Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein

Melanie Reizes, the daughter of Moriz Reizes and Libussa Deutsch Reizes, was born in Vienna on 30th March, 1882. Her father was born into an orthodox Jewish family but studied to become a doctor against his parents' wishes. He spoke ten languages and was extremely well read. (1)

Her mother was the grand-daughter of a rabbi. Moriz met her while they were staying in the same boardinghouse. He immediately fell in love with this "educated, witty, and interesting" young woman, with her fair complexion, fine features, and expressive eyes". They married in 1875. (2)

Melanie was the youngest of four children, Emilie born in 1876, Emmanuel in 1877 and Sidonie in 1878. The family were in financial difficulties when she was born and her mother opened a shop that sold plants. Libussa was so busy that she was unable to breast feed her. She was handed over to a wet-nurse who fed her on demand, though the older children had all been fed by their mother. (3)

Melanie claims that her father made no secret of his preference for Emilie, who together with Emmanuel, teased her for her ignorance. However, her eight-year-old sister, Sidonie, did take an interest in her and taught her reading and arithmetic during her long illness with scrofula (a form of tuberculosis). Although she survived, her sister, Sidonie, died of the disease in 1886. Janet Sayers, the author of Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991), claims that this might have "contributed to Melanie's life-long depression." (4)

Melanie later wrote: "I have a feeling that I never entirely got over the feeling of grief for her death. I also suffered under the grief my mother showed, whereas my father was more controlled. I remember that I felt that my mother needed me all the more now that Sidonie was gone, and it is probable that some of the spoiling was due to my having to replace that child." (5)

In 1891, Emmanuel, aged 14, praised and corrected a poem she had written, he was "my confidant, my friend, my teacher". He taught her Latin and Greek in order to enable her to attend the Gymnasium and encouraged her to have her writing published. "He took great interest in my development and I knew that, until his death, he always expected me to do something great, although there was really nothing on which to base it... He seemed to me superior in every way to myself, not only because at nine or ten years of age, he seemed quite grown-up, but also because his gifts were so unusual... He was a self-willed and rebellious child and, I think, not sufficiently understood. He seemed at loggerheads with his teachers at the gymnasium, or contemptuous of them, and there were many controversial talks with my father." (6)

Emmanuel introduced Melanie to the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schnitzler and Karl Kraus, all radical thinkers who challenged conventional morality. She also mixed with her brother's friends and it is claimed that four of these young men wanted to marry her. However, she rejected this idea and planned to study medicine like her father but to specialise in psychiatry. Her last years at school, under the influence and encouragement of her brother, were years in which she felt "gloriously alive". (7)

Melanie's plans to go to university ended when her father died in April 1900. This was followed by the death of Emmanuel from a heart-attack. She now agreed to marry Arthur Stephan Klein, a second cousin and the son of Jacob Klein, a successful businessman. They married in 1903. Klein, an engineer, worked for a number of companies in different parts of Europe and was rarely at home. (8)

Melanie's marriage was unhappy from the beginning. "I threw myself as much as I could into motherhood and interest in my child. I knew all the time that I was not happy but saw no way out." She told a friend many years later that he was having affairs from the first years of her marriage. Melanie Klein gave birth to her daughter, Melitta Klein in 1904. This was followed by two sons, Hans in 1907 and Erich in 1914. She was forced to stay with her husband because she had no means of supporting them on her own. (9)

In 1914 Melanie Klein went into analysis with Sandor Ferenczi, an eminent Hungarian doctor, who was a member of a group of doctors who were followers of a group led by Sigmund Freud. Another member of the group was Hanns Sachs who said he was "the apostle of Freud who was my Christ". Another member said "there was an atmosphere of the foundation of a religion in that room. Freud himself was its new prophet... Freud's pupils - all inspired and convinced - were his apostles." Another member remarked that the original group was "a small and daring group, persecuted now but bound to conquer the world". (10)

On Frenczi's recommendation, Melanie Klein read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud argued that "If you inspect the dreams of very young children, from eighteen months upwards, you will find them perfectly simple and easy to explain. Small children always dream of the fulfillment of wishes that were aroused in them the day before but not satisfied." The dreams of adults are more difficult to explain. "Certainly the most satisfactory solution of the riddle of dreams would be to find that adults' dreams too were like those of children-fulfilments of wishful impulses that had come to them on the dream-day. And such in fact is the case. The difficulties in the way of this solution can be overcome step by step if dreams are analysed more closely."

Freud admitted that in most cases adult dreams could not look more unlike the fulfillment of a wish. "And here is the answer. Such dreams have been subjected to distortion; the psychical process under lying them might originally have been expressed in words quite differently. You must distinguish the manifest content of the dream, as you vaguely recollect it in the morning and laboriously (and, as it seems, arbitrarily) clothe it in words, and the latent dream thoughts, which you must suppose were present in the unconscious. This distortion in dreams is the same process that you have already come to know in investigating the formation of hysterical symptoms. It indicates, too, that the same interplay of mental forces is at work in the formation of dreams as in that of symptoms. The manifest content of the dream is the distorted substitute for the unconscious dream-thoughts and this distortion is the work of the ego's forces of defence - of resistances." (11)

Sigmund Freud gives the example of a woman patient who had a dream that she was strangling a little white dog. The doctor asked her if she had a particular grudge against anyone. She said yes she had, and added that it was against her sister-in-law. She went on, "She is trying to come between my husband and myself". She was encouraged to talk more about this conflict and after a while she remembered that in a recent argument she described her as "a dog that bites". She also pointed out that her sister-in-law had a remarkably pale complexion. The patient now realised the meaning of the dream. (12)

Freud argued that a woman who dreams that she wants to give a supper but cannot find the food in the shops, is satisfying her wish to refrain from inviting a friend of whom her husband is fond and she is jealous. In another case a woman dreams that her fifteen-year old daughter is lying dead in a box is satisfying her earlier wish for an abortion when pregnant. Freud argued that in these dreams the experience of anxiety is the distorted satisfaction of a sexual desire. He then went on to say that the accuracy of this statement "has been demonstrated with ever increasing certainty". (13)

In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud explained the now famous Oedipus complex. "Being in love with the one parent and hating the other are among the essential constituents of the stock of psychical impulses which is formed in childhood and which in children destined to grow up neurotic is of such importance in determining their symptoms. The discovery is confirmed by a legend that has come down to us from classical antiquity... What I have in mind is the legend of King Oedipus and Sophocles' drama which bears his name." (14)

Melanie Klein also read Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. In the book Freud put together, from what he had learned by analyses of patients and other sources, all he knew about the development of the sexual instinct from its earliest beginnings in childhood. Freud provided "the foundation for his theory of neuroses, the explanation of the need for repression and the source of emotional energy underlying conscious and unconscious drives and behaviour which he named libido." (15)

Klein began to make observations on her youngest son, Erich, and she was encouraged to carry on when Sandor Ferenczi told her she had a gift for psychoanalytical understanding. She was determined to allow her young son's mind "freedom from unnecessary prohibitions and distortions of the truth". An atheist, Klein decided she did not want to teach him that there was a God. She also was straightforward and truthful with him about sex. This at the time was extremely radical. The results of her experiment was described in a paper she gave to the Budapest Psychoanalytical Society in 1919, entitled The Development of a Child: The Influence of Sexual Enlightenment and Relaxation of Authority on the Intellectual Development of Children. It was published as an article two years later. (16)

Although her son, Erich, was only five-years-old at the time, she found ways of talking to him about sex. At first he did not want to know, but after she told him stories about the sex life of animals he began to show interest. He responded by telling his mother stories where he made symbolic use of the objects around him. He ran his toys over her body, saying they were climbing mountains. He talked of what babies are made of and said he wanted to make babies with his mother. Erich told another story "in which the womb figured as a completely furnished house, the stomach particularly was very fully equipped and was even possessed of a bath-tub and a soap-dish." (17)

Melanie Klein argued that this form of education changed him from being somewhat backward to "almost precocious". His attitude towards his parents changed: "His games as well as his phantasies showed an extraordinary aggressiveness towards his father and also of course his already clearly indicated passion for his mother. At the same time he became talkative, cheerful, could play for hours with other children, and latterly showed such a progressive desire for every branch of knowledge and learning that in a very brief space of time and with very little assistance, he learnt to read." (18)

Klein also analysed her older children. Hans was forced to stop seeing a girl older than himself because of the "identification he was making with the phantasy of his mother as a prostitute". In her article, A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Tics she argued that "the turning away from the originally loved but forbidden mother had participated in the strengthening of the homosexual attitude and the phantasies about the dreaded castrating mother." (19)

Klein now forced Hans to break off a homosexual relationship with a school friend. "It must have seemed to the boy that he had no area of privacy from his mother, who knew the innermost secrets of his soul. His tic and related homosexual problems she repeatedly links to his sense of inferiority to his father. Arthur Klein was deeply suspicious of psychoanalysis, which he saw as driving a wedge between him and his son, and his wife's obsession with it as a disruptive intrusion in the family." (20)

Melanie Klein considered herself as the world's first child analyst. However, that title went to Hermine Hug-Hellmuth. A former schoolteacher, she published The Nature of the Child's Soul (1913) and A Young Girl's Diary (1919). (21) At the International Congress in The Hague in 1920, she reported on her early efforts in her paper On the Technique of the Analysis of Children. Her work was based on observation and analysis of children's behavior and on the possibility of applying psychoanalytic theory to education and the psychology of children. This included analysing her nephew, Rudolf Otto Hug. The illegitimate child of her half-sister Antoine, he had been raised by Hug-Hellmuth since the death of his mother. (22)

Melanie Klein went to meet Hug-Hellmuth but did not find her very helpful, possibly because she found her a threat. "Dr. Hug-Hellmuth was doing child analysis at this time in Vienna, but in a very restricted way. She completely avoided interpretations, though she used some play material and drawings, and I could never get an impression of what she was actually doing, nor was she analysing children under six or seven years." (23)

Hug-Hellmuth actually warned against analysis for children if it touched their deepest feelings. She suggested that it is dangerous to uncover too many of children's negative and aggressive feelings towards their parents. Hug-Hellmuth was not only afraid of alienating parents by exposing to children their aggression towards their parents, but she also wanted the children to have good and friendly feelings towards themselves. (24)

Melanie left her children with her in-laws in Rosenberg in Slovakia and moved to Germany and became a member of Berlin Psychoanalytical Society in 1922. Along with Anna Freud she was now seen as one of the pioneers of child psychology. Klein by this time had become dissatisfied with the results of her analysis with Sandor Ferenczi and asked Karl Abraham to take her into analysis. She said later that it was her brief analysis with Abraham which really taught her about the practice and theory of analysis. (25)

While in Germany she met Alix Strachey, the wife of Freud's translator James Strachey. The two women became close friends: "She (Melanie) was frightfully excited and determined to have a thousand adventures, and soon infected me with some of her spirits… she's really a very good sort and makes no secret of her hopes, fears and pleasures, which are of the simplest sort. Only she's got a damned sharp eye for neurotics." (26)

Melanie Klein also worked for the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. Others involved included Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, Ernst Simmel, Hanns Sachs, Karen Horney, Edith Jacobson and Wilhelm Reich. The institute reflected the socialist sentiments widely held by Berlin intellectuals at the time. From the very beginning the institute provided free analytic treatment, often to more than a hundred patients. Later, it provided inpatient treatment to about thirty severely disturbed men who were suffering from the consequences of the First World War. Although Sigmund Freud was not directly involved praised the institute for "making our therapy accessible to the great numbers of people who suffer no less than the rich from neurosis, but are not in a position to pay for treatment." (27)

Ernst Simmel, who succeeded Abraham as institute president, took pride that the clinics free treatment did not differ in the least from that of patients paying high fees. "All patients are... entitled to as many weeks or months of analysis as his condition requires". In this way the Berlin Institute was fulfilling social obligations incurred by society, which "makes its poor become neurotic and, because of its cultural demands, lets its neurotics stay poor, abandoning them to their misery." (28)

Klein was disappointed by Simmel's election as she found Abraham as more supportive of her ideas. Abraham was described as "the very best president I ever met in my life. He was simply magnificent. Fair and absolutely firm. No nonsense. And kept the thing very well in hand. Again, he had his limitations. He didn't like fantasy very much. He didn't have much fantasy himself, but he was very much down to earth, excellent clinician, perfect chairman, and really a fair man." (29)

Karen Horney was so impressed with her work that she decided that the girls' education should be supplemented with a course of psychoanalytic treatment with Melanie Klein. Brigitte, who was fourteen, refused to go for analysis. Marianne, was twelve and more complaint, attended faithfully for two years but developed strategies that kept Klein's interpretations to a minimum. Renate, who was only nine, tried to cooperate but disliked the talk about sexual matters. (30) Later, Horney, psycho-analysised Melitta. (31)

Melitta trained at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, before marrying Walter Schmideberg in 1924, another psychoanalyst, who was fourteen years her senior. At the time Schmideberg was a friend of Sigmund Freud and Klein's biographer, Phyllis Grosskurth, claims she had "encouraged the marriage for the reflected prestige it would give her". However, it was not long before Klein turned against Melitta's new husband. These family rows, mainly concerned Schmideberg's drinking problems. The following year he was treated for drug addiction at Sanatorium Schloss Tegel. (32)

On the night of 8th September, 1924, Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was murdered by her eighteen-year-old nephew, whom she had brought up. According to Rudolf Otto Hug, his aunt's writings contained many observations of him and he testified at his trial that she had attempted to psychoanalyze him. After his trial he was sentenced to twelve years in prison. After being released from prison, he attempted to get restitution from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association, as a victim of psychoanalysis. (33)

This murder had a tremendous impact on the psychoanalytic movement. Members of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute became increasingly critical of Melanie Klein's theories. They accused her of being "feeble-minded about theory" and her "nursery talk embarrassing and ridiculous". Some of the members suggested that "child analysis was positively dangerous". In May 1925, Karl Abraham became seriously ill and was no longer able to have her as his patient. After his death in December, she began to consider the possibility of leaving Germany. (34)

In September, 1926, Melanie Klein, at the age of 38, accepted the invitation of Ernest Jones, to analyse his children in London. She lived in a maisonette near the Institute of Psychoanalysis in Gloucester Place. Her practice soon included not only Jones's children and wife but also six other patients. She now decided to settle permanently in England, a place that she described as "her second motherland". (35)

Klein's daughter, Melitta Schmideberg, also came to live in England. She gave several lectures on child psychology. This included Criminal Tendencies in Normal Children (1927), Personification in the Play of Children (1929) and The Importance of Symbol-Formation in the Development of the Ego (1930). Phyllis Grosskurth claims that these papers contain "a medley of diverse ideas, a reflection of the creative thinking that had been released in her with a congenial atmosphere". (36)

Over the next few years Melanie Klein wrote several articles where she questioned several of Sigmund Freud's theories. This included the claim that the Oedipus conflict began long before Freud had thought. Freud thought that there was a period in which children loved their mothers without conflict. Klein argued this was not so and believed that even very small babies had to cope with conflicting feelings of love and hatred. (37)

Klein also questioned Freud's account of creativity. He attributed art to sublimation of individual instinct whereas Klein explained it as reflecting our relations with others, in the first place with the mother. In a British Society talk in May 1929 she illustrated this theme by reference to the work of the Swedish artist, Ruth Kjär. Klein quoted from Kjär's biographer, who argued that she suffered bouts of depression until she started painting pictures. (38) "Klein thereby inaugurated a new trend in art and literary criticism focusing on the maternal and reparative aspects of creativity." (39)

Supporters of Sigmund Freud became hostile towards Melanie Klein. This included Ernest Jones and Edward Glover, both senior figures in the British Psycho-Analytical Society. In 1933, Klein's daughter, Melitta Schmideberg decided to enter analysis with Glover. This resulted in her deciding that she "had been in a state of neurotic dependence on her mother" and that if a "state of amicability was to be maintained, it could exist only if Klein recognized her not as an appendage but as a colleague on an equal footing". (40) In late 1933 it was apparent to other members of the Society that Glover and Schmideberg, had joined forces in a campaign to embarrass and discredit Melanie Klein. Schmideberg, later wrote: "Edward Glover and I agreed to ally to fight". (41)

In a letter she wrote to her mother at this time explaining her thoughts on their relationship. "You do not take it enough into consideration that I am very different from you. I already told you years ago that nothing causes a worse reaction in me than trying to force feelings into me - it is the surest way to kill all feelings. Unfortunately, you have a strong tendency towards trying to enforce your way of viewing, of feeling, your interests, your friends, etc. onto me. I am now grown up and must be independent; I have my own life, my husband; I must be allowed to have interests, friends, feelings and thoughts which are different or even contrary to yours. I do not think that the relationship with her mother, however good, should be the centre of her life for an adult woman. I hope you do not expect from my analysis that I shall again take an attitude towards you which is similar to the one I had until a few years ago. This was one of neurotic dependence. I certainly can, with your help, retain a good and friendly relationship with you, if you allow me enough freedom, independence, and dissimilarity, and if you try to be less sensitive about several things." (42)

Members of the British Psycho-Analytical Society tended to take the side of Melanie Klein against the attacks of her daughter. Melitta believed that this undermined her own status in the organisation: "I always felt that the main objection was that I had ceased to toe the Kleinian line (Freud by now was regarded as rather out-dated). Mrs. Klein had postulated psychotic phases and mechanisms in the first months of life, and maintained that the analysis of these phases was the essence of analytic theory and therapy. Her claims were becoming increasingly extravagant, she demanded unquestioning loyalty and tolerated no disagreement." (43)

In April 1934, Hans Klein died while walking in the Tatra Mountains. It is believed that the path suddenly crumbled away beneath him and he plunged down the side of a precipice. Melanie was so distraught that she was unable to leave London and a close friend maintained that Hans's death was a source of grief for the rest of her life. Melitta's immediate reaction was that it had been suicide. At a conference in November she commented: "Anxiety and guilt are not the only emotions responsible for suicide. To mention only one other factor, excessive feelings of disgust brought about, for example, by deep disappointments in persons loved or by the break-down of idealizations prove frequently an incentive towards suicide." (44)

Freud attributed self-reproach in depression to hatred of others internalized in imagination within the self. Klein disagreed with Freud and suggested that the main reason for depression to love of others and despair at feeling unable to restore the harm done by hatred of them. Whereas Freud believed depression is rooted in self-love and attachment to others. Klein rejected this idea and argued that depression does not stem from self-love but from concern for others. "Suicide in such cases involves a last-ditch attempt to preserve those one loves within the self by destroying the bad." (45)

It has been argued that Klein was using her own experience to explain depression. As a child she suffered from chronic depression as a result of "the preference of her father for Emilie; the death of Sidonie; her anguish and guilt over Emanuel; her breakdown following her mother's death; her ambivalent feelings towards Arthur Klein; her devastation after Abraham's death". This was followed by Han's death and "Melitta's treachery". (46)

Klein built up a group of loyal followers but like Sigmund Freud, she could be ruthless in casting off those who expressed doubts about her theories. Hanna Segal pointed out: "Although she was tolerant, and could accept with an open mind the criticisms of her friends and ex-pupils, whom she often consulted, this was so only so long as one accepted the fundamental tenets of her work. If she felt this to be under attack she could be very fierce in its defence. And if she did not get sufficient support from those she considered her friends, she could grow very bitter, sometimes in an unjust way." (47)

In May 1936, Ernest Jones attacked Melanie Klein in a paper delivered to the Vienna Society. He claimed that Freud had provided the "scaffolding" and that they might see "considerable changes in the course of the next twenty years ago". However, he warned of those, who like Klein, who had succumbed to "the temptation to a one-sided exaggeration of whatever elements may have seized her interest". (48)

On 17th February, 1937, Melitta Schmideberg continued her strident campaign against her mother when she delivered the paper, After the Analysis - Some Phantasies of Patients, that was delivered to the British Society. (49) Joan Riviere wrote to James Strachey: "Melitta read a really shocking paper on Wednesday personally attacking Mrs. Klein and her followers and simply saying we were all bad analysts - indescribable." (50)

Melanie Klein was in poor health and in July 1937 she underwent gall bladder surgery. Afterwards she went to live with her younger son Erich and his wife, Judy, who was at the time pregnant with their first child. (As a result of the level of anti-semitism in England he changed his name to Eric Clyne in 1937).

In the summer of 1938 Klein gave a paper to the Paris Congress entitled Mourning and its Relationship to the Manic-Depressive States, where she criticised Freud's views on depression which he believed was rooted in self-love. Klein suggested that grief involves recognizing both external and internal loss. "Loss does not so much initiate internalization of the other as Freud claimed. Rather it painfully disrupts internalization processes began in relation to the mother in infancy." (51)

Melanie Klein met Virginia Woolf at a meeting of the British Psycho-Analytical Society. That night Woolf recorded in her diary her impression of Klein. "A woman of character and force some submerged - how shall I say - not craft, but subtlety, something working underground. A pull, a twist, like an undertow: menacing. A bluff grey haired lady, with large bright imaginative eyes." (52)

Sigmund Freud and most of his family, including Anna Freud, arrived in London on 6th July, 1938, after the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. (53) Melanie Klein sent him a letter expressing the wish to call on him as soon as he was settled. He replied with a brief note saying that he hoped to see her in the near future. An invitation failed to materialize, although her daughter, Melitta Schmideberg, was a frequent visitor. (54)

Edward Glover, the scientific secretary of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, found himself increasingly opposed to the innovations and influence of Melanie Klein. For several years he tried to oust the Kleinians as a group within the Society. (55) The problem increased with Klein's supporters who arrived in England from Austria and Germany, fleeing from Adolf Hitler. This included people such as Hanna Segal, Paula Heimann, Herbert Rosenfeld, Nelly Wollfheim and Eva Rosenfeld. By 1938 one-third of its members were from the continent. She also had the support of British members such as Susan Sutherland Isaacs, Joan Riviere, John Rickman, Donald Winnicott and Clifford M. Scott. (56)

However, Ernest Jones, protected Klein from Glover. In March 1939 she wrote to Jones thanking him for his help. "You have created the movement in England and carried it through innumerable difficulties and hardships to its present position... Now, I want to thank you for your personal friendship, and for your help and encouragement in what is of infinitely greater importance to us both than personal feelings - namely our work. I shall never forget that it was you who brought me to England and made it possible for me to carry out, and develop, my work in spite of all opposition." (57)

Anna Freud joined with Glover in the attacks on Klein arguing at a meeting of the British Psycho-Analytical Society Training Committee meeting that "Mrs. Klein's work is not psycho-analysis but a substitution for it. The reason she gave for this opinion was that Mrs. Klein's work differs so greatly in theoretical conclusions and in practice from what they know to be psychoanalysis... Dr. Glover said that her work may either turn out to be a development of psycho-analysis or a deviation from it... Regarding the body of knowledge which should be taught to candidates, he said that controversial contributions should be excluded, referring to Mrs. Klein's work." (58)

Melanie Klein's daughter, Melitta Schmideberg, was also highly critical of the Kleinian group. At one meeting, on 13th May 1942: "Melitta's shrill accusations, based on innuendo and gossip, had been distressing and embarrassing; but Glover's thundering rhetoric in leveling the gravest of charges against the Kleinian group left everyone at the meeting shaken. Glover essentially accused one group of trying to insinuate its way into power through the training of candidates; and if the situation were allowed to continue, within a very few years the British Society would be entirely dominated by the Kleinians." Melanie Klein commented that her supporters were made to look like "a forbidden sect doing some harmful work, which should be prevented from spreading." (59)

Ernest Jones condemned the behaviour of Schmideberg and Glover and that Klein had good cause to bring a libel action against them. Anna Freud agreed and Klein reported to Susan Sutherland Isaac that: "She (Anna) is inclined to regard Melitta's attacks more in the way of a naughty child, and certainly underrates the disruptive effect on the Society which was - and here she is quite right - only so bad because the Society did not know how to deal with it." (60)

Glover argued that "in the six years up to 1940 every training analyst appointed (5 in all) was an adherent of Mrs. Klein". Sylvia Payne carried out research into these claims and wrote to Klein about what she found: "I have studied Glover's speech. He says that there are 8 or 9 of your adherents among training analysts. The following are the actual names. Klein, Riviere, Rickman, Isaacs, Winnicott, Scott (control of child analysis and lectures). To these names he must be adding Wilson and Sheehan-Dare (they accepted many Kleinian ideas, but refused to be described as adherents of anyone). I propose to say that his figures are open to argument." (61)

Edward Glover was outraged by a January 1944 suggestion that the teaching of the organization should cover Klein's controversial ideas. He now resigned, complaining that the Society was hopelessly "women ridden". (62) In a letter to Sylvia Payne he explained his decision: "I have now simply exercised the privilege of withdrawing from the Society (a) because its general tendency and training has become unscientific and (b) because it is becoming less and less Freudian and has therefore lapsed from its original aims." (63)

Glover attempted to persuade Anna Freud to leave the British Psycho-Analytical Society. Phyllis Grosskurth argued that "Glover lacked psychological insight and an understanding of the strength of Anna Freud's inflexibility. She would not allow herself, Freud's daughter, to be pushed out of the Society and branded as a schismatic. She sometimes said that she stayed in because she was grateful to Jones for bringing her family to England, but it is possible that she also felt that she could work things to her own advantage if she played her cards right." (64)

Negotiations continued for two years before an agreement was reached. On 5th November, 1946, a scheme of training was arranged which incorporated both the ideas of Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein. (65) "It is disturbing to accept that highly intelligent, well-educated people could succumb to the hysteria that swept through the British Society for some years. But one must realize that all human beings, even psychoanalysts, are subject to the same pressures; when engulfed in groups, they exhibit envy, anger, and competitiveness, whether the group be a trade union or a synod of bishops. The fact that the British Society did not split is, in the view of many members, evidence both of British hypocrisy and of British determination to compromise." (66)

In 1955 Melanie Klein published a paper entitled, Some Theoretical Conclusions Regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant. She argued that the child seeks both enviously to spoil good things in the mother, and greedily to expropriate and devour and destroy them within itself. Such greed and envy, she insisted, begins not with envy of the father's penis as symbol of self-esteem as Freud had claimed. It begins with envy of the mother's breast. She agreed with Karen Horney that both boys and girls envy the breast. (67)

Klein believed that breast-feeding played an important role in the relationship between the mother and child: "A really happy relationship between mother and child can be established only when nursing and feeding the baby is not a matter of duty but a real pleasure to the mother. If she can enjoy it thoroughly, her pleasure will be unconsciously realized by the child, and this reciprocal happiness will lead to a full emotional understanding between mother and child… it is important that a mother should recognise that her child is not a possession and that, though he is so small and utterly dependent on her help, he is a separate entity and ought to be treated as an individual human being; she must not tie him too much to herself, but assist him to grow up to independence." (68)

In 1957 Klein published Envy and Gratitude. In the book she rejected the idea of "penis envy" and instead suggested that men suffered from "breast envy". She argued: "Experience has taught me that the first object of envy is the nourishing breast, as the child feels that the breast possesses all that he desires, has an unlimited amount of milk and love but holds it for his enjoyment. This feeling increases the child's resentment and hatred, and consequently disturbs his reationship with the mother." (69)

Freudians complained that Klein's method threatened to "imprison both patient and analysist in a matriarch world". (70) Julia Segal argues that there was another major reason for the attacks she received: "Many people opposed and still oppose Klein's view that a small baby may have powerful feelings of aggression not only towards its mother in general but even towards her breast at an age when the baby is too small to have a perception of her as a whole person... Teaching about Klein for many years, I have found that the idea that the small baby has feelings of hatred and aggressiveness from the beginning is extremely unpalatable, particularly among those; who like to see the baby as the innocent victim of a cruel world. Those who have given birth to babies themselves tend in my experience to have a view more accepting of Klein's. The idea that a baby has only good, loving feelings towards its mother does not really stand up to nights pacing backwards and forwards with a baby who is screaming and will not be comforted, or who sometimes turns away from the breast and screams for no apparent reason. Clearly, there may be a reason, but it is not a simple matter of being a bad parent." (71)

Melanie Klein found this criticism difficult to take and the main result was an intense feeling of loneliness. This was the subject of her final paper. "Loneliness is not the objective situation of being deprived of external companionship. I am referring to the inner sense of loneliness - the sense of being alone regardless of external circumstances, of feeling lonely even when among friends or receiving love. This state of internal loneliness, I will suggest, is the result of a ubiquitous yearning for an unattainable perfect internal state. Such loneliness, which is experienced to some extent by everyone, springs from paranoid and depressive anxieties which are derivatives of the infant's psychotic anxieties. These anxieties exist in some measure in every individual but are excessively strong in illness; therefore loneliness is also part of illness, both of a schizophrenic and depressive nature." (72)

Melanie Klein died on 22nd September 1960. Melitta Schmideberg did not attend the funeral and instead gave a lecture in London wearing red boots. (73)

Experience has taught me that the first object of envy is the nourishing breast, as the child feels that the breast possesses all that he desires, has an unlimited amount of milk and love but holds it for his enjoyment. This feeling increases the child's resentment and hatred, and consequently disturbs his relationship with the mother...

It took years, however, for the patient to fully experience envy of the breast and its creative capacity and desire to harm it, which had been completely split. At the beginning of his analysis he had a dream that he described as "ridiculous": he was smoking a pipe, which was filled with sheets torn from one of my books. He was very surprised because "one does not smoke printed paper". I interpreted that this was an aspect of the dream of secondary importance; the main meaning was given by the fact that he had torn my work and was destroying it...

The awareness achieved in the integration process allows the patient, in the course of the analysis , to recognize the existence of potentially dangerous parts of the Self. But when love can coexist with the hatred that has been split and with envy, these feelings become bearable and diminish, as mitigated by love. The various anxious contents mentioned above also diminish, such as the danger of being overwhelmed by a part of the split and destructive Self.

The ideas published in Envy and Gratitude in 1957 created a furore…. The idea that a newborn baby could feel at all had been a stumbling block for many analysts. Others were happy with the idea that the baby could experience love towards the breast/mother but they balked at the idea of the baby hating the breast. Others found it tolerable that the baby could love and hate the breast/mother as long as the hatred was seen as a response to some kind of failure on the part of the breast/mother. The idea of envy of the penis had achieved respectability over the years. But the idea that the baby could hate and try to destroy a breast/mother felt to be good, loving and feeding was a step which turned more analysts against Klein. For others, this idea was, like the rest of Klein's work, a shock to the system but one which made sense and which opened up possibilities for understanding which had not existed in the analytical world before.

Many people opposed and still oppose Klein's view that a small baby may have powerful feelings of aggression not only towards its mother in general but even towards her breast at an age when the baby is too small to have a perception of her as a whole person. Fairbairn, Winnicott and Bowlby all took issue with her over this.

Teaching about Klein for many years, I have found that the idea that the small baby has feelings of hatred and aggressiveness from the beginning is extremely unpalatable, particularly among those; who like to see the baby as the innocent victim of a cruel world. Clearly, there may be a reason, but it is not a simple matter of being a bad parent.

I hope you will therefore also allow me to give you some advice. You do not take it enough into consideration that I am very different from you. I certainly can, with your help, retain a good and friendly relationship with you, if you allow me enough freedom, independence, and dissimilarity, and if you try to be less sensitive about several things.

Also, don't forget that through our shared profession a difficult situation is created; this could most certainly be solved if you treated me like another colleague and allowed me all the freedom of thinking and expression of opinion, as you do the others.

The very greedy individual is liable to be ambitious. The role of ambition, both in its disturbing aspects, shows itself wherever we observe human behaviour. There is no doubt that ambition gives impetus to achievement, but, if it becomes the main driving force, cooperation with others is endangered. The highly ambitious person, in spite of all his successes, always remains dissatisfied, in the same way as a greedy baby is never satisfied.

There had been little focusing on aggression in psychoanalytic theory before the 1920s, even though Freud's case histories give ample illustration of his interpreting rivalry and aggressiveness as well as unconscious sexual wishes. Certainly Klein was very much aware of destructiveness and of the anxiety it arouses, which was one of her earliest areas of research, but she also stressed, both in theory and practice, the importance of love, the patient's concern for his objects, of guilt and of reparation. Further, in her later work especially, she conveys a strong feeling of support to the patient when negative feelings were being uncovered: this is especially clear in Envy and Gratitude (1957). It is my impression that she was experienced by her patients not as an adversary but as an ally in their struggles to accept feelings they hated in themselves and were therefore trying to deny and obliterate. I think it is this attitude that gave the feeling of `balance' that Segal says was so important in her experience of Klein as an analyst. Certainly that sort of balance is something that present Kleinian analysts are consciously striving for.

Apart from seeing her patients and supervisions Mrs Klein held through the years a regular postgraduate seminar. There she shared her discoveries, discussed her ideas and we were inspired by the freshness of her new approach. As a teacher she was generous, inspiring and never stifling. She stimulated creativity of others and was ungrudging in her help and comments. She was always respectful and encouraging to our own ideas.

I like to think of this house as a cradle of new generations of analysts and new ideas. She was a rich personality with many facets. But what stands out in my memory is her warm generosity, her spontaneity, sometimes to the point of impetuosity. She had a gift for intimacy and contact and a total lack of pretensions. I like to think of it as a gift for equality. Though one could not forget her stature and she herself was aware of it, particularly in her later years, her relationship with her friends was experienced by both parties as one of equals.


(i) "The feeling of gratitude is one of the most obvious expressions of the capacity to love. Gratitude is an essential factor for establishing the relationship with the good object and for appreciating the goodness of others and one's own." Envy and Gratitude (1957)

(ii) "One of the consequences of excessive envy seems to be the precocious establishment of guilt. When the ego is not yet able to bear the guilt, it is felt as a persecution and the object that causes it becomes a persecutor." Envy and Gratitude (1957)

(iii) "A frequent defense mode is to stimulate envy in others with their success, with wealth and fortune, thus reversing the situation of those who experience envy." Envy and Gratitude (1957)

(1) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 2

(2) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 6

(3) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 3

(4) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 206

(5) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 3

(6) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 16

(7) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 4

(8) Robert D. Hinshelwood, Maxine Klein: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(9) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 5

(10) Frederick Crews, Freud: The Making of An Illusion (2017) page 621

(11) Sigmund Freud, Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1910) pages 33-37

(12) Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) pages 146-147

(13) Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) page 165

(14) Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) page 261

(15) David Stafford-Clark, What Freud Really Said (1965) page 105

(16) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 7

(17) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 31

(18) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 30

(19) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 115

(20) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 99

(21) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 62

(22) Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, On the Technique of the Analysis of Children (1920)

(23) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 93

(24) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 177

(25) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 10

(26) Robert D. Hinshelwood, Maxine Klein: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(27) Susan Quinn, A Mind of her Own: The Life of Karen Horney (1987) page 196

(28) Ernst Simmel, Zehn Jahre Berliner Psychoanalytisches Institute (1930) page 12

(29) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 123

(30) Susan Quinn, A Mind of her Own: The Life of Karen Horney (1987) pages 182-183

(31) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 99

(32) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 110

(33) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 123

(34) Alix Strachey and James Strachey, Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey (1986) page 180

(35) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 224

(36) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 184

(37) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 13

(38) Hanna Segal, Dream, Phantasy and Art (1990) page 86

(39) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 229

(40) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 199

(41) Melitta Schmideberg, British Journal of Psychiatry (January, 1971)

(42) Melitta Schmideberg, letter to Melanie Klein (August, 1934)

(43) Melitta Schmideberg, British Journal of Psychiatry (January, 1971)

(44) Melitta Schmideberg, speech at British Institute of Psycho-Analysis conference (21st November, 1934)

(45) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) pages 232-234

(46) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 216

(47) Hanna Segal, Klein (1979) page 170

(48) Ernest Jones, speech delivered to the Vienna Society (5th May, 1936)

(49) Melitta Schmideberg, After the Analysis - Some Phantasies of Patients (17th February, 1937)

(50) Joan Riviere, letter to James Strachey (19th March, 1937)

(51) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 236

(52) Virginia Woolf, diary entry (15th March, 1939)

(53) The Manchester Guardian (7th June, 1938)

(54) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 241

(55) Richard Appignanesi, Introducing Melanie Klein (2006) pages 116-7

(56) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 241-2

(57) Melanie Klein, letter to Ernest Jones (11th March 1939)

(58) Minutes of the British Psycho-Analytical Society Training Committee (24th April, 1940)

(59) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 301

(60) Melanie Klein, letter to Susan Sutherland Isaac (2nd May, 1942)

(61) Sylvia Payne, letter to Melanie Klein (24th May, 1942)

(62) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 243

(63) Edward Glover, letter to Sylvia Payne (1st February, 1944)

(64) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 351

(65) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 244

(66) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 362

(67) Melanie Klein, Some Theoretical Conclusions Regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant (1952)

(68) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 300

(69) Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude (1957) page 21

(70) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 239

(71) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) pages 93-94

(72) Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude and Other Works (1975) page 300

(73) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 257


Ambivalence was the term borrowed by Sigmund Freud to indicate the simultaneous presence of love and hate towards the same object. [4] While the roots of ambivalence can be traced back to breast-feeding in the oral stage, it was re-inforced during toilet-training as well. [5] Freudian followers such as Karl Abraham and Erik H. Erikson distinguished between an early sub-stage with no ambivalence at all towards the mother's breast, and a later oral-sadistic sub-phase where the biting activity emerges and the phenomenon of ambivalence appears for the first time. [6] The child is interested in both libidinal and aggressive gratifications, and the mother's breast is at the same time loved and hated.

While during the pre-oedipal stages ambivalent feelings are expressed in a dyadic relationship between the mother and the child, during the oedipal conflict ambivalence is experienced for the first time within a triangular context which involves the child, the mother and the father. In this stage, both the boy and the girl develop negative feelings of jealousy, hostility and rivalry toward the parent of the same sex, but with different mechanisms for the two sexes. The boy's attachment to his mother becomes stronger, and he starts developing negative feelings of rivalry and hostility toward the father. The boy wishes to destroy the father so that he can become his mother's unique love object. On the other hand, the girl starts a love relationship with her father. The mother is seen by the girl as a competitor for the father's love and so the girl starts feeling hostility and jealousy towards her. The negative feelings which arise in this phase coexist with love and affection toward the parent of the same sex and result in an ambivalence which is expressed in feelings, behavior and fantasies. [7] The negative feelings are a source of anxiety for the child who is afraid that the parent of the same sex would take revenge on him/her. In order to lessen the anxiety, the child activates the defense mechanism of identification, and identifies with the parent of the same sex. This process leads to the formation of the Super-Ego.

According to Freud, ambivalence is the precondition for melancholia, together with loss of a loved object, oral regression and discharge of the aggression toward the self. In this condition, the ambivalently loved object is introjected, and the libido is withdrawn into the self in order to establish identification with the loved object. [8] The object loss then turns into an ego loss and the conflict between the Ego and the Super-Ego becomes manifested. The same ambivalence occurs in the obsessional neurosis, but there it remains related to the outside object.

The object relations theory of Melanie Klein pivoted around the importance of love and hate, concern for and destruction of others, from infancy onwards. [9] Klein stressed the importance of inborn aggression as a reflection of the death drive and talked about the battle of love and hatred throughout the life span. As life begins, the first object for the infant to relate with the external world is the mother. It is there that both good and bad aspects of the self are split and projected as love and hatred to the mother and the others around her later on: as analyst, she would find herself split similarly into a “nice” and a “bad” Mrs Klein. [10]

During the paranoid-schizoid position, the infant sees objects around it either as good or bad, according to his/her experiences with them. They are felt to be loving and good when the infant's wishes are gratified and happy feelings prevail. On the other hand, objects are seen as bad when the infant's wishes are not met adequately and frustration prevails. In the child's world there is not yet a distinction between fantasy and reality loving and hating experiences towards the good and bad objects are believed to have an actual impact on the surrounding objects. Therefore, the infant must keep these loving and hating emotions as distinct as possible, because of the paranoid anxiety that the destructive force of the bad object will destroy the loving object from which the infant gains refuge against the bad objects. The mother must be either good or bad and the feeling experienced is either love or hate.

Emotions become integrated as a part of the development process. As the infant's potential to tolerate ambivalent feelings with the depressive position, the infant starts forming a perception of the objects around it as both good and bad, thus tolerating the coexistence of these two opposite feelings for the same object where experience had previously been either idealised or dismissed as bad, the good object can be accepted as frustrating without losing its acceptable status. [11] When this takes place, the previous paranoid anxiety (that the bad object will destroy everything) transforms into a depressive anxiety this is the intense fear that the child's own destructiveness (hate) will damage the beloved others. Subsequently, for the coexistence of love and hate to be attainable, the child must believe in her ability to contain hate, without letting it destroy the loving objects. He/she must believe in the prevalence of the loving feelings over his/her aggressiveness. Since this ambivalent state is hard to preserve, under difficult circumstances it is lost, and the person returns to the previous manner keeping love and hate distinct for a period of time until he/she is able to regain the capacity for ambivalence.

See also The Life and Death Instincts in Kleinian Object Relations Theory. [12]

Ian Dishart Suttie (1898-1935) wrote the book The Origins of Love and Hate, which was first published in 1935, a few days after his death. He was born in Glasgow and was the third of four children. His father was a general practitioner, and Ian Suttie and both of his brothers and his sister became doctors as well. He qualified from Glasgow University in 1914. After a year he went into psychiatry.

Although his work has been out of print in England for some years, it is still relevant today. [ dubious – discuss ] It has been often cited and makes a contribution towards understanding the more difficult aspects of family relationships and friendships. [ citation needed ] He can be seen as one of the first significant object relations theorists and his ideas anticipated the concepts put forward by modern self psychologists.

Although Ian Suttie was working within the tradition set by Freud, there were a lot of concepts of Freud's theory he disagreed with. First of all, Suttie saw sociability, the craving for companionship, the need to love and be loved, to exchange and to participate, to be as primary as sexuality itself. And in contrast with Freud he didn't see sociability and love simply as a derivative from sexuality. Secondly, Ian Suttie explained anxiety and neurotic maladjustment, as a reaction on the failure of finding a response for this sociability when primary social love and tenderness fails to find the response it seeks, the arisen frustration will produce a kind of separation anxiety. This view is more clearly illustrated by a piece of writing of Suttie himself: ‘Instead of an armament of instincts, latent or otherwise, the child is born with a simple attachment-to-mother who is the sole source of food and protection… the need for a mother is primarily presented to the child mind as a need for company and as a discomfort in isolation’.

Ian Suttie saw the infant as striving from the first to relate to his mother, and future mental health would depend on the success or failure of this first relationship (object relations). Another advocate of the object relations paradigm is Melanie Klein. Object relations was in contrast with Freud's psychoanalysis. The advocates of this object relations paradigm all, in exception of Melanie Klein, held the opinion that most differences in individual development that are of importance for mental health could be traced to differences in the way children were treated by their parents or to the loss or separation of parent-figures. In the explanation of the love and hate relationship by Ian Suttie, the focus, not surprisingly, lies in relations and the social environment. According to Suttie, Freud saw love and hate as two distinct instincts. Hate had to be overcome with love, and because both terms are seen as two different instincts, this means repression. In Suttie's view however, this is incompatible with the other Freudian view that life is a struggle to attain peace by the release of the impulse. These inconsistencies would be caused by leaving out the social situations and motives. Suttie saw hate as the frustration aspect of love. “The greater the love, the greater the hate or jealousy caused by its frustration and the greater the ambivalence or guilt that may arise in relation to it.” Hate has to be overcome with love by the child removing the cause of the anxiety and hate by restoring harmonious relationships. The feeling of anxiety and hate can then change back into the feeling of love and security. This counts for the situation between mother and child and later for following relationships.

In Suttie's view, the beginning of the relationship between mother and child is a happy and symbiotic one as well. This happy symbiotic relationship between mother and baby can be disrupted by for example a second baby or the mother returning to work. This makes the infant feel irritable, insecure and anxious. This would be the start of the feeling of ambivalence: feelings of love and hate towards the mother. The child attempts to remove the cause of the anxiety and hate to restore the relationship (retransforming). This retransforming is necessary, because hate of a loved object (ambivalence) is intolerable.

The newborn baby is not able to distinguish the self from others and the relationship with the mother is symbiotic, with the two individuals forming a unique object. In this period, the child generates two different images of the mother. On one hand there is the loving mother, whose image derives from experiences of love and satisfaction in the relationship with her. On the other hand, there is the bad mother, whose image derives from frustrating and upsetting experiences in the relationship. Since the child at this stage is unable to distinguish the self from the other, those two opposite images are often fused and confused, rather than distinguished. At about six months of age, the child becomes able to distinguish the self from the others. He now understands that his mother can be both gratifying and frustrating, and he starts experiencing himself as being able to feel both love and anger. This ambivalence results in a vacillation between attitudes of passive dependency on the omnipotent mother and aggressive strivings for self expansion and control over the love object. The passive-submissive and active-aggressive behaviour of the child during the pre-oedipal and the early oedipal period is determined by his ambivalent emotional fluctuations between loving and trusting admirations of his parents and disappointed depreciation of the loved objects. The ego can use this ambivalence conflicts to distinguish between the self and the object. At the beginning, the child tends to turn aggression toward the frustrating objects and libido towards the self. Hence, frustration, demands and restrictions imposed by parents within normal bounds, reinforce the process of discovery and distinction of the object and the self. When early experiences of severe disappointment and abandonment have prevented the building up of un-ambivalent object relations and stable identifications and weakened the child's self-esteem, they may result in ambivalence conflict in adulthood, which in turn causes depressive states.


The conflict and process theory of Melanie Klein

This article depicts the theory of Melanie Klein in both its conflict and process dimensions. In addition, it outlines Klein's strategic place in psychoanalytic history and in psychoanalytic theory formation. Her major contributions are seen in light of their clinical imperatives, and aspects of her metapsychology that seem negligible are differentiated from these clinical imperatives. Klein's role as a dialectical fulcrum between drive and object relations theories is explicated. Within the conflict theory, drive derivatives of sex and aggression are reformulated as object-related passions of love and hate. The process dimensions of Klein's theory are outlined in terms of dialectical increments of depressive position process as it alternates with regressive paranoid-schizoid-position mental phenomenology. The mourning process as a developmental process is particularly high-lighted in terms of self-integrative progression within the working through of the depressive position.


Melanie Klein

Child psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, c. 1952. This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

Born in Vienna in 1882 into an assimilated Jewish family, Melanie Klein was pioneer in the field of child psychoanalysis. Her early life was marked by tragedy, including the deaths of her father and two of her siblings. In 1903, she married Arthur Klein, a chemical engineer, and they had three children. They moved to Budapest in 1910, where Klein, entered into analysis with Sándor Ferenczi, a colleague of Sigmund Freud, who encouraged her to become a child analyst. Separating from her husband, she moved to Berlin in 1921 and entered analysis with Karl Abraham. She left Berlin for London in 1926 where she achieved success and recognition, although the arrival of Anna Freud in 1939 challenged her position. Klein died in London in 1960.

Melanie Klein made an original and significant contribution to twentieth-century psychoanalysis through a collection of papers published between 1921 and 1963. She was a pioneer of child psychoanalysis, the inventor of the “play technique” that enables children to express themselves through the use of toys, the founder of the British “object relations” school of psychoanalysis that understands psyche as developing in relation to external objects, and an early theoretician of emotions and their significance in human development. She was the first analyst to focus on the role of the mother in the early development of the infant and a reformer of the psychoanalysis of individuals with psychotic and borderline conditions.

A photograph of Melanie Klein in 1890. Klein would go on to be a pioneer in child psychology. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Klein was born on March 30, 1882, in Vienna, the fourth and youngest child of Moriz Reizes (1828–1900), a doctor from Lemberg, Galicia, and his wife, Libussa Deutsch Reizes (1852–1914), a well-educated woman from a Slovakian Jewish family twenty-four years his junior. Moriz Reizes came from an orthodox Jewish background, and in keeping with his parents’ wishes, initially devoted his life to Lit. "teaching," "study," or "learning." A compilation of the commentary and discussions of the amora'im on the Mishnah. When not specified, "Talmud" refers to the Babylonian Talmud. Talmudic study. He later rebelled and trained to be a doctor, choosing science over religion in a move that was to influence his daughter. She aspired to study medicine with a specialty in psychiatry and adopted her father’s preference for scientific rationality over religious dogma. Thus, in her first published work, Klein argued that parents should explain worldly realities, including those of sexual reproduction, to the young child rather than use religious coercion as a method of discipline.

Moriz Reizes’s parents deeply disapproved of his career move, which they regarded as a betrayal of his religious roots. When he was sitting for his medical exams, his mother prayed for him to fail. This painful start to his professional life was followed by further disappointments. He struggled to make his way as a doctor, serving as a medical consultant in a music hall, and was forced to take on dental work to supplement his income. Libussa was obliged to keep a shop where she sold plants and reptiles to help with the family’s economic difficulties. The stress experienced by the family compounded a tragic bereavement in 1886. Melanie was four years old when her eight-year-old sister Sidonie died from scrofula, a form of tuberculosis. The experience of loss and mourning re-surfaced in Klein’s life several times and became a central theme in her theory of development.

Klein’s feelings about Judaism were ambivalent. In her autobiography, she expressed admiration for her father’s independent streak and disdain for the Yiddish-speaking members of her family. Religion did not play a significant role in her family life, though she recalled celebrating A seven-day festival to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt (eight days outside Israel) beginning on the 15 th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Also called the "Festival of Ma zz ot" the "Festival of Spring" Pesa h . Passover and the Day of Atonement and feeling marginalized as a Jew in Catholic Vienna. After her marriage, she and her husband converted to Christianity, joining the Unitarian Church because they felt more comfortable with its rejection of the dogma of the Holy Trinity, and had all of their children baptized. Although Klein proclaimed to have no religious beliefs, she affirmed her Jewish origins and felt, like Sigmund Freud, that her strength to pursue her scientific work in the face of opposition derived in part from her minority status as a Jew.

In 1900, when Klein was eighteen, her father died of pneumonia. Two years later, her 25-year-old brother Emanuel, to whom she was especially close, died from heart failure, throwing the family into further sadness and hardship. Rather than realizing her wish for medical training, she settled for the more realistic option of marriage. In 1903, a year after her brother’s death, she married Arthur Klein, a second cousin on her mother’s side, a chemical engineer with whom she had three children, Melitta [Schmideberg] in 1904, Hans in 1907, and Erich [Eric Clyne] in 1914.

The family settled in Rosenberg, a small town in Hungary, where Arthur’s father managed a bank and served as a mayor and senator. However, circumstances soon placed strains on the relationship, and the marriage was unhappy. Arthur needed to be relocated as part of his career, and the couple was obliged to move several times. During her young married life, Klein led a rootless, socially isolated existence in small, provincial places, which took its toll in the form of depression. Her marriage was also not developing into the kind of close, sustaining bond that she longed for.

Things took a turn for the better in 1910 when the Kleins moved to the much more cosmopolitan Budapest, and Klein sought help for her demoralized state. Through his business dealings, Arthur met the Ferenczi family, and around 1912 Melanie entered analysis with Sándor Ferenczi (1873–1933), a lively and insightful adherent of Freud. In the year 1914, the same year that her son Erich was born, Klein’s mother died, intensifying her depression. Klein knew nothing about psychoanalysis, but the process exerted an immediate fascination on her powerful but starved intellect. She supplemented her sessions with reading, particularly Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams.

Himself interested in the potential that psychoanalysis held for the treatment of children, Ferenczi tried to promote a similar interest in his women patients, and Klein felt particularly encouraged by him. In 1919 she wrote up the events of a four-month period in the life of her five-year-old son Erich, when he became interested in the biological origins of life, and she could enlighten him along Freudian psychoanalytic concepts. Klein presented the paper to the Budapest Psychoanalytic Society as a prelude to becoming a member. Comments on the paper led her to continue her work with Erich, pursuing a more structured analysis which already drew on his use of play to interpret his mental states. This was published in 1921 as the case study of “Fritz” and launched her career as a child psychoanalyst.

Rising antisemitism and political turmoil in postwar Budapest weakened the Hungarian psychoanalytic movement and made Budapest less hospitable for Jews. Arthur left for Sweden around 1919, and Melanie and her three children went to stay with her in-laws. In 1921, Klein moved to Berlin, a center of culture and psychoanalysis, with her son Erich. She joined the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society in 1922, the same year that Anna Freud became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. While in Berlin, Klein entered her second psychoanalysis with Karl Abraham (1877–1925), head of the Berlin Psychoanalytical Society, who would become her mentor and protector. She began to treat children, provided them with toys, and argued that, like Freud’s dreams, children’s play was a “royal road to the unconscious.” The Berlin Society was taken aback by her work, especially as it portrayed the child in a new and unusual light.

Klein gave her child patients the same privacy and freedom that was normally granted to adults. They were seen away from their parents and encouraged to play freely without instructions or exhortations. She then interpreted the unconscious experience conveyed in the play. It was the first time that children were provided with a private space of this kind, and her little patients were able to make use of it and spontaneously reveal their inner selves. Klein discovered that given such conditions, her child-patients often expressed extreme feelings of anxiety and aggression. She concluded that young children are at the mercy of acute emotional and instinctual fluctuations and that they rely on adults for the regulation of their emotional states.

This raw picture of childhood unsettled the Berlin psychoanalysts, but Karl Abraham protected Klein’s situation by virtue of his position. However, Abraham died unexpectedly after a brief illness in 1925 shortly after Klein divorced Arthur, and her position in Berlin became difficult, with overt opposition to her work. By this stage, she had become known in London and was invited by Ernest Jones to move there in 1926.

In London, Klein initially found a very congenial professional climate. She developed innovative concepts based on her experience with children, and these began to assume the outlines of a new theory. At its heart was a vision of the infant as an innately social being, born with a capacity to relate by seeking and responding to human contact. The infant is able to “recognize” the mother, but this recognition is initially partial and piecemeal, centered on experiences of fulfillment or frustration at the mother’s feeding breast. The infant reacts powerfully to satisfaction and frustration, responding to worldly situations with the natural emotional equipment of love and hate.

Klein argued that the most disturbing emotion for the infant is anxiety, which is aroused by frustration and undermines security. The infant thus develops primitive defense mechanisms, which are deployed until the maturation process develops the mind’s ability to integrate different experiences of the mother and accommodate her as a more fully understood, “whole” being. Klein ultimately designated this process as a shift from a “paranoid-schizoid position” to a “depressive position.” She believed that the dual forces of love and hate continue to war in the human heart throughout development. A happy individual learns to reconcile these forces by subsuming the hated flaws and frustrating absences of the mother in an overall love for her. When the mother is internalized in the psyche as a whole “good object,” the foundation for security is laid, reconciling an imperfect mother and an imperfect world. Thus a balanced adult is able to manage worldly frustrations without becoming regularly overwhelmed by aggression and anxiety.

The years between 1926 through 1938 were Klein’s most productive. In 1927, she was elected a member of the British Psychoanalytic Society, and in 1932, she published her first major theoretical work, The Psycho-Analysis of Children. However, she also suffered a series of emotional setbacks. In 1933, her daughter Melitta, also a psychoanalyst, began to attack her ideas, and Klein’s Berlin lover, Chezkel Zvi Kloetzel, left for Palestine. In 1934, her son Hans died in a hiking accident in the Tatra Mountains. Klein was too devastated to attend the funeral.

Towards the 1940s, Klein’s professional situation in the British Psychoanalytic Society deteriorated. After Germany’s invasion of Austria in 1938, Freud and his daughter Anna fled Europe and came to settle in London, where Jewish refugees encountered British antisemitism and were designated enemy aliens. Tensions and hostility between Jewish refugees and those already in the United Kingdom ensued. Trained as a teacher and more didactic in her approach, Anna Freud had already developed her own brand of child psychoanalysis, which seemed more in line with Freud’s thinking than Klein’s. Both of their theories had relevance beyond child psychoanalysis and implications for psychoanalysis as a whole. In London, Anna Freud questioned the status of Klein’s ideas, and the tension between them increased.

This tension culminated in the “Extraordinary Meetings” and the “Controversial Discussions,” a series of heated exchanges between Kleinians and Freudians between 1942 and 1944. Klein and her adherents were requested to make presentations of their key ideas to the British Psychoanalytic Society in its scientific meetings, so that these could be debated. One of the painful features of this period for Klein was that her daughter joined the non-Kleinian camp in a public display of opposition. Their personal relationship was also at an end. The controversial discussions were extensive, yet no theoretical conclusions could be unanimously reached. A compromise resulted in the division of the British Psychoanalytic Society into three schools of thought: Freudian, Kleinian, and Independent.

After the controversial discussions, Klein’s position stabilized, and up to the time of her death she continued to develop her ideas. She focused on the earliest months of life and also wrote her most controversial paper, in which she argued that envy is a destructive emotion, which is an inevitable feature of human development and relationships. Towards the end of her life, she tried to rekindle her Jewish faith and called for a rabbi, but then changed her mind, attributing it to a sentimental whim.

Klein died in London on September 22,1960, at the age of 78 of colon cancer and anemia she was surrounded to the end by a small but loyal collegial group. By this time, she had influenced some of the most significant thinkers on early development including Donald Winnicott (1896–1971), John Bowlby (1907–1990), and Wilfred Bion (1897–1979). Her model of child psychoanalysis proved to be of lasting value. Her ideas on anxieties and defenses and the theoretical concepts that she developed on their basis influenced significant developments in twentieth-century psychoanalytic technique.

The Psycho-Analysis of Children. London: Hogarth Press, 1932.

Love, Guilt and Reparation and other works 1921-1945. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1975.

Envy and Gratitude and other works, 1946-1963. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. 1975.

Narrative of a Child Analysis. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1961.

Bocossa, Julia, Catalina Bronstein, Claire Pajaczkowsky, eds. The New Klein—Lacan Dialogues. London: Routledge, 2015.

Britzman, Deborah. After Education: Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and Psychoanalytic Histories of Learning. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.

Britzman, Deborah. Melanie Klein: Early Analysis, Play, and the Question of Freedom. London: Springer, 2016.

Grosskurth, Phyllis. Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work. New York: Aronson, 1986.

Hinshelwood, R.D. A Dictionary of Kleinian Thought. London: Free Association Books, 1989.

King, Pearl and Riccardo Steiner, eds. The Freud-Klein Controversies 1941–45. London and New York: Routledge, 1991.

Kristeva, Julia. Melanie Klein. Trans. by Ross Guberman. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

Likierman, Meira. Melanie Klein: Her Work in Context. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2001.

Melanie Klein Trust. https://melanie-klein-trust.org.uk/

Segal, Julia. Melanie Klein, second edition. London: SAGE Publications, 2004.

Spillius, Elizabeth Bott. Melanie Klein Today. Vols. I & II, London: Routledge, 1988.


Melanie Klein - History

Melanie Klein took psychoanalytic thinking in a new direction by recognising the importance of our earliest childhood experiences in the formation of our adult emotional world.

Extending and developing Sigmund Freud’s ideas, Klein drew on her analysis of children’s play to formulate new concepts such as the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position. Radical and controversial at the time, her theories remain at the core of an evolving and flourishing body of Kleinian thought.

Find out more about the main concepts developed by Klein, and by new generations of psychoanalysts who have been inspired by her ideas.

Definitions are reproduced from The New Dictionary of Kleinian Thought by Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Jane Milton, Penelope Garvey, Cyril Couve and Deborah Steiner (Routledge, 2011).

The images below are of drawings, paintings and paper cut-outs created by Klein’s child patients during analysis with her. They are reproduced courtesy of the Wellcome Library, which hosts the Klein archive.

Paranoid-schizoid position

A universal mental state that exists from birth, characterised by terrifying anxieties about one’s own survival.

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Oedipus complex

Klein thought the Oedipus complex emerged at a much younger age than Freud had discovered.

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Depressive position

A developmental phase characterised by loss, mourning and concern for another person.

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Projective identification

Projective identification is an unconscious process in which aspects of the self are split off and attributed to an external object.

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Superego

Superego is an internal authority that makes judgements and exerts moral authority.

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The angry feeling that another person possesses and enjoys something desirable, often accompanied by an impulse to take it away or spoil it.

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Pathological organisations

Pathological organisations are a group of extremely unyielding and tightly knit defences.

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Reparation

Reparation is integral to the depressive position and is grounded in love and respect for the other, such that one tries to make amends for one’s own destructiveness.

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Internal objects

Internal objects are the inner mental and emotional experiences of a person or relationship that exists in one’s own external world.

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Symbol formation

Symbol formation is the development of symbols to represent mental and emotional experiences.

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Unconscious phantasy

Unconscious phantasies are ubiquitous and underlie all emotional and mental life.

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Kleinian technique

Klein’s discoveries in the unconscious both evolved from and were influenced by her psychoanalytic technique.


Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein was a controversial yet highly influential and powerful member of the British Psychoanalytical Society for over thirty years.

Her theories about the development of a child's inner world transformed psychoanalysis and have had a deep and far-reaching impact. Although profoundly rooted in Sigmund Freud's thinking, Melanie Klein asserted that all human beings relate to others from birth and, consequently the transference in psychoanalytic treatment is always alive and active.

Born the fourth and last child to Jewish parents in Vienna, her elder sister died when Klein was four, and her elder brother died when she was twenty. At the age of twenty- one, after giving up on her ambitions to become a doctor, she married her brother's friend, Arthur Klein. They went on to have three children, but the marriage was unhappy and Klein became very depressed. The Klein family moved around Central Europe for work and it was in Budapest that Klein had a period of psychoanalytic treatment with Sándor Ferenzi which sparked what would become her lifelong passionate interest in psychoanalysis and Freud's ideas. The Kleins moved to Berlin in 1921 and Melanie Klein, by then aged thirty-eight, joined the nascent Berlin Psychoanalytical Society. With the encouragement and interest of Karl Abraham, she began to analyse young children. She wrote case notes on 'Fritz', 6 year old 'Erna', 13 year old 'Felix', 3 year old 'Peter', 2 year old 'Rita', 9 year old ‘Greta', 3.5 year old 'Trude', and 4 year old 'Ruth'. These notes formed the basis of her subsequent rich clinical and theoretical thinking and of her first major publication some years later, 'The Psychoanalysis of Children' (1932).

In her work with children, Klein noticed that their play and the toys they used carried important symbolic meaning for them, and that this could be analysed much in the same way as dreams could be analysed in adults. Unlike the psychoanalytically- informed approach to the education and socialisation of children that was used in the early 1920s in Vienna by Anna Freud and Hermine Hug-Helmuth, in Moscow by Sabina Spielrein and Vera Schmidt and at the Maltings House School in Cambridge by Susan Isaacs, Klein in Berlin offered her young patients something far closer to adult psychoanalysis. She saw them at set times, just like in adult analysis, and she became more and focused on their fears and anxieties as expressed in their play, and on the defences they used against them. This radically different, pioneering work with children was not well received in Berlin, and she was treated with some suspicion and disdain. Alix and James Strachey however, became fascinated with her work and, in 1925, invited her to visit London, where the lectures she gave were warmly received.

Loss and Mourning: The Depressive Position

Klein, like Alix Strachey, had psychoanalytic treatment with Karl Abraham in Berlin, though this was sadly brought to an end after only nine months due to Abraham's illness and death at the end of 1925. After this loss Klein decided to move to London, where she would spend the rest of her life working as a psychoanalyst and developing her highly original work. Over the course of only a few years she became a central figure in the world of psychoanalysis and in the British Society. However, her early theoretical papers in London, including ''Early Stages of the Oedipus Complex' (1928), and 'The Importance of Symbol formation' (1930), continued to cause controversy in the psychoanalytic world of Central Europe. Undeterred by criticism or opposition, Klein's curiosity in the inner world of her adult and child patients remained undiminished. By anchoring her theoretical ideas so firmly in her clinical experience, Klein's work demonstrated that her psychoanalytic technique of understanding and interpreting anxieties, especially fear linked with aggressive impulses, could free up the patient and enable further exploration of their inner worlds.

Although Klein's son, Erich, and her daughter, Melitta, had joined her in London it was her eldest son, Hans' death in the Alps in 1934, aged twenty-seven, that was another in a string of personal tragedies for Klein. As she grieved for her son, she continued to work, producing two major papers on what she called the ‘depressive position’: 'A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States' (1935), and, 'Mourning and its relation to Manic-Depressive States' (1940). In these papers Klein showed how the child becomes aware that they do not control their world but, instead, the child needs and depends on loving figures . However, in the depressive position, the child feels they have attacked and destroyed aspects of these much needed figures which causes painful anguish and, in favourable circumstances, a wish to restore and protect these loving objects develops. The hallmark of development in the depressive position is a capacity for concern and a wish to make ‘reparation’, for damage done. The upheaval of the Second World War brought yet more change to Klein's world. She moved to Pitlochry in Scotland for a short time, where she treated ten-year-old 'Richard'. The account of his analysis is written up as, 'The Narrative of a Child Analysis' (1961) and this remains a vivid portrayal of her understanding of 'Richard's' fears and anxieties at a turbulent moment in history.

Controversy and Development: The Paranoid- Schizoid Position

Klein was soon to be involved in her own turbulent controversy with Anna Freud and the other Viennese analysts who had escaped to England from Nazi Europe and, like her, been welcomed by the British Psychoanalytical Society. This took place against the backdrop of Klein’s difficult relationship with and estrangement from her daughter Melitta, now also an analyst in the British Psychoanalytical Society. Klein and her closest colleagues at the time – Joan Rivière, Susan Isaacs and Paula Heimann – wrote papers demonstrating that her ideas were 'psychoanalytic'. The most renowned of these papers is Susan Isaacs’, 'The Nature and Function of Phantasy' (1943), which broadens and deepens Freud's original use of the term to cover all mental activity and underlying dreams, symptoms, play, thought and patterns of defence. In Klein’s view, phantasies interact reciprocally with experience in the world, to form the developing emotional and intellectual characteristics of each individual.

In 1946 Klein published 'Notes on some schizoid mechanisms'. Seventy years later, this remains a hugely important work, and is currently the most cited paper on the psychoanalytic publishing website, PEP-WEB. In this paper Klein describes the primitive defence of ‘splitting’ in response to overwhelming anxiety, and delineates the ‘paranoid-schizoid position’, a universal mental state, from which the depressive position can emerge. This groundbreaking paper first mentions the concept of projective identification which will become a much used and appreciated concept for future generations of psychoanalysts. Klein's understanding of primitive mental states, enabled the treatment of psychotic patients and others who, until then, had not previously been thought suitable for analysis.

In the 1940s and 50s a group of brilliant young analysts grew around Klein, inspired by her work. They all went on to make their own very significant contributions to psychoanalysis Wilfred Bion (1897-1979), Herbert Rosenfeld (1910-1986), Hanna Segal (1918-2011) being of particular note. In 1952 a collection of papers, 'New Directions in Psychoanalysis', was published, based on a special issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis celebrating Melanie Klein's 70th birthday. The proceeds from this publication enabled her to fund a Trust with the aim of promoting research and training based on her ideas.

Melanie Klein’s final paper, 'On the sense of loneliness', was published three years after her death, and remains a moving, mature integration of her work and an important study of the human condition. Her legacy, much as her life, remains controversial. Despite the obstacles Klein faced, being a woman born at the height of the Austro-Hungarian empire, with no formal education and who suffered much personal tragedy, she pushed at the boundaries of psychoanalysis. She dared to make her own observations of the psychoanalytic encounter, to have original ideas about the formation of the internal world, and, most radical of all, she put the passions and experiences of the infant at the core of our understanding of human development.

For further details The Melanie Klein Trust website (www.melanie-klein-trust.org.uk) Bibliography

The Writings of Melanie Klein
Volume 1 'Love, Guilt and Reparation and other works' 1921-45
Volume 2 'The Psycho - Analysis of Children'
Volume 3 'Envy and Gratitude and other works' 1946-63
Volume 4 ' Narrative of a Child Analysis'


Discussion

Lacan's view was that 'unconscious is the discourse of Other' (in that the child views itself as an other), where the subject is inserted into a field of differences. For Klein, the unconscious is a dynamic internal realm, created by projection and introjection.

For Klein, normal development mainly involves managing the opposing inner forces of love and hate, preservation and destruction. She replaces Freud's stages of development with descriptions of positions that are a specific configuration of object relations, anxieties and defenses which persist throughout life.

Klein saw the baby as relating to the world via its physical relationship with the world, with the initial importance of its mother, initially as a set of part-objects.

She dates the super-ego as starting in the oral phase.

Under the sway of phantasy life and of conflicting emotions, the child at every stage of libidinal organization introjects his objects — primarily his parents — and builds up the super-ego from these elements. All the factors which have a bearing on his object relations play a part from the beginning in the build-up of the super-ego.

'The first introjected object, the mother's breast, forms the basis of the super-ego.

She closely linked the external physical and internal worlds, thus explaining much of the later linkages between emotional states and bodily symptoms.

She has been criticized for placing excessive emphasis on inner systems and later object-relations theorists (eg. Winnicott) put more emphasis on the role of the external world in creating a psychologically healthy child.

A summary of some of Klein's key points is as follows:

  • The child's inner world has exaggerated, idealized and persecutory objects are phantasies, not simple representations of experiences with parents.
  • The very young infant's inner world is primarily defensive, protecting the self from the discomfort of pain, frustration, etc.
  • The key defensive psychic state is the paranoid-schizoid position, based on part-object relationship (eg. good and bad object differentiation), splitting, projection and introjection.
  • As the child grows, it realizes that good and bad experiences come from the same person, as well as differences between internal and external objects. This leads to guilty feeling and fear of rejection in the depressive position. This eventually leads to a more integrated person. Projective identification is an essential mechanism in both paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions (note that 'position' is used rather than 'stage' as these are not necessarily completely sequential.

Foreground for Klein was the interaction of unconscious feelings -- which was background for Freud, who used more scientific and metaphoric explanations.

Note that psychoanalysis (in all its schools of thought) has little to say about identity in the sense of being a stable self, considering the matter to be too complex and variable.

The goal of psychoanalysis is to help people live more fully in the present by escaping from the anchors and distortions of the past.


Melanie Klein


Melanie Klein,
elaborating and developing Sigmund Freud’s theory in Mourning and Melancholy where he develops his conception of the relationship between dreaming and art, finds a direct connection between what she classifies as the depressive position and the artist’s ability to form symbols. Symbolization is the basis of all those skills by which we relate to the world around us. Psychological understanding of the process of symbolization is integral to our understanding of the process of creativity and representation. According to Kleinian psychology our memories tell us that in childhood an illusion of a state of union exists between the child and his/her outside world. When consciousness develops in the individual a sense of the past also develops, and with it a concomitant sense of loss. In our attempt to reintegrate our sense of self with the outside world, we develop a process of substitution for the sense of loss. We can no longer relive the past, other than in memory, which itself is triggered by an association with some thing which symbolizes what is lost. (See notions of the uncanny as well.) In psychological terms a symbol "fuses" with the lost object or even the lost sense of one’s self, making up what we might refer to as a shadow of oneself. As we encounter new unfamiliar objects, in our attempt to find the familiar in the unfamiliar we experience a momentary lapse in our sense of the boundaries of self. And so, just as quickly we name those familiar objects, we paint them or develop symbols for them to "understand them" we incorporate them into our own sphere, our own new expanded sense of self. Language or words become symbols for people (objects) out there. Our thirst for knowledge, our urge to know is influenced by the Oedipal situation as described by Klein. We create for ourselves our own internal sense of a phantasy world, a theatre within as it were.

Psychologically, our sense of ourselves, even our body is related to both time and space. Recently Dr. Ronald Britton has commented on the mental space of phantasy–that area which is composed of images and figures which one can never really inhabit–as the "other room." Memory holds the key to the door of this other room. Phantasy stems from an inner sense of loss or what Kleinians call the depressive position. Integration of the depressive poistion occurs when love and hate are realized as being against a singular object, not parts or different objects. The self must accept guilt about damage done to that object along with the self’s feqar of losing possession of it. These feelings are acompanied by a strong desire to make reparation. Britton and Hanna Segal extend Klein’s and Bion’s ideas about the Oedipal situation to include a discussion of it as triangular space. I quote it here:

The acknowledgement by the child of the parents’ relationship with each other unites his psychic world, limiting it to one world shared with his two parents, in which different object relationships can exist. The closure of the Oedipal triangle by the recognition of the link joing the parents provides a limiting boundary for the internal world. It creates what I call "triangular space", i.e., a space bounded by the three persons of the Oedipal situation and their potential relationships. quoted from Britton 55 The Oedipus Complex Today Britton and others.

Melanie Klein’s development of Sigmund Freud’s conception of a continuing state of Oedipal dynamics which exists in all relationships is helpful in explaining creativity in poetry, drama, and the visual arts. Klein’s fundamental observation is that we fear more than anything else the destructive forces operating inside us against ourselves, and death represents complete disintegration, the ultimate fear. Klein’s discussion of symbolization, integral to our understanding of creative process and representation and so important to theatricality, is connected to what she calls the depressive position. An illusion of unmediated union once existed between the child and his/her outside world (parents) however, when consciousness developed, an acute feeling of loss and guilt ensued. To reintegrate a sense of self with the outside world, the individual developed a pattern of substitution for this sense of loss. Substitution is phantasy and the symbol, disguised feelings or things. Klein’s understanding of the operation of unconscious phantasies in children’s mind paved the way for analysts to explore the internal world. Interpretation of these phantasies determine transference. Psychoanalysts see transference or projection of hostile feelings originally toward oneself the result of incestuous attraction.

Some direct quotations:

"The Theory of Intellectual Inhabition"

–In those cases in which the significance of reality and real objects as reflections of the dread internal world and images has retained its preponderance, the stimuli from the external world may be felt to be nearly as alarming as the phantasied domination of the internalized objects, which have taken possession of all intuitive and to whom the ego feels compulsively bound to surrender the execution of all activities and intellectual operations, together of course with the responsiblity for them (263)

"The Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States" in Selected Melanie Klein
–. . . a suicide is directed against the introjected object. But, while in committing suicide the ego intends to murder its bad objects, in my view at the same time it also always aims at saving its loved objects, internal or external. To put it shortly: in some cases the phantasies underlying suicide aim at preserving the internalized good objects and that part of the ego which is identified with good objects, and also at destroying the other part of the ego which is identified with the bad objects and the id. Thus the ego is enabled to become united with its loved objects. In other cases, suicide seems to be determined by the same type of phantasies, but here they relate to the external world and real objects, partly as substitutes for the internalized one. As already, stated, the subject hates not only his ‘bad objects, but his id as well and that vehemently. In committing suicide, his purpose may be to make a clean breach in his relation tot he outside world because he desires to rid some real object–or the ‘good’ object which that whole world represents and which the ego is identified with–of himself, or of that part of the ego which is identified with his bad objects and his id. (131)

"Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict"
—-One way in which the little girl’s development is greatly handicapped is the following. Whilst the boy does in reality possess the penis, in respect of which he enters into rivalry with the father, the little girl has only the unsatisfied desire for motherhood, and of this, too, she has but a dim and uncertain, though a very intense, awareness.
It is not merely this uncertainlty which disturbs her hope of future motherhood. It is weakened far more by anxiety and sense of guilt, and these may seriously and permanently damage the maternal capacity of a woman. Because of the destructive tendencies once directed by her against the mother’s body (or certain organs in it) and against the children in the womb, the girl anticipates retribution in the form of destruction of her own capacity for motherhood or of the organs connected with this function and of her own children. Here we have also one root of the constant concern of women for their personal beauty, for they dread that this too will be destroyed by the mother. At the bottom of the impulse to deck and beaufify themselves there is always the motive of restoring damaged comeliness, and this has its origin in anxiety and sense of guilt. It is probable that this deep dread of the destruction of internal organs may be the psychic cause of the greater susceptibility of women, as compared with men, to conversion hysteria and organic diseases. It is this anxiety and sense of guilt which is the chief cause of the repression of feelings of pride and joy in the feminine role, which are originally very strong. This repression results in depreciation of the capacity for motherhood, at the outset so highly prized. Thus the girl lacks the powerful support which the boy derives from his possession of the penis, and which she herself might find in the anticipation of motherhood. (78-79)
—The more the identification with the mother becomes stabilized on the genital basis, the more will it be characterized by the devoted kindness of an indulgent mother ideal." The deep admiration felt by the little girl for the father’s genital activity leads to the formation of a paternal super-ego which sets before her active aims to which she can never fully attain." (80)

The male sense of power is visible while female sense of power is invisible and only realized in time.

90–[Women feel that] "There is an empty space in my being which I can never fill" from "Infantile Anxiety Situations" in The Selected Melanie Klein. There is a remarkable story of a painter who filled up empty walls in her home. until she was able to paint the whole mother figure whom she had envisioned she had destroyed. In that way, she gave free expression to unexpressed feelings that had been thwarting her life.

92—Now what is the meaning this empty space within Ruth, or rather, to put it more exactly, of the feeling that there was something lacking in her body?
Here there has come into consciousness one of the ideas connected with that anxiety which, in the paper I read at the last Congress (1927) I described as the most profound anxiety experienced by girls. It is the equivalent of the castration anxiety in boys, The lttle girl has a sadistic desire, originating in the early stages of the Oedipus conflict, to rob the mother’s body of its contents, namely, the father’s penis, faeces, children, and to destroy the mother herself. This desire gives rise to anxiety lest the mother should in her turn rob the little girl herself of the contents of her body (especially of children) and lest her body should be destroyed or mutlilated. In my view, this anxiety, which I have found in the analyses of girls and women to be the deepest anxiety of all, represents the little girl’s earliest danger situation. I have come to realize that the dread of being alone, of the loss of love and of the love object, which Freud holds to be the basic infantile danger situation in girls, is a modification of the anxiety situation I have just described. When the little girl who rears the mother’s assault upon her body cannot see her mother, it intensifies the anxiety. The presence of the real, loving mother diminished the dread of the terrifying mother, whose image is introjected into the child’s mind. At a later stage of development the content of the dread changes from that of an attacking mother to the dread that the real, loving

93– mother may be lost and that the girl will be left solitary and forsaken.

The Oedipus Complex Today Britton and others
"The Oedipus Complex and Early Anxieties"
󈞶–The girl’s desire to possess a penis and to be a boy is an expression of her bisexuality and is as inherent as feature in girls as the desire to be a woman is in boys. Her wish to have a penis of her own is secondary to her desire to receive the penis, and is greatly enhanced by the frustrations in her feminine position and by the anxiety and guilt experience in the positive Oedipus situation. The girl’s penis envy covers in some measure the frustrated desire to take her mother’s place with the father and to receive children from him. I can only touch upon the specific factors which underlie the girl’s super-ego formation. Because of the great part her inner world plays in the girl’s emotional life, she has a strong urge to fill this inner world with good objects. This contributes to the intensity of her introjective processes, which are also reinforced by the receptive nature of her genital. The admired internalized penis of her father forms an intrinsic part of her super-ego. She identifies herself with her father in her male position, but this identificaiton rests on the possession of an imaginary penis. Her main identification with her father is experienced in relation to the internalized penis of her father, and this relation is based on the feminine as well as on the male position. In the feminine position she is driven by her sexual desire, and by her longing for a child, to internalize her father’s penis. She (75) is capable of complete submission to this admired internalized father, while in the male position she wished to emulate him in all her masculine aspiration and sublimations.

In spite of the prominence of the inner world in her emotional life, the little girl’s need for love and her relation to people show a great dependence on the outer world. This contradiction is however, only apparent, because this dependence on the outer world is reinforced by her need to gain reassurance about her inner world.


Melanie Klein was an Austrian psychoanalyst who devised therapeutic techniques for children that had great impact on present methods of child care and rearing.

Early Years: Family, Education, and Career

Melanie was much closer to her mother, Libusa. Though Melanie had to care for her mother prior to her 1914 death, she looked up to her for keeping their family together and for her strength. Libusa saw to it that her children had a happy childhood. Religion was not a large part of the family 's life and, though Melanie labeled herself an atheist throughout her life and asked for a nonreligious funeral, she never denied her Jewish roots and had little respect for those who did. Furthermore, she urged all parents to teach their children religion according to their own beliefs (Segal, 1979).

Two of Melanie's siblings, Emmanuel and Sidonie, died at young ages. Sidonie, her second oldest sister, taught Melanie to read and write, hoping to pass all that she knew to her sister before dying. Emmanuel, her only brother, was also a great aid in her education. A talented pianist and writer, Emmanuel tutored her in Greek and Latin. This knowledge helped her to pass entrance exams into various schools, which she hoped would lead her to a university where she could study medicine. Emmanuel also introduced his sister to his intellectual group of friends. While married, pregnant, and living in Slovakia, Melanie traveled back to Vienna at the time of Emmanuel's death. She tried, unsuccessfully, to get her brother's poems and essays published (Segal, 1979). The deaths of these family members led to a depressive state that continued to be a part of Melanie's personality.

Melanie became engaged at the age of 19 to Arthur Stephen Klein, a friend of her brother's (Segal, 1979). During their two year engagement, Melanie studied art and history at Vienna University. Though she regretted it later in life, Melanie passed up medical school to follow her husband, an engineer, as he often moved often to accommodate his business life. Consequently, she never received an academic degree. Throughout her career, many did not respect her views or take her seriously due to her lack of proof of medical knowledge.

While traveling to Slovakia and Silesia, Melanie missed home and her marriage suffered as a result. She turned to books and learned languages to fill such voids in her life. It was not until the births of her two children, Melitta in 1904 and Hans in 1907, that she felt happy again (Segal, 1979).

Klein's life was altered in 1910 when her family moved to Budapest. There she encountered Freud's work for the first time in his book On Dreams. As a result, psychoanalysis became her lifelong interest. She eventually sought analysis with Ferenczi and, with his support, began to analyze children. In 1917 she had a chance to meet Freud at a meeting between the Austrian and Hungarian Societies. And, by 1919, she got to read "The Development of a Child", her first paper, to the Hungarian Society. Following this appearance, she was asked to become a member of the Budapest Society. During this year, Melanie and her three children, the youngest at just five years old, moved to Slovakia they stayed with Arthur's parents for a year following Arthur's departure for Sweden. By 1922, the couple was divorced (Segal, 1979).

Around this time, Melanie was introduced to Karl Abraham. She was impressed with him and he encouraged her practice of child analysis. This prompted her to move to Berlin in 1921 to open a psychoanalytical practice with both adults and children. There, her psychoanalytic techniques allowed her to help emotionally disturbed children. She held this position for five years, until 1926. Due to her dissatisfaction with Ferenczi, Melanie asked Abraham to take her on as a patient. Because of his faith in her contributions to psychoanalysis, he agreed. His death brought their sessions to a halt, however, just fourteen months later (Segal, 1979).

Both of Melanie's colleagues were associated with Freud and both influenced her. From Ferenczi, Melanie received encouragement and learned the importance of unconscious dynamics. But, Ferenczi did not practice negative transference and he split with Freud and his psychoanalytical principles in that he rarely held a neutral position with his patients. She thought that Abraham, on the other hand, gave her a true picture of psychoanalysis. She continued his work by analyzing herself. Though she took the concept of introjection from Ferenczi, she considered herself a follower of Freud's and Abraham's.

Without Abraham's support, Melanie's work in Berlin was often criticized. Anna Freud had started her work with children at around the same time and, as their approaches were different, the Berlin Society saw Melanie's as unorthodox. In 1925, Melanie presented her first paper on the technique of child analysis at a conference in Salzburg. There she met Ernest Jones, who regarded child analysis as the future of psychoanalysis. Soon after, he invited her to lecture on the subject in England. So, during three weeks in 1925, Klein gave six lectures in the house of Dr. Adrian Stephen. These speeches formed the basis for her first book, The Psycho-Analysis of Children, and marked a happy time in her life (Segal, 1979).

In 1927, Melanie moved to England, a move she was glad she made as the British Psychoanalytic Society more warmly accepted her than others had in the past (Segal, 1979). She continued her practice and expanded on areas of psychoanalysis such as the death instinct and the Oedipus complex. She and her children remained there until her death on September 22, 1960. Though she had been diagnosed with cancer, her death was a result of hemorrhaging after an operation and it shocked the psychoanalytical community. Two of her children modeled Melanie and became doctors practicing psychoanalysis and one chose to follow his father, becoming an engineer.


New in Medical History: Campaigning for Learning Disabled People’s Rights and Susan Isaacs’ Popularization of Psychoanalysis

The October 2017 issue of Medical History includes two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. These articles tackle campaigning for learning disabled people’s civil rights in the 1970s and Susan Isaacs‘ popularization of psychoanalytic concepts through her writing as Ursula Wise. Full details below.

“Select Citizenship and Learning Disabled People: The Mental Health Charity MIND’s 1970s Campaign in Historical Context,” Jonathan Toms. Abstract:

Current policy and practice directed towards people with learning disabilities originates in the deinstitutionalisation processes, civil rights concerns and integrationist philosophies of the 1970s and 1980s. However, historians know little about the specific contexts within which these were mobilised. Although it is rarely acknowledged in the secondary literature, MIND was prominent in campaigning for rights-based services for learning disabled people during this time. This article sets MIND’s campaign within the wider historical context of the organisation’s origins as a main institution of the inter-war mental hygiene movement. The article begins by outlining the mental hygiene movement’s original conceptualisation of ‘mental deficiency’ as the antithesis of the self-sustaining and responsible individuals that it considered the basis of citizenship and mental health. It then traces how this equation became unravelled, in part by the altered conditions under the post-war Welfare State, in part by the mental hygiene movement’s own theorising. The final section describes the reconceptualisation of citizenship that eventually emerged with the collapse of the mental hygiene movement and the emergence of MIND. It shows that representations of MIND’s rights-based campaigning (which have, in any case, focused on mental illness) as individualist, and fundamentally opposed to medicine and psychiatry, are inaccurate. In fact, MIND sought a comprehensive community-based service, integrated with the general health and welfare services and oriented around a reconstruction of learning disabled people’s citizenship rights.


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