IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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Spitz, 1957; Mahler et al, 1975; Jacobson 1964). These experiences with early objects, through their inevitable gratifications and frustrations, shape and color the child’s developing ego functions (including self-definition through identifications) as well as moral/ethical canons. Within the psychoanalytic setting, these early experiences with others tailor the fabric of unconscious wishes and fear s that can produce acting out, transference/countertransference actualizations, enactments and boundary violations (Lynch, Richards, Bachant 1997). Throughout 1960s and 1970s, Arlow has been extending further Freud’s notion of unconscious fantasy . While Freud viewed unconscious fantasy as a derivative of unconscious wish, Arlow sees it as a compromise formation that contains all components of structural conflict (Papiasvili, 1995). In this extended view, unconscious fantasy organized the powerful driving wishes, fears, and self-punitive impulses triggered by developmental tasks. Every individual creates his or her own unique set of unconscious fantasies. These reflect mental sets that attempt to understand, respond to, manage and integrate major conflicts, experiences and relationships. Abend (1990) later expands this already expanded concept and adds that fantasies “can function to alter and disguise other fantasies as well as provide gratification” (Abend, 1990, p. 61). Throughout development, the essential narratives of the unconscious fantasies endure, though their manifestations undergo endless transformations resulting in different “editions” corresponding to different developmental stages. Unconscious fantasies shape our character traits, determine our behavior, our attitudes, produce our symptoms, and are at the heart of our professional interests and love relationships. In the psychoanalytic situation, unconscious fantasies are at the root of all transference attitudes and activities. While such unconscious fantasies are modifiable and continue to mature as the person unconsciously searches for newer more effective solutions, their origins remain archaic and fixed, and as such continue to exert a dynamic role on experience. Therefore, unconscious transference activity can be seen as having both structural and process aspects. Arlow and Richards contend that the unacceptable wishes of childhood “take the form of persistent unconscious fantasies, exerting a continuous stimulus to the mind”, (1991, p. 309) eventuating in compromise formations on a continuum from adaptive to maladaptive. Leo Rangell asserted that the domain of psychoanalysis was the area of unconscious intrapsychic conflict (Rangell, 1967). He charted twelve sequential steps in the emergence of unconscious conflict (Rangell, 1969a), which advanced from the initiation of the precipitating stimulus to a final psychic outcome. Rangell (1969b, 1971) focused on the unconscious decision-making function of the ego, in the context of the unfolding of the ubiquitous unconscious intrapsychic process. Through this function, the individual unconsciously chooses whether or not to institute defense to minimize anxiety signaling danger. Over time, unconscious choices are incorporated into durable character traits and fixed expectations from the individual. Through his twelve step sequence of the intrapsychic process, Rangell also posits a ‘unitary theory of anxiety’, connecting the first theory of anxiety of the Topographic model and the Signal Theory of Anxiety of the Structural model, through the transformation of the traumatic anxiety (passive experience of the ego) into signal anxiety of ego anticipating the danger.


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