IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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Independent tradition, nonetheless, he advances a series of important relational propositions. Most notably, he proposes (i) that “relationship with the environment exists in a primitive form right from the start” (1968: 63) and is a necessary condition of emotional development; (ii) that primitive object-relations are characterized by passive forms of object love (1937: 98; cf. Ferenczi, 1924), but also by “active seeking-out of contact with the environment” (1968: 135); and (iii) that the experience of “primary love” (1937; 1968, ch. 12) is the groundwork of object- relationship. 1. The theory of primary love and the concomitant use of regression as a therapeutic agent form the basis of Balint’s psychoanalytic thought. For Balint (1937: 101) “vestiges and remnants of [primary object-love] can be demonstrated in all the later [phases of mental life].” The experience of primary love is described in terms of the infant’s attempt to recreate the situation of libido in foetal life, with its intense cathexis of the environment. The latter, according to Balint, “is probably undifferentiated; on the one hand, there are as yet no objects in it; on the other hand, it has hardly any structure, in particular no sharp boundaries towards the individual; environment and individual penetrate into each other, they exist together in a ‘harmonious mix- up’” (1968: 66). Balint contends that birth interrupts the state of ‘equilibrium’ and, thereby, precipitates or forwards the separation of the human being and its environment. In a direct echo of Rank (1924), the trauma of birth occasions object-relations: “Objects, including the ego, begin to emerge from the mix-up of substances and from the breaking up of the harmony of the limitless expanses” (1968: 67). The earliest phase of extra-uterine life is not seen as narcissistic, but oriented towards objects on the basis of pre-natal experience. Initially, Balint (1937: 98-99) viewed this early object-relationship as passive, and described the infant’s motivational attitude as follows: “ I shall be loved and satisfied, without being under any obligation to give anything in return ”. This is and remains, according to Balint, “the final goal of all erotic striving” (1937: 99). Primary object-love “is not linked to any of the erotogenic zones; it is not oral, oral- sucking, anal, genital, etc., love, but is something on its own ” (1937: 101; emphasis added). As such, Balint (1951: 156) sought to extend the experiential range of early, primitive human life in addition to the ‘oral sphere’. This did not lead to a break with classical drive theory, however. Balint maintained contra Fairbairn that the libido is both pleasure-seeking and object-seeking. The hypothesis of ‘object-seeking libido’ is revised, accordingly: “in addition to the hitherto well-studied quality of libido, i.e. its pleasure-seeking tendency, clinical observations have proved beyond doubt that its object-seeking tendency is as least equally important” (1956: 291). 2. Mature, active object-love, as Balint describes it, involves a recapitulation of primordial satisfaction of need along so many developmental ‘by-paths’ or pathways: “The successive stages of development…anal-sadistic, phallic and finally genital object-relations – have not a biological but a cultural basis” (1935: 63). By the same token, primary phenomena of Freudian drive theory are understood in terms of early environmental failure resulting in a ‘basic fault’. Most notably, aggression is understood as a reaction to frustration rather than an aim in itself; more particularly, for Balint (1951) hate is always a reactive, secondary phenomenon and not one of the basic primary drives of the individual. Similarly, primary narcissism is redefined in


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