chapter
Introduction: Primitive mental states and the origins of meaning
Pages 7

The designation of primitive mental states is an outcome of interesting and powerful elaborations of notions of the unconscious in psychoanalytic theory. Freud originally elaborated and explored the notion of two consciousnesses, but he felt largely that the unconscious needed to be tamed as well as understood. His theory of neurosis and dreams is based on the idea that the forces of the unconscious, the instincts, needed to ®nd expression. Dream work and neurotic structures were felt to be either helpful or disturbing compromise formations. As the 20th century unfolded, Melanie Klein, in particular, but others as well, developed an interest in the mental functioning of infants and children. With Klein's notions of unconscious infantile phantasy, psychoanalysis was able to understand more about the very early time in a person's life during which meaning began to develop. Melanie Klein outlined a developmental schema, including what was called the Oedipus Complex, and brought forward the idea that mental life began at birth, not before, and that early phantasies were developed around the vicissitudes of object relations rather than through the release of instinctual forces. However, as is well known, she carried forward the idea that at birth the child was faced with annihilation anxiety, which she felt was a product of the death instinct. Gradually, she believed that the anxieties and fears of the early infant, now thought to be capable of mapping out his or her experience, were projected into the ``mothering one'' as a way of easing the anxiety.