.

 

5. Early Developmental States of the Ego. Primary Object-love (1937)

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THE genetic approach is the principal method we use in our science of psycho-analysis; a mental phenomenon observed in the present is explained by tracing it back to a previous one, and by demonstrating how far and by what external and internal influences the previous process was changed into the present one. This crab-like thinking must, however, come to a halt somewhere, i.e. where the previous earlier phenomenon, the original one, can no longer be observed but must be inferred from what can be observed. In the early years of psychoanalysis theoretical research reached as far as the Oedipus situation, i.e. to the third to fifth year of life. The theoretical gains thus achieved led to greater power of observation and in turn the better-trained observers could verify all the theoretical assumptions.

Naturally research has not come to a standstill, and time and again attempts have been made to infer still earlier mental states from observations. This new situation, however, is utterly different from the previous one. Then only one theory, or, more correctly, two complementary theories—that of the classic Oedipus situation and that of the polymorph-perverse nature of infantile sexuality—were under discussion, today we have to deal with several theories that often contradict one another. Slight differences in theoretical constructions are understandable, but we hear and read of theories which diverge considerably and are often diametrically opposed. These differences somehow seem to depend on geography in a way that justifies one in speaking of regional opinions. Probably each one of us will protest against his ideas being submerged in a regional opinion and will quote sharp controversies within his own group; still the results of his work appear to a distant observer as one or more notes in a regional harmony. Such ‘regional‘— not quite identical but consonant—opinions have been formed during the last years2 in London, in Vienna and in Budapest.

 

6. [Alice Balint] Love for the Mother and Mother Love (1939)

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By ALICE BALINT 2

THE mother-child relation has been at the centre of psychoanalytic interest right from the beginning. Its importance became even greater when, in the exploration of our cases, it was found necessary to go back regularly into pre-oedipal times. As this is the earliest object-relation, the beginnings of which reach into the nebulous times where the frontiers of ego and external world merge into each other, it is of paramount, importance both theoretically and practically. Thus it is quite understandable that each of us has tried his mettle on the mother-child relation. My contribution to this problem is mainly an attempt at a resume, and I can only claim originality for the point of view from which the summing up was carried out.

1

Clinical examples may serve as a starting-point. I begin with a case in which love for the mother was expressed in a particularly peculiar way. This was the case of a woman patient whose main symptom was that she had to be the slave of her mother. Her unsuccessful attempts at liberation soon became revealed as reactions to disappointments, for in reality she loved her mother and made enormous sacrifices in order to try to satisfy her, which, however, she never succeeded in doing. It was astonishing that the daughter was absolutely helpless in face of the unreasonable reproaches of her mother and reacted to them with guilt feelings which were quite incomprehensible to her. An extraordinarily strong masculinity complex gave the first explanation of these guilt feelings. Right from the beginning of the analysis it stood out clearly that she wanted to replace her father (and a generous lover) vis-a-vis her widowed mother. The first years of the analysis were almost completely taken up with a working through of her masculinity complex. By the end of this phase, her relation to her mother had improved considerably. She had attained an almost normal freedom of movement, could come and go as she liked and had a private life as befits an adult. In her sexual life, too, there was a change for the better. A capacity for orgasm developed, although somewhat labile, in place of an absolute frigidity, and repeated, though interrupted, pregnancies pointed also in the direction of accepting the feminine role. But despite all these improvements, her feelings of anxiety and guilt towards her mother remained in unmitigated strength. It was the analysis of her death wishes against the mother that led to the discovery of the deep roots of the guilt feelings. It came to light that the death wishes did not originate in any hatred against her mother. This hatred served only as a secondary rationalisation of a much more primitive attitude, according to which the patient simply demanded that her mother ‘should be there’, or ‘should not be there’, according to the patient‘s needs. The thought of her mother‘s death filled the patient with the warmest feelings, the meaning of which was not repentance but something like ‘How kind of you that you did die, how much I love you for that.’, The patient‘s guilt feeling proved to be well founded in reality, i.e. in the type of love she felt towards her mother. This was a kind of love of which one would indeed be afraid and which explained fully why the patient never wanted to have children. We discovered in it the deep conviction that it belongs to the duties of a loving mother to let herself be killed for the well-being of her children, should an occasion demanding it arise. In other words we discovered in this ‘daughter of a bad mother’, that deep down she demanded absolute unselfishness from her mother. She loved her mother as the only human being who—at least for her unconscious—allowed for the possibility of such a demand. Both the attempts at liberating herself and the exertions made in the attempt to satisfy her mother now gained a new significance. They were obviously also counter-cathexes with the help of which she maintained the repression of her primitive form of love. Also the significance of the identification with the husband (lover) of the mother could be clearly recognised. In the first layer this identification, as previously stated, served as a gratification of her masculine desires. In the deeper layer, however, it was the expression of the patient‘s demand for love in the reversed form. Just as the mother was loved by her lovers, so did the daughter want to be loved by her mother. And just as the mother unscrupulously exploited the men and then dropped them when they became useless (old or sick), so did the daughter want to use her mother and then get rid of her according to her whims. While the patient let herself be exploited by her mother, she tried secondarily to gain from hatred the strength necessary for that unscrupulous ruthlessness which in her mother she envied so much.

 

7. On Genital Love (1947)

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IF one looks through psycho-analytical literature for references to genital love, to one‘s surprise two striking facts emerge: (a) much less has been written on genital love than on pre-genital love (e.g. ‘genital love’, is missing from the indices of Fenichel‘s new text-book 2 and of Nunberg‘s Allgemeine Neuro-senlehre3); (b) almost everything that has been written on genital love is negative, like Abraham‘s description of his famous term ‘postambivalent phase‘. We know fairly well what an ambivalent love relation is—of postambivalent love we know hardly more than that it is, or at least ought to be, no longer ambivalent.

This emphasis on the negative qualities, i.e. on those which have, or ought to have been, superseded in the course of development, blurs the whole picture. It is not the presence of certain positive qualities that is accentuated, only the absence of certain others.

To avoid this pitfall let us imagine an ideal case of such postambivalent genital love that shows no traces of ambivalency nor of pregenital object-relationship:

 

8. On Love and Hate (1951)

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IF one has to ask the reader to re-examine some old, very familiar concepts, it is advisable to quote as an illustration a quite simple example. So I wish to begin with one which is an almost commonplace event in psycho-analytic practice. A patient of mine, a woman in her middle forties, recently bought a house, the first settled home in her much-unsettled life. Of course, it was a great event; the house had to be altered, furnished and made just as she wanted it to be. I will not dwell on its obvious significance as a symbol of herself and, behind that, of her mother. Anyhow, it was a great thrill. Then she heard that a couple intended to visit her and to stay in the new house for about a fortnight. They were old, well-proved friends, and she was delighted that they were coming. They arrived, the house got ready just in time, and it was a great happiness. She could not repeat often enough how nice it was to have people one really loved as the first guests in a new house.

To our great surprise, within a few days, gradually, almost imperceptibly, feelings of irritation, tension and uneasiness arose in her. The irritation increased till it amounted to a fairly severe anxiety state which, however, could be kept under control, though only with some difficulty. Gradually she became impatient: for heaven‘s sake if only the people would leave! At this point some analysis became possible and we discovered behind the impatience and anxiety a bitter hatred against her ‘friends‘. As a result of this piece of analysis the anxiety subsided; the friends eventually departed, but the hatred against them remained practically unaltered.

 

9. Character Analysis and New Beginning (1932)

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1

IT is generally accepted that today quite different demands are made of a ‘terminated analysis’, from those made a decade ago or even earlier. Today, for instance, Breuer‘s Frl. Anna would certainly not be released from analysis as cured; yet all her symptoms had disappeared, and she declared herself to be fit for work. Surprisingly perhaps, patients who, like her, have for long been free from symptoms, today continue their treatment. What do we want of them and, still more important, what do they require of us ? The removal of infantile amnesia, a recovered memory of the primal scene … ? I believe our patients would not remain with us for many months because of such reasons. What keeps them at their analytic work is their wish, often unconscious, to be able to love free from anxiety, to lose their fear of complete surrender.

Any of us could cite several cases in which the marked neurotic symptoms disappeared through the treatment in a relatively short time, but there still remained a complete incapacity or only a very qualified capacity for love. This state of affairs became particularly clear to me in working with so-called ‘organic’, patients.

 

10. On Transference of Emotions (1933)

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PSYCHO-ANALYSIS has been built up on two well-established facts of clinical experience. The one is resistance. During the flow of free associations the patient often feels an impulse not to tell the next idea (or a series of ideas) because it would be unpleasant, ridiculous, unessential, painful, etc. The analyst notices the resistance by the unequal flow of the associations, i.e. sudden deviations, accelerations, retardations or even complete interruption of speech. These experiences have been the source of the assumption of the unconscious mind, of repression, and in general of the dynamic conception of psychic processes. The facts, the basis of these ideas, are so obvious, so easily observable by everyone, so undeniable, that the above-mentioned ideas—though sometimes under different names— have already been accepted by the scientific world; nowadays a completely hostile criticism is scarcely ever heard.

The situation is entirely different with regard to the second, equally important observation: transference. This important fact of experience which led to a psycho-analytic theory of instincts, and recently to the beginnings of a psycho-analytic characterology, has been challenged, often disapproved of, even completely rejected. This attitude has two main causes. The one is that transference, though in the same way a general phenomenon, needs a trained, unprejudiced observer; the other is that it is intimately connected with the field of emotions. Let us begin therefore with some—not very dangerous— examples. In a hot dispute it may occur that one or the other disputant hits the table with his fist, as it were to give more weight to his arguments. Or it may happen that one hears things which make one angry; if one‘s excitement has not cooled down by the end of the talk one may bang the door when going out of the room. Or, after taking leave from his best beloved a young man may notice that she has forgotten her gloves; again it may happen that the young man feels still happier in the possession of these valuable objects, even that he kisses them.

 

11. The Final Goal of Psycho-analytic Treatment (1934)

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ONE can confidently describe psycho-analytic treatment as a natural process of development in the patient. If, then, I inquire into the final goal of our therapy, I do not mean by this a prescribed final state, which, deduced from some philosophical, religious, moral, sociological, or even biological premise, requires that everyone should ‘get well’, according to its particular model. I ask rather: is our clinical experience sufficient to define the final goal, or at least the final direction of this natural development?

There are special cases particularly suitable for this inquiry. I am thinking of those people who—like Freud‘s famous Wolf-man—break off the analysis with only partial results, and then, after an interval of years, continue the treatment, possibly with another analyst. The resumed work offers a very favourable opportunity for a fresh investigation of the former non-adjusted obstacles, and a cure in such a case supplies the proof that it was precisely those obstacles that had previously blocked the way to recovery.2

 

12. Strength of the Ego and Ego-pedagogy (1938)

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SINCE the publication of Freud‘s The Ego and the Id in 1923, the conception of the ‘weak ego’, has been commonly accepted. It is curious that this has come about so rapidly and with so little opposition in spite of the established psycho-analytic theory tracing all neurotic symptoms to the conflict between the sexual instincts and the interests of the ego. If the ego is in fact weak, how can it be such an energetic advocate of its own interests that in this struggle it forces a continual compromise, thus producing a constant neurotic symptom ? This and other similar questions, however, have not been asked. Instead, the theory explored another path, keeping close to the assumption of the weak ego and even exaggerating it. The interests of the ego disappeared almost entirely from our theoretical considerations, and their place is now taken by various demands, such as those of the id, the environment and the super-ego. The ego itself is regarded as having almost no interests of its own; and the theoretical discussion is occupied solely with its dependence and the tasks that it has to fulfill. The result of this view becomes evident in the subject indexes of books by psychoanalysts, where there is less conscious revision than in the text itself. Thus it will be seen that in all works that have appeared since 1930, the headings ‘Interests of the Ego’, and ‘Strength of the Ego’, are no longer to be found.2 This is all the more remarkable because already in 1926 in ‘Inhibition, Symptom and Anxiety,‘3 three years after the publication of The Ego and the Id, Freud warned us not to forget that the ego can also be strong. It is true he only cited a few cases in which this strength was clearly noticeable, but that is because he was then merely concerned with proving the occasional strength of the ego. Our theory has not paid much attention to this point and the organisers of the Congress 4 are to be congratulated for putting this much-neglected theme up for discussion.

 

13. [with Alice Balint] On Transference and Counter-transference (1939)

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Written in collaboration with ALICE BALINT

A QUESTION which frequently arises in psycho-analytical discussions on technical themes is whether transference is brought about by the patient alone, or whether the behaviour of the analyst may have a part in it too. On such occasions one opinion is always put forward emphatically by certain analysts. It runs roughly as follows: ‘If and when the analyst has influenced the transference situation by any means other than his interpretations, he has made a grave mistake.’, The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether and how far this opinion corresponds to the facts.

The phenomenon of transference can best be demonstrated if its object is an inanimate, lifeless thing, e.g. the door which was banged because the cause of our anger was behind it. With a living being, the whole situation becomes infinitely more complex, because (a) the second person is also striving to get rid of his unvented emotions by transferring them on to the first, and (b) he will react to the emotions transferred on to him by the first person. The situation is hopelessly inextricable, unless one of the persons involved will voluntarily undertake the task of not transferring any of his feelings on to the other for a definite period, i.e. to behave as nearly as possible like an inanimate thing. This conception is the basis of Freud‘s often quoted simile: the analyst must behave like the surface of a well-polished mirror—a lifeless thing. Analysis has also often been compared with a surgical operation, and the behaviour of the analyst with the sterility of the surgeon. Again, we have the condition of lifelessness, for the word ‘sterile’, originally meant ‘not producing a crop or fruit‘.

 

14. Changing Therapeutical Aims and Techniques in Psycho-analysis (1949)

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1

I THINK it maybe taken for granted that every analyst is at pains to learn from his own technical errors and mistakes. Conversely, this means that our individual technique is continually changing through gradually accumulating individual experience—let us hope, for the better. Are we justified in assuming that this is also true of psycho-analytical technique in general? Is the therapeutic work of the rank and file analyst of today different from that of his colleague of say thirty, twenty or even ten years ago? and if so, what is the difference and what has brought it about? As the title of my paper suggests, my contention is that psycho-analytic technique has changed, in fact has been changing continuously, ever since its first description by Freud in the technical chapter of the Studies in Hysteria.2

To put this process into true perspective, the survey ought to start with the techniques (in the plural) described by Breuer and Freud in their book. For the sake of brevity, however, I shall restrict myself to that part of the history of the technique which is contemporary with my analytical lifetime.

 

15. On the Termination of Analysis (1949)

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THE criteria for termination can be classified under many possible headings. From among these I have chosen three, not only because they appear to me important, but mainly because I have studied them more closely than the others. The first heading is that of instinctual aims. That means a firmly established genital primacy, the capacity to enjoy full genital satisfaction, i.e. mature genitality. I wish to point out that I mean more than a simple sum-total of all the component sexual instincts; mature genitality is in my opinion a new function emerging about puberty, possibly as the result of a ‘natural process’, such as I tried to describe in ‘Eros and Aphrodite‘.2

The second group of criteria can be summed up under the heading: relation to instinctual objects. I dealt with this topic in a recent paper: ‘On Genital Love‘.3 The gist of my thesis is that genital love is definitely not a natural spontaneous process but an artefact—the result of civilisation (or of education)—a complex fusion of genital satisfaction and pregenital tenderness; its psychological expression is genital identification with the object based on an exacting reality testing, and its aim the changing of an indifferent or even reluctant object into a loving and co-operating genital partner.

 

16. New Beginning and the Paranoid and the Depressive Syndromes (1952)

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1

I FELT greatly honoured when I was asked to contribute a paper to this number, as I cannot consider myself Mrs. Klein‘s pupil in the ordinary sense of the word. My justification for inclusion is a long-standing interest in her work, and—if I may call it so—a friendship dating back to our bygone Berlin days, when both of us were still under analysis, and by good luck for me we lived for some time only a few doors away from each other. In every other respect our positions were wholly different. I was a real beginner, fresh from the University, while Mrs. Klein was already an analyst of repute who was listened to attentively, even though at times ironically. She still had an uphill fight to face, being the only non-academic and the only child analyst in the midst of a very academic and very ‘learned’, German society. Time and again she caused embarrassment, incredulity or even sardonic laughter, by using in her case-histories the naive nursery expressions of her child patients. Yet, despite this ambivalent reception she remained steadfast in her primary aim of showing that neurotic symptoms and defensive mechanisms found in adults can be observed also in young children, and very often, in quite relevant respects, can be studied better in children than in adults. Both Mrs. Klein and the analytic world have travelled a long way since those days. Many—though certainly not all—of her then hotly disputed ideas have since become an integral part of the body of accepted analytic knowledge.

 

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