Affects in Melanie Klein


In his essay on Jean Delay’s biography of André Gide, Lacan (1958) memorably refers to Klein as “a diviner with a child’s eyes, an inspired tripe butcher” [tripière inspirée].1 He writes:

It was this emptiness [Gide as a child lying awake at night listening to the sobs of servants coming from the garret] that the child filled with monsters – the fauna of which we know, since an haruspex [a diviner in Etruscan and Roman religious practice who foretold the future from animals’ entrails] with a child’s [or, childlike] eyes, an inspired tripe butcher, catalogued them for us – seeing them in the entrails [les entrailles– the entrails, or the womb, or the innards] of the nourishing mother.

(Lacan, 1958[2006, p. 632])2

Although clearly an ambiguous compliment, this says several things that ring true about Melanie Klein and affects. It picks up something of her unafraid and passionate involvement with her patients’ feelings – her readiness to get involved with the patient’s guts. It conveys how she starts from the body – the mother’s body, and the child’s own body – as the origin of feelings and phantasies. The image of the butcher says something too about the violence of the world of feared and phantasied attacks between child and mother that she discovered. This was the world she described of biting attacks on breasts, which are in turn feared to be attacking, and of the alarming penis of the father inside the mother. At the beginning of her work she over-stressed this world of what she called sadism, in comparison with loving feelings that she wrote more about later. And the description of Klein seeing with the eyes of a child reminds us of her ability to identify with children and the monsters in their minds, and the monsters with whom they populated the interior of their mother’s body. Perhaps Lacan’s words express too a mixture of admiration of this inspired butcher/soothsayer and some revulsion at her passionate physicality.

The very titles of some of Klein’s most important papers indicate how central affects or feelings were for her. They include Love, guilt and reparation (Klein, 1937), Mourning and its relation to manic-depressive states (Klein, 1940) and Envy and gratitude (Klein, 1957). I am going to try to set out some of Klein’s assumptions about the place of feelings in mental life, and to show how the central place of feelings in her thinking influences the technique of Kleinian analysts. Psychoanalysis took some time to break free from Freud’s emphasis on the biological aspect of affects, and to include a fuller account of the subjective experience of feelings. Klein’s work has been fundamental in this development.

I want to start by bringing one of Klein’s earliest child cases (Klein, 1930), that of a little 4 year-old boy called Dick. Although she saw him long before her mature conceptualizations of, for example, the paranoid–schizoid and depressive positions, her work with him anticipates many of her later findings.

Dick might be thought of nowadays as being on the autistic spectrum. The French diagnosis might be early childhood psychosis (see Bailly, 2009, p. 83): the psychiatrist who saw him diagnosed dementia praecox (the term that Kraepelin had adopted to describe early onset psychosis). Although he was 4, Dick was functioning on the level of a child of 15 to 18 months. His vocabulary was impoverished, and his emotional relation to his environment was almost entirely lacking. Klein writes that:

[He] was largely devoid of affects, and was indifferent to the presence or absence of his mother and nurse. From the very beginning he had only rarely displayed anxiety, and that in an abnormally small degree … he had almost no interests, did not play and had no contact with his environment. For the most part he simply strung sounds together in a meaningless way, and certain noises he constantly repeated … But it was not only that he was unable to make himself intelligible: he had no wish to do so.

(1930, p. 221)

He showed opposition to his mother not openly, through defiance, but through mispronouncing words that she tried to teach him, or through repeating them incessantly and mechanically “until everyone around him was sick and tired of them” (1930, p. 222). He was physically extremely awkward, and was unable to use scissors or knives. He was indifferent to objects or toys, though he was interested in trains and stations, door-handles and doors, and opening and shutting them.

Dick had had a very difficult start in life. He nearly died of starvation because his mother kept up a fruitless attempt to breastfeed him before bottle feeding was started. When he was 7 weeks old a wet nurse was found for him, but he showed no desire to suck. Klein said, significantly for our topic, that “though he had every care, no real love was lavished on him, his mother’s feelings for him being from the very beginning over-anxious” (1930, p. 223). His father and his nurse also gave him no tenderness so that he grew up in an environment unusually poor in love until, when he was 2, he had a new nurse who was affectionate, and he also spent considerable time with his grandmother who was very loving to him. These influences led to considerable development, and he became toilet trained. Nevertheless, he refused to bite solid food.

It may seem odd to bring a case of a child who showed no feelings, when talking about affects, but this apparent lack of feelings is what interested Klein. Klein thought that this in fact represented a terror of feelings and a shutting down of feelings. She thought that Dick had a complete inability to tolerate anxiety, and that his shutting down of his relatedness to people and most physical objects represented a defence particularly against aggression, partly because of an identification with the object that he had attacked in phantasy. This had brought his phantasy life and symbolization to an almost complete halt. She thought that his one link to reality – his interest in doors and door-handles – symbolized the entering of his mother’s body by his penis. Klein’s idea about symbol formation was that it developed in order to deflect aggression safely away from the primary object – the mother’s body – to other objects. Toys, teddy bears etc. can be beaten up, thrown around or bitten because they can take it and will not retaliate or arouse unbearable guilt. All curiosity, all sexual urges, to some extent involve aggression. Klein thought that Dick’s dread of the consequences of his interest in his mother’s body, and his wish to enter it, had led to his symbol formation coming to a standstill. She came to believe that Dick’s picture of his mother’s body as dark and empty was the result of his having to empty it in phantasy not only of his father’s penis, but also of all the aggressive attacks that this expulsion implied. His mind became correspondingly dark and empty. This almost complete absence of symbolization (not total, because of his interest in doors, representing a way into his mother’s body, together with the doors’ phallic door-handles) made for difficulty for Klein’s play technique, whereby children were given toys and water etc. to play with. She understood children’s play to be the equivalent of free association in an adult in analysis.

In his first visit to Klein he let his nurse leave the room without showing any emotion, which Klein noted was extremely unusual and very unlike most children she had seen. He followed Klein into the room with complete indifference. She reported that he ran to and fro in a nameless, purposeless way, running around Klein as though she were a piece of furniture. His expression was fixed, far-away, and lacking in interest.

He looked at the toys that Klein had provided without the slightest interest. Klein took the big train and put it beside a small one, and called them ‘daddy train’ and ‘Dick train’. Dick picked up the Dick train and made it roll towards the window, and said: “Station”. Klein said: “The station is mummy; Dick is going into mummy.” He left the train, and ran into the space between the outer and inner doors of the room, shut himself in, saying: “Dark” and ran out directly. He went through this performance several times. Klein said to him: “It is dark inside mummy. Dick is inside dark mummy.” He did the same thing in his second session, and started repeatedly asking: “Nurse coming?” In the third analytic hour he behaved in the same way, but also ran behind the chest of drawers.

There he was seized with anxiety, and for the first time called to me. Apprehension was now evident in the way in which he repeatedly asked for his nurse, and, when the hour was over, he greeted her with quite unusual delight. We see that simultaneously with the appearance of anxiety that had emerged a sense of dependence, first on me and then on the nurse.

(Klein, 1930, p. 225)

We can see here that Klein gives Dick something for use as a symbol, the train, and he uses it to show Klein something about his experience of a dark mother, a non-containing object. When, instead of being a dark object of this kind, Klein manages to contain and understand his communication, feelings appear in the boy for the first time, and he becomes openly anxious.

In the next few sessions he very tentatively started to show some aggression, playing with a little coal-cart that he scratched with a pair of scissors, before quickly throwing it into a drawer and saying: “Gone”. Klein thought that he was trying to expel both his damaged object and his own sadism. He gradually transferred his interest from the chest of drawers to the wash-basin and radiator, which he examined in every detail, attacking them and then showing anxiety, but also showing remorse, pity and a feeling that he had to make restitution. After some attacks of this kind, for example, when Dick saw some pencil shavings on Mrs Klein’s lap he said: “Poor Mrs Klein” and, on another occasion, “Poor curtain”. Although he was at the border between what Hanna Segal later called symbolic equations and symbols proper (he virtually equated the pencil shavings with Mrs Klein, instead of representing her by them), he had some fleeting depressive feelings about what he had done to her. Gradually, over the six months of the analysis, Dick developed a wider vocabulary and made an increasingly obvious attachment to Mrs Klein; and his attitude to his mother and nurse became affectionate and normal.

What can we see here, in one of Klein’s earliest cases, about her notion of affects? Faced with this formidable blocking of relationship to her – where had this boy’s feelings gone? – why did he look at the toys that she provided “without the faintest interest” (1930, p. 225)?, Klein did what Freud had done with the apparently mad ramblings of his patient the Rat Man, and took an interest in Dick’s apparent absence of affects, seeing this as representing a massive defence against feelings. These feelings were mainly his hatred, which he was afraid would destroy, or had already destroyed, his mother (we remember how he nearly starved to death in his first 7 weeks of life). This experience of a dead, dark, non-feeding breast and mother made the start of normal symbolization impossible. He had almost no experience, by the sound of it, of an object that could be attacked in phantasy and survive, reassuring him that his love was stronger than his hate. Gradually, a story, his phantasy, started to emerge about what his hate could do – he shows Klein through his play how in his phantasy his attacks can penetrate, damage and kill. She saw the dark space between the doors that he pushed his train-self into as standing for his mother’s dark interior, initially a dark non-container that becomes, through her understanding, a thinking container. In other words, Klein understood his apparent lack of anxiety as evidence of massive anxiety that Dick had (in terms of her later (Klein, 1946) theory of the paranoid–schizoid position) dispersed or expelled. One way of putting it is that Dick is using a phantasy – of the mother’s dark empty body – as a defence against phantasies feared to be worse – of terrifyingly damaged and damaged objects.

So much for Dick’s affects in the session. What about Klein’s? She does not give much detail, but what is striking is the intensity of her interest in Dick – her cathexis of him, her emotional investment in him. This must have been a revelation to this little boy in whom so few people had taken an interest – but who had shown some improvement when he had had a new nurse, and when he was with his granny. We can see her receptivity in the detail about Dick looking sadly at the pencil shavings in Klein’s lap. She was not holding him at arm’s length, with him playing at a table, but allowing this intimacy. We can feel that she had a capacious lap-mind available to him, and can see the amazing effect on enlarging his emotional world of her emotional receptivity. She reaches for his emotional guts – as Lacan says in discussing Klein’s work with Dick, she “with her animal instinct which has moreover allowed her to bore through a body of knowledge which was up to then impenetrable, dares to speak to him … He is there as if she didn’t exist, as if she were a piece of furniture. And yet she is speaking to him” (Lacan (1953–54[1988], p. 69).

This is work with a child but, of course, adults in similar ways use their words and their communications beyond words to push into, explore and attack their analyst’s mind. Adults also treat their analyst at times as though he is a piece of furniture. In this situation, the detailed understanding of the countertransference can help the analyst to understand what the patient is communicating. Klein herself was sceptical about the use of the countertransference in this way (see Spillius, 1992, p. 62), but it was developed later by, among others, Heimann (1950) and Racker (1953[1948]). When an angry, deprived patient was casually telling me recently that he would have to stop his analysis soon, in the middle of crucial work, I had a powerful rush of feeling shocked, lost and abandoned, that helped me orientate myself to his possible feelings as a little boy of 4 whose father had abruptly left the family. I might, in another situation with a different patient, have felt angry, or abused, or relieved. In each case the countertransference would help build up over time a highly specific picture of the patient’s internal world. I shall say more about the Kleinian use of the countertransference later.

Before thinking about Klein’s ideas in more detail I want to mention briefly Freud’s theories of affect.

There is a disjunction in Freud between his evident sensitivity to feelings, clinically, and the way in which he theorized about them (see Stein, 1991). He writes about the subtleties of Dora’s love for Herr K, saying for example that:

She was filled with regret at having rejected the man’s proposal, and with longing for his company ...; while on the other hand these feelings of tenderness and longing were combated by powerful forces, amongst which her pride was one of the most obvious.

(Freud, 1905, p. 58)

And he anticipated modern ideas about countertransference when he wrote that: “Everyone possesses in his own unconscious an instrument with which he can interpret the utterances of the unconscious in other people” (Freud, 1913, p. 320). But, on the other hand, his theoretical writing about feelings gives a different and more mechanical impression, in which he thinks of affects as basically physiological in origin.

His theories about affect run through all his writings, and went through a number of evolutions. The main affect he sought to understand theoretically was anxiety, and this has remained the main focus of all psychoanalytic theories of affect. Broadly, there are three phases in the evolution of Freud’s thinking about anxiety. In the first phase, he thinks of affects as tension phenomena, arising from an excessive charge of libido. In the second phase, affects are seen as arising from a conflict between a drive and forces that oppose its expression. In the third phase, with his revised theory of anxiety (Freud, 1926), he describes affects as signals emitted by the ego as a danger signal. Because his psychology is essentially a one-person psychology, he does not address theoretically the communicative aspects of feelings, although he is clearly very alive to them.

Some basic assumptions of Klein about affects

Klein thought that feelings represented the basic data, some of the fundamental givens, of our existence. She thought that feelings were the manifestation of the drives, and, as with Freud’s view of the drives, that they lay on the boundary between the mental and physical. She saw love as a manifestation of the life instinct while hate/destructiveness was a manifestation of the death instinct. She followed Freud in his thinking about this basic dichotomy between life and death instincts, and her view was that anxiety arose from the conflict between the two. She says in 1948:

I would also think that, if we assume the existence of a death instinct, we must also assume that in the deepest layers of the mind there is a response to this instinct in the form of fear of annihilation of life. Thus in my view the danger arising from the inner working of the death instinct is the first cause of anxiety. Since the struggle between the life and death instincts persists throughout life, this source of anxiety is never eliminated and enters as a perpetual factor into all anxiety situations.

(Klein, 1948, p. 29)

She thought that how the mind deals with this conflict has a structuring effect on the mind, and determines character and personality. In this sense, anxiety, and how the mind deals with it, is central for Klein in a way that it was not for Freud (see de Bianchedi et al., 1988). For example, in 1937, she writes:

The child’s development depends on, and to a large extent is formed by, his capacity to find the way to bear inevitable and necessary frustrations [of life] and conflicts of love and hate which are in part caused by them: that is, to find a way between his hate, which is increased by frustrations, and his love and wish for reparation, which brings in their train the sufferings of remorse. The way the child adapts himself to these problems in his mind forms the foundation for all his later social relationships, his adult capacity for love and cultural development.

(Klein, 1937, p. 316)

She thought that the death instinct, as manifested in hatred and destructiveness, was dealt with immediately at birth by projection, which led to the baby at first feeling that he inhabited a world of dangerous objects. She thought that the baby deals with this situation by means of splitting its picture of the world between ideally good and terrifyingly bad part-objects: objectively part of the same mother, but subjectively wholly separate. At this stage, which in 1946 she called the paranoid–schizoid position, the leading anxieties are persecutory and to do with the survival of the self. Given what she called mitigation by love, and (Bion added later) containment by an understanding object, the baby is enabled to take into himself not only milk but also an experience of understanding and of being loved, which enables him to establish inside himself a good internal object, the foundation of his ego. If, because of constitutional elements, or because of a failure of containment or of being loved, this stage miscarries, the baby’s picture of the world is of an extremely dangerous and terrifying place, as was Dick’s. She came to think that envy, which she thought of as largely innate and an expression of the death instinct, made establishing a good internal object particularly difficult, as it both constituted and fostered a destructive attack on the good object for being good, not on the bad object, and thus endangered normal splitting. More drastic defences of extreme splitting or psychotic fragmentation may ensue.

With maturation as well as emotional containment, the earlier split world is superseded as the infant comes to understand that the wonderfully good and the terrifying mothers or breasts are in fact the same. This ushers in the depressive position, characterized by anxieties about loss of and damage to this more whole object. The characteristic anxieties – the emotions – of the depressive position are guilt, grieving and loving concern. Again, we could see the germs of these in Dick’s reactions to the pencil shavings in Klein’s lap. A particularly important emotion in the depressive position is mourning – over the loss of the perfect object that was previously possessed in phantasy and is now recognized as imperfect and above all separate. Facing these feelings is so difficult that we all regress to paranoid–schizoid position functioning at times in the face of them.

As can be seen from this, Klein thought that the babies were object-related from the very beginning, and her picture of all affects is that they are intrinsically object-related. For Klein there is no such thing as a feeling in isolation: all thinking – and not just verbal thought – is saturated with feelings; and feelings are always connected with and directed towards an object. She writes:

The analysis of very young children has taught me that there is no instinctual urge, no anxiety situation, no mental process which does not involves objects, external or internal … love and hatred, phantasies, anxieties and defences are also operative from the beginning, and are ab initio indivisibly linked with object-relations.

(Klein, 1952, p. 53)

Objects, such as the hated and therefore hating breast just described, are in a sense created by the infant through omnipotent phantasy. ‘Bad’ feelings create ‘bad’ objects, through phantasies of splitting and projection, as Riviere described in 1936:

I have tried to show that internal conditions (feelings, sensations) are the earliest forerunners of object relations. The objects are identified with the internal conditions and so are ‘internalized’. ... A good feeling towards an object signifies (and in phantasy, creates) a good object; a bad, hostile feeling creates a bad object ...

(Riviere, 1936, p. 418)

This is connected with a particular aspect of Klein’s thinking about feelings, which is where they can be felt to be located. Developing Freud’s ideas about projection of feelings, she describes how, through omnipotent phantasies of projection and projective identification, the subject can believe that what are originally his feelings are in fact located in the object.3 This projection of feelings can result in the whole world being coloured, from the subject’s point of view, by hate or love, through the same mechanism that Freud thought operated in animism (Freud, 1901, p. 258; 1913, p. 64). The baby, and the subject throughout life, need an object at every stage as the object is essential for the processing and management of feelings. It is often wrongly said that Klein underplayed the importance of the environment for the baby. In fact, she repeatedly stressed the importance of the environment as essential for enabling it to modify its feelings. The particular importance of this for analytic work in the Kleinian tradition is that so much of the patient’s feelings are knowable first in projection – either in their displacement onto other figures in the patient’s life, or, above all, on and into the analyst. This mechanism of projective identification is responsible for the transference.

For Klein, there is no feeling that is not attached to and expressed by an unconscious phantasy, and, conversely, no phantasy that is not accompanied by affect. The connection between an affect and an object is unconscious phantasy. Any feeling is accompanied by a story that explains and expresses it. We saw earlier Dick’s phantasy of wanting to get into his mother’ (Mrs Klein’s) body – to explore it, to be a baby, to be the father, and, by implication, to displace the father. A baby, or an adult, never just hates or loves or is jealous of someone: there is always an explanatory phantasy that goes along with it. The Kleinian idea of phantasy is more than a hallucinatory wish-fulfilment: it comprises “a primitive, unconscious, running commentary on the flow of conscious experience” (Likierman, 2001, p. 56) – an ever-present, object-related, bodily narrative accompanying every form of psychic life: wishes, anxieties, loves and hates. Someone or some part of someone’s body is always doing something to someone or something. Phantasies tell the story of a particular feeling and of where it is directed. As a result, all feelings are represented in the mind as relational: as part of a relationship between the subject and object or part-object. Klein thought of any somatic sensation as being accompanied by phantasy,4 and this is the part of her theory which connects feelings with the body, the connection that was central to Freud’s thinking about affects.

In her 1957 book, Envy and Gratitude, Klein uses the expression ‘memories in feelings’ to account for a very basic sort of memory, in which “pre-verbal emotions and phantasies are revived in the transference situation … and are reconstructed and put into words with the help of the analyst” (Klein, 1957, p. 180 fn.). I had a patient who seems to have had a terrifying claustrophobic relationship with her mother after her parents separated when she was very young. She could not remember this period of her life consciously, but it seemed to be expressed at first in terrible tension and pain in her shoulders and neck that came on abruptly during her sessions. This gradually linked up with her anxieties about a spider’s web at my front door and other material, including in dreams about being trapped, until we could connect her pain and tension with a dread of being controlled and trapped by me, at which point her pains started to go away. This accords with Money-Kyrle’s (1968[1978], p. 422) ideas about the frequent path of cognitive development from concrete representation to ideographic representation as in dreams, to a final stage of conscious and predominantly verbal thought. One can see here a similarity with Dick, as my patient was also afraid of a dark space inside the maternal body (in this paranoid variant, a body equipped with a web to catch and immobilize her). And as with Dick, this version of the ‘external world’ (really a world invested with her internal objects) was paralleled by a dark space inside her own mind, in which she often felt trapped and unable to think. There was in her mind, as in her early experience, no father to protect her from her rush into the psychotic realm of fusion with her maternal object.

Finally, affects are fundamental to Kleinian technique with patients. Klein expresses her aim in analysis by saying that:

In analysis we should make our way slowly and gradually towards the painful insight into the divisions in the patient’s self. This means that the destructive sides are again and again split off and regained, until greater integration comes about. As a result, the feeling of responsibility becomes stronger, and guilt and depression are more fully experienced. When this happens, the ego is strengthened, omnipotence of destructive impulses is diminished … and the capacity for love and gratitude, stifled in the course of splitting processes, is released … [This technique], by helping the patient to achieve a better integration of his self, aims at a mitigation of hatred by love.

(Klein, 1957, p. 225)

Although, in her early work with children, Klein emphasized the value of interpreting the negative transference, she later stressed the importance of paying attention to both loving and hating feelings in analysis, and one of her patients, Hanna Segal, remembered her for her balance in this respect. In analysing the patient Klein tries to identify the live feeling present: the leading current anxiety. She says in her Narrative of a child analysis that in her experience: “It is essential to interpret the anxiety contents which are activated most acutely, and of [sic] the effect such interpretations produce” (Klein, 1961, p. 151). In accordance with Klein’s idea that any feeling is object-related, she tries to understand this in terms of the patient’s current phantasy, very often about the analyst, in the transference relationship. Current trends in Kleinian technique stress the importance of trying to follow the moment to moment fluctuations in emotional content during a session, particularly those following an interpretation (Joseph, 1985).

This detailed attention to emotions in analysis is the adult version of what Bion called containment. His work on containment develops Klein’s ideas about the importance of the understanding object in receiving and fully experiencing the projections of the infant, transforming them by understanding and making them available in a modified form for the infant to take back. Bion thought that this process, of projective identification met by receptiveness, represented the most primitive form of communication between baby and mother, and was how thinking evolved. The mother’s reverie and alpha-function transformed the baby’s emotions into thinkable thoughts and feelings. The baby internalizes this function and can begin to think for himself by projecting into his own internal container. In this sense, affects are central to the formation of the mind in the first place. In the analytic situation, projective identification is the basis of transference, as the patient’s object relations are lived out in the transference relationship with the analyst. Because very early experiences are preverbal, many of these communications are picked up by the analyst via his countertransference. Countertransference became seen as a psychoanalytic instrument rather than as evidence of pathology and a need for further analysis, as Freud and Klein had seen it.

The Kleinian analyst, Edna O’Shaughnessy, gives a vivid example of the use of her countertransference with a patient whose analysis was divided between words and communications beyond words. At first he spoke flatly about his work, his girlfriend, etc., but there was little emotional resonance in what he said. The analyst found that she made little headway in understanding the patient, but writes that during his sessions: “I often had an experience for which there was no evidence in his talk. There were no derivatives in his verbal material of an enormous hatred (I could not say of what or whom) which entered me during his sessions” (O’Shaughnessy, 1983, p. 282). Eventually, his massive latent anxiety about the subject of ‘joins’ (he worked in the construction industry) erupted in the sessions. The analyst thought, from her repeated experience of hatred in the sessions, that it was above all hatred that the patient feared if he were to join up with her, and so needed to split this off and project it into her. This resulted in a meagre, denuded kind of contact between them – rather as with Dick, and for similar reasons. She found that understanding his infantile fear of any but the most minimal object relations slowly enabled the patient to gain increasing contact with himself. She suggests that in a transference “with a preponderance of events ‘beyond words’ that at certain phases of the analysis the communicative properties of words are impaired as the talk increasingly reflects the entire primitive defensive organization. … This is the transference version of [the patient’s] deep anxiety that his objects are powerless to help him” (p. 284).

To summarize: for Klein, affects are the expression of the drives. The conflict between love and hate produces anxieties and defences that coalesce in two broad groupings that she called positions, which alternate throughout life. Optimally, through early development and with the containing help of the mother, the ego, the self, becomes centred on a good internal object. How the conflict between love and hate is managed shapes the self. In this sense, affects are the prime drivers of the mind and structure the mind. Subjectively, feelings can be relocated outside the self. Through projection they create ‘good’ and ‘bad’ objects, and colour the perception of the external world. Correspondingly, the external world is experienced and taken into the self through a prism of feelings. There is no such thing as a feeling in isolation, both in the sense that thinking and feeling are constantly interwoven; and in the sense that all feelings are object-related. All feelings are accompanied by unconscious phantasy – a kind of primitive story or explanation that relates the self to the object, often in bodily terms. Finally, Klein’s stress on finding the most alive anxiety, the greatest heat, in the session has influenced Kleinian technique, as has Bion’s extension of Klein’s discovery of projective identification. These have influenced the contemporary interest in tracking in fine detail the fluctuations in emotional contact during a session. All these elements taken together demonstrate the centrality of affects in Klein’s clinical work and thought.


  • 1

    Translation by Bruce Fink of ‘Ce fut ce vide que l’enfant peupla des monstres dont nous connaissons la faune, depuis qu’une aruspice aux yeux d’enfant, tripière inspirée, nous en a fait le catalogue, à les mirer dans les entrailles de la mère nourricière.’

  • 2

    Elsewhere he talks of “Melanie Klein’s faltering but not altogether misguided work” (Lacan, 1959[2006], p. 462).

  • 3

    In this she developed Freud’s ideas about projection in paranoia (as in the Schreber case (Freud, 1911c, p. 66) and as described in Instincts and their vicissitudes (Freud, 1915c, p. 136). Projection, and identification with what is projected, are also described by Freud (1910c) in his paper on Leonardo.

  • 4

    Riviere says: “When we speak of ‘phantasies’ in babies or small children … We surmise that the child feels as if it were carrying out the desired action, and that this affective feeling is accompanied by a corresponding physical excitation in certain organs (e.g. mouth or musculature)” (1936, p. 396).


I would like to thank Ignês Sodré and Cathy Bronstein for their help in discussing this paper.