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Paranoid-Schizoid Position

  The paranoid-schizoid position is, according to Melanie Klein, the way that the infant first experiences the world. In the first year of life the baby shifts between feeling great power over the mother, on the one hand, and feeling persecution by the mother on the other. Klein saw greed and envy as prominent parts of the baby\'s emotional life at this stage. As Freud discovered the child\'s phantasy life through his adult patients, so Klein discovered the life of the baby through the phantasies of the children she analysed. Through interpretation of children\'s play and phantasy she found a picture of the infant as prone to terrible anxieties about annihilation; these were made worse if the mother, because of her own depression or for environmental reasons, was unable to provide consolation and support. Such fears, in an act of defence, split off into the unconscious, but remained potentially active. Thus, unconscious anxieties about murder and madness (directed towards the mother) may remain in the mind, impoverishing the personality. If the mother is able to give good enough support, the baby will find balance between the real and phantasized parts of itself. Anxieties completely split off from consciousness can hinder development. MJ

Further reading Hannah Segal, An Introduction to the Work of Melanie Klein.



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