Klein, Melanie

Paranoid Android
Paranoid Android © D. (SansPretentionAucun e) (•̪●) via Flickr. Used with permission.

Melanie Klein (1882-1960) was an Austrian-born Freudian psychologist and a pioneer in psychoanalysis for children.

Klein says that part of early childhood development includes a ‘paranoid schizoid position.’

According to her theory, the child in a paranoid schizoid position tries to master his or her innate death instinct by splitting the ego into two components: one bad, the other good. The bad ego is projected onto objects (a Freudian term that includes people) perceived as threats.

This paranoid schizoid position alternates with states of depression, called the ‘depressive position.’

Although Klein primarily treated children, she traces the roots of adult neuroses and psychoses back to childhood. This is not uncommon. Just as historians look to the past to understand the present, Carl G. Gustavson notes in A Preface to History that psychiatrists also look back to try to understand the present.

Even the psychiatrist goes into the past before he dares to prescribe a remedy. When he is asked to solve a personal problem, he invariably wants a case history. Just as an individual’s personality represents the sum total of his experiences, so the present appearance and conduct of nations and institutions reflect the formative circumstances of their background.¹

Klein believed that the Oedipus complex is activated as early as age two, while Freud indicated ages three to five. Both theorists agree, however, that adults with unresolved Oedipus complexes may behave like children.

While not elaborated upon by Klein, it seems possible that a negative or pathological type of false synchronicity could play a role in adult paranoia. Here, subjects darkly interpret external stimuli as ‘signs’ that the world is ‘out to get’ them.

An extremely paranoid adult with the surname Lennon, for instance, might take this as an omen that she or he is doomed to be slain. And subsequent external stimuli (such as hearing a Beatles song in a public place) would be incorrectly interpreted by this person as direct support for their distorted expectation.

In keeping with this idea, C. G. Jung says that synchronicity may be interpreted pathologically by those deemed schizophrenic by the psychiatric diagnostic system.

Whether or not synchronicities are interpreted positively (as signposts leading to healing and humility) or negatively (as portents of doom or, alternately, as sacred signs leading to an inflated sense of one’s greatness and importance), both instances are probably related to not integrating the personal – and by implication, the collective – unconscious within everyday ego awareness.

¹ Carl G. Gustavson, A Preface to History (1955: 3).

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