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CHAPTER FOURTEEN. Kleinian thinking in the 1950s

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Joan Riviere introduces her readers to developments in psychoanalysis with a masterly survey. She uses her thorough understanding of Freud’s theories to show how Melanie Klein, who brought about many of the developments, is extending his ideas, not deviating from them, as some of Klein’s detracters declare. She points out that Freud often showed indecisiveness about his theories, and this is particularly true of his postulation of the life and death instincts. Nonetheless in his later works he expressed his conviction of ‘the instinctual duality as the foundation of intra-psychic conflict’. Joan Riviere’s makes a highly significant statement—that those analysts who dispute Klein’s findings most vehemently still ‘stand by Freud’s original formulations which were never formally retracted or abandoned; that where Freud later broke new ground and went ahead, sometimes in more intuitive recognition, they have not followed’.

Developments in Psycho-Analysis was conceived as a presentation of the four papers that had been written to elaborate, describe and present Klein’s ideas at the time of the Controversial Discussions in the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1943/44. The four papers were supplemented by three additional ones by Melanie Klein and a further paper by Paula Heimann. In introducing the book Joan Riviere perceptively describes the significance of Klein’s ideas and shows that her results stand on their own foundations; she produced an integrated theory which, although still in outline, nevertheless takes account of all psychical manifestations, including psychotic processes and mental development in infancy. The importance of infantile development is brilliantly outlined as she presents each paper with comments that are interesting to read as one studies the papers themselves. Her descriptions in simple terms of the difficulties inherent in attempting to understand and convey infantile pre-verbal communications and the expression of unconscious phantasy complement those of Susan Isaacs, who eloquently conveys this problem in the first chapter of the book.

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CHAPTER FOUR: Polemics

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

This is Joan Riviere’s contribution to a symposium held before the British Psycho-Analytical Society in London, May 1927, in which Melanie Klein and four supporters (Ernest Jones, Edward Glover, Joan Riviere and M. N. Searl) replied to criticisms voiced by Anna Freud in a book Introduction to the Technique of Child Analysis, that she made from her lecture notes and published in Vienna in 1927. She used it ‘to bring the differences between her own approach and Melanie Klein’s into very stark light’ (Young-Bruehl, 1988). These differences were fundamental and concerned with the timing of the development of the superego and the child’s relationship to the parents of its internal world.

In her paper Riviere supports Klein’s theory of the early development of the superego and suggests a connection between the strength of the superego and deprivation. She argues against Anna Freud’s contention that the superego in the child is too little developed to restrain him from acting out when its roots are analysed. To Riviere the severity of the superego is modified by the analysis of anxiety and guilt, and the bitterness of frustration is thereby better tolerated; she shows how anxiety, guilt, and frustration all contribute to superego excesses. Riviere attributes ‘little importance to the adult’s conscious wish for cure’ and considers the differences in the attitudes of adults and children towards making the unconscious, conscious, in analyses are more apparent than real. The child’s transference to the analyst is similar to that of the adult patient, and the negative aspects of the transference need to be analysed in children as they are in adult patients.

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: A moving tribute to Freud

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Joan Riviere wrote this tribute to Freud a week after his death on 23 September 1939, in London. It is a moving account of her appreciation of his genius and of his vision but, most importantly, of Freud the man; he comes alive as a person of great integrity and inflexible honesty, of humour and sensitivity. He had expressed surprise (letter to Jones, 23 September 1927) that Riviere found Melanie Klein’s theories of child development relevant. Riviere however had no difficulty in reconciling theories of Freud with those that she considered extended his work. Her loyalty to the man and his enormous contribution to science and the world is apparent in this tribute. She never lost her appreciation of Freud although she was at the same time ready to admire and explore new ideas.

Her statement that ‘his power to see new facts and to check his observations diminished after his operation in 1924’ might be queried by some. However, it can be seen to echo what Freud himself had said in his ‘Postscript’ (1935a) to An Autobiographical Study (1925d [1924]): that since the time he had put forward his ‘hypothesis of the existence of two classes of instinct (Eros and the death instinct) and proposed a division of the mind into ego, superego and id’ he had made ‘no further decisive contributions to psycho-analysis’.

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CHAPTER NINE: Freud’s autobiography

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Joan Riviere reminds the reader of her review that Freud’s Autobiographical Study (1925d [1924]) was written in 1925, when Freud was nearly seventy. It was a contribution to a series of studies of leading medical authorities of the time and is more an account of the history of psycho-analysis than it is of Freud’s life. Since the history of psycho-analysis is the story of Freud’s life, it is an autobiography. All the milestones in the stages of his discovery of psychic reality, the reality of the inner world, are given: his overcoming the confusion induced by the abandonment of the seduction theory, his courage in advancing his understanding of what he observes, are all clearly documented in this review.

Riviere expresses her admiration for Freud’s ability to tolerate uncertainty in his investigations of the human condition— studying first the individual, and then, as he grew older, in studying the expression of the same dynamics apparent in various cultures. She speculates about what it is that allowed him to ‘force a breach in barriers that had never before been pierced’. After speaking of character traits that balance and complement his gifts, she comes to the conclusion that perhaps it is his powers of adaptation, his ability to endure loss and bear frustration for the sake of greater gain, that allow him to reconcile the subjective experiences of men’s minds with the external reality of their lives. Through that process ‘he discovers a unity in human life’. Her incisive exposition allows one to see Freud’s contributions in a new light and to appreciate more clearly his gifts to us all.

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Joan Riviere: Her life and work

Joan Riviere Karnac Books ePub

Athol Hughes

Joan Riviere, colleague of Melanie Klein and strong supporter of her and her ideas, was also the most articulate of Klein’s contemporary exponents, expressing ideas in a graceful and polished form. In addition to being able to interpret the ideas of others with elegance, Joan Riviere’s own papers contain original observations and original ideas. She is also known for her fluent and lucid translations of Freud’s writings. She considered that translation gave her ‘an acute sensitivity about the reader’s point of view’. She was a member of the British Psycho-Analytical Society from its inception until her death in 1962, and she played a prominent part in many aspects of its life.

She was born 28 June 1883 in Brighton, Sussex, the eldest surviving child of Hugh John Verrall and his wife Anna; she was christened Joan Hodgson Verrall. Her parents had had a son who died a few hours after his birth on 9 July 1882. A second daughter, Mary, called Molly, and a son, Hugh Cuthbert, were born two and four years after Joan. Joan’s only child, Diana Riviere, remembered with affection her aunt, Molly, and the part she played in her own upbringing. I am indebted to Miss Diana Riviere for much of the information about her mother’s early life. (Miss Riviere died in December, 1989, while this biographical chapter was still unfinished. She was 81 years of age.)

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