Seven Questions for Kleinian Psychology

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Psychoanalytic Psychology, p.No Pagination Specified (2016)


The development of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically informed theories and practices on the African and Asian continents offers a unique opportunity for respectful dialogue and robust debate around fundamental questions pertaining to understanding and healing the fractured human condition. Historically, Kleinian approaches have had a remarkable impact on psychoanalytic practices in continents both inside and outside of the North Atlantic orbit. In this article, Kleinian ideas about the infantile ego organization with its inchoate repertoire of primary objects, about the relational character of drives, and about the inherency of destructive-aggressive phantasies are discussed, respectfully but questioningly, in relation to the author’s training in a different psychoanalytic lineage. Seven sets of controversial questions are elaborated, concerning: (a) the scientific perils of infant observation, (b) memory and the unreliability of retrospective inference, (c) the priority of “earlier” and the problem of origins, (d) the loss of embodiment, (e) the occlusion of the paternal function, (f) clinical method and the issues of moralizing, and (g) the politics of psychotherapy. It is concluded that Kleinianism provides a powerful framework for psychotherapy and thus may advance, individualistically, the cause of reparative love over the forces of hostility and hatred. However, it diverges significantly from the emphasis of Freud’s original mandate for psychoanalysis as the method of free-association, and from the major coordinates of his discoveries.

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