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An intimate impression

Riviere, Joan Karnac Books ePub

When I knew Professor Freud in Vienna in 1922, he was aged 65 and more or less at the height of his career. Soon after 1910 the solitary obscurity which had surrounded him and his work for something like 20 years had begun to lessen, while the war neuroses in Europe had generated, both in the medical profession and in the general public, an interest in the psychological approach to such disorders. This had brought his work into the foreground and made his name known. In 1922 he and his followers in Vienna, Berlin and Budapest were fully occupied with teaching and training (first and foremost by analysing them personally) the group of English, American and Swiss physicians, and others, who were taking up the new study of psycho-analysis. A few years later, in 1924, the serious but successful operation on his jaw caused him ill health at times, though it affected only slightly his capacity for work and his speech. He afterwards went about even less than formerly, and the future will probably judge his later work as falling short in various ways of his earlier achievement.

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CHAPTER ONE: Early short papers

Riviere, Joan Karnac Books ePub

The vignettes contained in Three notes’ were Joan Riviere’s first publications of a psychoanalytic nature. They show her contact with and understanding of the child in the three adult patients of whom she writes. They were published in the first volume of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis.

Joan Riviere’s observations in The castration complex in a child’ and ‘Magical regeneration by dancing’ concerning phantasies of two young children of whom she had heard or observed herself also give clear indications of her interest in and understanding of children’s inner life.

The sixth entry among these early short papers was found recently and is included here since it shows how, even long before she presented public lectures on psychoanalysis with Melanie Klein in 1936, Joan Riviere was able to express complex psychoanalytic ideas in a simple, direct way that would find a sympathetic audience in the general public. Although it is undated, the illustrations on the reverse side of the paper indicate that it would have been published in approximately 1921 in a Women’s Supplement. It describes the relationship between childhood wishes and adult dream life.

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CHAPTER NINE: Freud’s autobiography

Riviere, Joan 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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CHAPTER TEN: Public lectures

Riviere, Joan Karnac Books ePub

Joan Riviere and Melanie Klein gave public lectures in 1936 under the title, The emotional life of civilized men and women. Klein’s contribution was called ‘Love, guilt and reparation’, while Riviere spoke on ‘Hate, greed and aggression’. Although the two contributors divided their topics in such a way that Riviere seems to be emphasizing the destructive forces in man while Klein speaks more of the powerful forces of love and the wish for reparation, it is apparent in both contributions that it is impossible to separate the two. Love and hate constantly interact. Klein was emphasizing reparation, an aspect of human activity characterizing the depressive position, a stage of development which she had recently formulated. Joan Riviere considers such destructive forces as aggression, contempt, suicide, rivalry, love of power, and illustrates their operation in everyday life. As in her 1932 paper, she shows how envy and jealousy are closely allied, and how both are connected to delusional hate. She also speaks of how the individual’s sense of guilt is made more severe through suffering and deprivations, actual or imagined. Although her part in the talks stresses the destructive forces in man, she pleads for the need to understand them; only if they are accepted and their potential value appreciated, is the fear of them diminished and controlled,

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CHAPTER FOUR: Polemics

Riviere, Joan 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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