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Psychology and Mental Health

Chicago, USA
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Psychodynamic aspects of defence with comments on technique in the treatment of obsessional neuroses

Author(s): Morgenthaler F


As soon as an analysis has got under way, the 'defence habits' (A. Freud, 1936) of the patient begin to reveal themselves with ever-increasing clarity. The analyst feels that he is slowly but surely getting better acquainted with the person he is analysing. The most important traits of the personality to which he has attuned himself right from the start stem from defences and not from the drives. It gradually becomes clearer that specific mechanisms of defence are given preference and that these mechanisms make their appearance in a manner and sequence more or less characteristic of the person concerned (Freud, 1937).

The development of the libido, with its various phases, genetically determined, proceeds in accordance with laws that are valid for mankind as a whole, whereas the features one observes in the development of the defensive organization do not seem to follow similar laws (Hoffer, 1954). The formation of the defensive organization appears to be individually specific. Even though it is difficult to speak in metapsychological terms of a hierarchical structure of the defensive organization and explain it genetically, we can—from the clinical side—nevertheless assume that the defensive organization in the ego is structured in this manner. The defensive organization shows a relatively high degree of stability and it is useful to speak of a defence structure that represents part of the ego structure as a whole.

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