chapter  8
21 Pages

• 8 • The basic units of experience

Kernberg is the first, of the authors to be met in this book, who writes purely from the point of view of a psycho-analyst addressing other psycho-analysts. He makes no concessions to the lay person, who therefore has to bear up under some pretty difficult language. For instance, like most psycho-analysts, he avoids the term ‘learning’ when considering the way in which people are shaped by their experiences. Just as Hebb wrote of sensory input organized into cell-assemblies and phase-sequences and phase-cycles in the association cortex, and Hayek wrote of stimuli which set off impulses which get organized into connections, maps, and models, so Kernberg writes of internalization, introjection, and memorytraces. It is difficult to match each of these words from one language to a precise equivalent in another, but we don’t need to do this. (Schafer in a number of publications presents valuable discussions on this.)

Like most of his profession, Kernberg uses ‘internalization’ for processes I would call learning, and I reluctantly follow him in this chapter to avoid too much confusion. For Kernberg, internalization brings about ‘psychic precipitates or structures’. Introjections are the simplest of these, and they leave ‘memory-traces’ (1976: 25ff). In his discussion of all this, he clearly has in mind the kind of classifying conceptualizing processes discussed in our first chapters.