Melanie Klein

Anna Freud

Melanie Reizes, the daughter of Moriz Reizes and Libussa Deutsch Reizes, was born in Vienna on 30th March, 1882. Her father was born into an orthodox Jewish family but studied to become a doctor against his parent's wishes. He spoke ten languages and was extremely well read. (1)

Her mother was the grand-daughter of a rabbi. Moriz met her while they were staying in the same boardinghouse. He immediately fell in love with this "educated, witty, and interesting" young woman, with her fair complexion, fine features, and expressive eyes". They married in 1875. (2)

Melanie was the youngest of four children, Emilie born in 1876, Emmanuel in 1877 and Sidonie in 1878. The family were in financial difficulties when she was born and her mother opened a shop that sold plants. Libussa was so busy that she was unable to breast feed her. She was handed over to a wet-nurse who fed her on demand, though the older children had all been fed by their mother. (3)

Melanie claims that her father made no secret of his preference for Emilie, who together with Emmanuel, teased her for her ignorance. However, her eight-year-old sister, Sidonie, did take an interest in her and taught her reading and arithmetic during her long illness with scrofula (a form of tuberculosis). Although she survived, her sister, Sidonie, died of the disease in 1886. Janet Sayers, the author of Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991), claims that this might have "contributed to Melanie's life-long depression." (4)

Melanie later wrote: "I have a feeling that I never entirely got over the feeling of grief for her death. I also suffered under the grief my mother showed, whereas my father was more controlled. I remember that I felt that my mother needed me all the more now that Sidonie was gone, and it is probable that some of the spoiling was due to my having to replace that child." (5)

In 1891, Emmanuel, aged 14, praised and corrected a poem she had written, he was "my confidant, my friend, my teacher". He taught her Latin and Greek in order to enable her to attend the Gymnasium and encouraged her to have her writing published. "He took great interest in my development and I knew that, until his death, he always expected me to do something great, although there was really nothing on which to base it... He seemed to me superior in every way to myself, not only because at nine or ten years of age, he seemed quite grown-up, but also because his gifts were so unusual... He was a self-willed and rebellious child and, I think, not sufficiently understood. He seemed at loggerheads with his teachers at the gymnasium, or contemptuous of them, and there were many controversial talks with my father." (6)

Emmanuel introduced Melanie to the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schnitzler and Karl Kraus, all radical thinkers who challenged conventional morality. She also mixed with her brother's friends and it is claimed that four of these young men wanted to marry her. However, she rejected this idea and planned to study medicine like her father but to specialise in psychiatry. Her last years at school, under the influence and encouragement of her brother, were years in which she felt "gloriously alive". (7)

Anna Freud in her study.
Melanie Klein (1900)

Melanie's plans to go to university ended when her father died in April 1900. This was followed by the death of Emmanuel from a heart-attack. She now agreed to marry Arthur Stephan Klein, a second cousin and the son of Jacob Klein, a successful businessman. They married in 1903. Klein, an engineer, worked for a number of companies in different parts of Europe and was rarely at home. (8)

Melanie's marriage was unhappy from the beginning. "I threw myself as much as I could into motherhood and interest in my child. I knew all the time that I was not happy but saw no way out." She told a friend many years later that he was having affairs from the first years of her marriage. Melanie Klein gave birth to her daughter, Melitta Klein in 1904. This was followed by two sons, Hans in 1907 and Erich in 1914. She was forced to stay with her husband because she had no means of supporting them on her own. (9)

Sigmund Freud

In 1914 Melanie Klein went into analysis with Sandor Ferenczi, an eminent Hungarian doctor, who was a member of a group of doctors who were followers of a group led by Sigmund Freud. Another member of the group was Hanns Sachs who said he was "the apostle of Freud who was my Christ". Another member said "there was an atmosphere of the foundation of a religion in that room. Freud himself was its new prophet... Freud's pupils - all inspired and convinced - were his apostles." Another member remarked that the original group was "a small and daring group, persecuted now but bound to conquer the world". (10)

On Frenczi's recommendation, Melanie Klein read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud argued that "If you inspect the dreams of very young children, from eighteen months upwards, you will find them perfectly simple and easy to explain. Small children always dream of the fulfillment of wishes that were aroused in them the day before but not satisfied." The dreams of adults are more difficult to explain. "Certainly the most satisfactory solution of the riddle of dreams would be to find that adults' dreams too were like those of children-fulfilments of wishful impulses that had come to them on the dream-day. And such in fact is the case. The difficulties in the way of this solution can be overcome step by step if dreams are analysed more closely."

Freud admitted that in most cases adult dreams could not look more unlike the fulfillment of a wish. "And here is the answer. Such dreams have been subjected to distortion; the psychical process under lying them might originally have been expressed in words quite differently. You must distinguish the manifest content of the dream, as you vaguely recollect it in the morning and laboriously (and, as it seems, arbitrarily) clothe it in words, and the latent dream thoughts, which you must suppose were present in the unconscious. This distortion in dreams is the same process that you have already come to know in investigating the formation of hysterical symptoms. It indicates, too, that the same interplay of mental forces is at work in the formation of dreams as in that of symptoms. The manifest content of the dream is the distorted substitute for the unconscious dream-thoughts and this distortion is the work of the ego's forces of defence - of resistances." (11)

Sigmund Freud gives the example of a woman patient who had a dream that she was strangling a little white dog. The doctor asked her if she had a particular grudge against anyone. She said yes she had, and added that it was against her sister-in-law. She went on, "She is trying to come between my husband and myself". She was encouraged to talk more about this conflict and after a while she remembered that in a recent argument she described her as "a dog that bites". She also pointed out that her sister-in-law had a remarkably pale complexion. The patient now realised the meaning of the dream. (12)

Freud argued that a woman who dreams that she wants to give a supper but cannot find the food in the shops, is satisfying her wish to refrain from inviting a friend of whom her husband is fond and she is jealous. In another case a woman dreams that her fifteen-year old daughter is lying dead in a box is satisfying her earlier wish for an abortion when pregnant. Freud argued that in these dreams the experience of anxiety is the distorted satisfaction of a sexual desire. He then went on to say that the accuracy of this statement "has been demonstrated with ever increasing certainty". (13)

In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud explained the now famous Oedipus complex. "Being in love with the one parent and hating the other are among the essential constituents of the stock of psychical impulses which is formed in childhood and which in children destined to grow up neurotic is of such importance in determining their symptoms. The discovery is confirmed by a legend that has come down to us from classical antiquity... What I have in mind is the legend of King Oedipus and Sophocles' drama which bears his name." (14)

Melanie Klein also read Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. In the book Freud put together, from what he had learned by analyses of patients and other sources, all he knew about the development of the sexual instinct from its earliest beginnings in childhood. Freud provided "the foundation for his theory of neuroses, the explanation of the need for repression and the source of emotional energy underlying conscious and unconscious drives and behaviour which he named libido." (15)

Psychoanalysis

Klein began to make observations on her youngest son, Erich, and she was encouraged to carry on when Sandor Ferenczi told her she had a gift for psychoanalytical understanding. She was determined to allow her young son's mind "freedom from unnecessary prohibitions and distortions of the truth". An atheist, Klein decided she did not want to teach him that there was a God. She also was straightforward and truthful with him about sex. This at the time was extremely radical. The results of her experiment was described in a paper she gave to the Budapest Psychoanalytical Society in 1919, entitled The Development of a Child: The Influence of Sexual Enlightenment and Relaxation of Authority on the Intellectual Development of Children. It was published as an article two years later. (16)

Although her son, Erich, was only five-years-old at the time, she found ways of talking to him about sex. At first he did not want to know, but after she told him stories about the sex life of animals he began to show interest. He responded by telling his mother stories where he made symbolic use of the objects around him. He ran his toys over her body, saying they were climbing mountains. He talked of what babies are made of and said he wanted to make babies with his mother. Erich told another story "in which the womb figured as a completely furnished house, the stomach particularly was very fully equipped and was even possessed of a bath-tub and a soap-dish." (17)

Melanie Klein argued that this form of education changed him from being somewhat backward to "almost precocious". His attitude towards his parents changed: "His games as well as his phantasies showed an extraordinary aggressiveness towards his father and also of course his already clearly indicated passion for his mother. At the same time he became talkative, cheerful, could play for hours with other children, and latterly showed such a progressive desire for every branch of knowledge and learning that in a very brief space of time and with very little assistance, he learnt to read." (18)

Klein also analysed her older children. Hans was forced to stop seeing a girl older than himself because of the "identification he was making with the phantasy of his mother as a prostitute". In her article, A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Tics she argued that "the turning away from the originally loved but forbidden mother had participated in the strengthening of the homosexual attitude and the phantasies about the dreaded castrating mother." (19)

Klein now forced Hans to break off a homosexual relationship with a school friend. "It must have seemed to the boy that he had no area of privacy from his mother, who knew the innermost secrets of his soul. His tic and related homosexual problems she repeatedly links to his sense of inferiority to his father. Arthur Klein was deeply suspicious of psychoanalysis, which he saw as driving a wedge between him and his son, and his wife's obsession with it as a disruptive intrusion in the family." (20)

Hermine Hug-Hellmuth

Melanie Klein considered herself as the world's first child analyst. However, that title went to Hermine Hug-Hellmuth. A former schoolteacher, she published The Nature of the Child's Soul (1913) and A Young Girl's Diary (1919). (21) At the International Congress in The Hague in 1920, she reported on her early efforts in her paper On the Technique of the Analysis of Children. Her work was based on observation and analysis of children's behavior and on the possibility of applying psychoanalytic theory to education and the psychology of children. This included analysing her nephew, Rudolf Otto Hug. The illegitimate child of her half-sister Antoine, he had been raised by Hug-Hellmuth since the death of his mother. (22)

Melanie Klein went to meet Hug-Hellmuth but did not find her very helpful, possibly because she found her a threat. "Dr. Hug-Hellmuth was doing child analysis at this time in Vienna, but in a very restricted way. She completely avoided interpretations, though she used some play material and drawings, and I could never get an impression of what she was actually doing, nor was she analysing children under six or seven years." (23)

Hug-Hellmuth actually warned against analysis for children if it touched their deepest feelings. She suggested that it is dangerous to uncover too many of children's negative and aggressive feelings towards their parents. Hug-Hellmuth was not only afraid of alienating parents by exposing to children their aggression towards their parents, but she also wanted the children to have good and friendly feelings towards themselves. (24)

Berlin Psychoanalytical Society

Melanie left her children with her in-laws in Rosenberg in Slovakia and moved to Germany and became a member of Berlin Psychoanalytical Society in 1922. Along with Anna Freud she was now seen as one of the pioneers of child psychology. Klein by this time had become dissatisfied with the results of her analysis with Sandor Ferenczi and asked Karl Abraham to take her into analysis. She said later that it was her brief analysis with Abraham which really taught her about the practice and theory of analysis. (25)

While in Germany she met Alix Strachey, the wife of Freud's translator James Strachey. The two women became close friends: "She (Melanie) was frightfully excited and determined to have a thousand adventures, and soon infected me with some of her spirits… she's really a very good sort and makes no secret of her hopes, fears and pleasures, which are of the simplest sort. Only she's got a damned sharp eye for neurotics." (26)

Melanie Klein also worked for the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. Others involved included Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, Ernst Simmel, Hanns Sachs, Karen Horney, Edith Jacobson and Wilhelm Reich. The institute reflected the socialist sentiments widely held by Berlin intellectuals at the time. From the very beginning the institute provided free analytic treatment, often to more than a hundred patients. Later, it provided inpatient treatment to about thirty severely disturbed men who were suffering from the consequences of the First World War. Although Sigmund Freud was not directly involved praised the institute for "making our therapy accessible to the great numbers of people who suffer no less than the rich from neurosis, but are not in a position to pay for treatment." (27)

Anna Freud in her study.
Karen Horney (1900)

Ernst Simmel, who succeeded Abraham as institute president, took pride that the clinics free treatment did not differ in the least from that of patients paying high fees. "All patients are... entitled to as many weeks or months of analysis as his condition requires". In this way the Berlin Institute was fulfilling social obligations incurred by society, which "makes its poor become neurotic and, because of its cultural demands, lets its neurotics stay poor, abandoning them to their misery." (28)

Klein was disappointed by Simmel's election as she found Abraham as more supportive of her ideas. Abraham was described as "the very best president I ever met in my life. He was simply magnificent. Fair and absolutely firm. No nonsense. And kept the thing very well in hand. Again, he had his limitations. He didn't like fantasy very much. He didn't have much fantasy himself, but he was very much down to earth, excellent clinician, perfect chairman, and really a fair man." (29)

Karen Horney was so impressed with her work that she decided that the girls' education should be supplemented with a course of psychoanalytic treatment with Melanie Klein. Brigitte, who was fourteen, refused to go for analysis. Marianne, was twelve and more complaint, attended faithfully for two years but developed strategies that kept Klein's interpretations to a minimum. Renate, who was only nine, tried to cooperate but disliked the talk about sexual matters. (30) Later, Horney, psycho-analysised Melitta. (31)

Melitta trained at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, before marrying Walter Schmideberg in 1924, another psychoanalyst, who was fourteen years her senior. At the time Schmideberg was a friend of Sigmund Freud and Klein's biographer, Phyllis Grosskurth, claims she had "encouraged the marriage for the reflected prestige it would give her". However, it was not long before Klein turned against Melitta's new husband. These family rows, mainly concerned Schmideberg's drinking problems. The following year he was treated for drug addiction at Sanatorium Schloss Tegel. (32)

Melanie Klein in England

On the night of 8th September, 1924, Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was murdered by her eighteen-year-old nephew, whom she had brought up. According to Rudolf Otto Hug, his aunt's writings contained many observations of him and he testified at his trial that she had attempted to psychoanalyze him. After his trial he was sentenced to twelve years in prison. After being released from prison, he attempted to get restitution from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association, as a victim of psychoanalysis. (33)

This murder had a tremendous impact on the psychoanalytic movement. Members of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute became increasingly critical of Melanie Klein's theories. They accused her of being "feeble-minded about theory" and her "nursery talk embarrassing and ridiculous". Some of the members suggested that "child analysis was positively dangerous". In May 1925, Karl Abraham became seriously ill and was no longer able to have her as his patient. After his death in December, she began to consider the possibility of leaving Germany. (34)

In September, 1926, Melanie Klein, at the age of 38, accepted the invitation of Ernest Jones, to analyse his children in London. She lived in a maisonette near the Institute of Psychoanalysis in Gloucester Place. Her practice soon included not only Jones's children and wife but also six other patients. She now decided to settle permanently in England, a place that she described as "her second motherland". (35)

Melitta Schmideberg (1924)
Melitta Schmideberg (1924)

Klein's daughter, Melitta Schmideberg, also came to live in England. She gave several lectures on child psychology. This included Criminal Tendencies in Normal Children (1927), Personification in the Play of Children (1929) and The Importance of Symbol-Formation in the Development of the Ego (1930). Phyllis Grosskurth claims that these papers contain "a medley of diverse ideas, a reflection of the creative thinking that had been released in her with a congenial atmosphere". (36)

Over the next few years Melanie Klein wrote several articles where she questioned several of Sigmund Freud's theories. This included the claim that the Oedipus conflict began long before Freud had thought. Freud thought that there was a period in which children loved their mothers without conflict. Klein argued this was not so and believed that even very small babies had to cope with conflicting feelings of love and hatred. (37)

Klein also questioned Freud's account of creativity. He attributed art to sublimation of individual instinct whereas Klein explained it as reflecting our relations with others, in the first place with the mother. In a British Society talk in May 1929 she illustrated this theme by reference to the work of the Swedish artist, Ruth Kjär. Klein quoted from Kjär's biographer, who argued that she suffered bouts of depression until she started painting pictures. (38) "Klein thereby inaugurated a new trend in art and literary criticism focusing on the maternal and reparative aspects of creativity." (39)

Melanie Klein and Melitta Schmideberg

Supporters of Sigmund Freud became hostile towards Melanie Klein. This included Ernest Jones and Edward Glover, both senior figures in the British Psycho-Analytical Society. In 1933, Klein's daughter, Melitta Schmideberg decided to enter analysis with Glover. This resulted in her deciding that she "had been in a state of neurotic dependence on her mother" and that if a "state of amicability was to be maintained, it could exist only if Klein recognized her not as an appendage but as a colleague on an equal footing". (40) In late 1933 it was apparent to other members of the Society that Glover and Schmideberg, had joined forces in a campaign to embarrass and discredit Melanie Klein. Schmideberg, later wrote: "Edward Glover and I agreed to ally to fight". (41)

In a letter she wrote to her mother at this time explaining her thoughts on their relationship. "You do not take it enough into consideration that I am very different from you. I already told you years ago that nothing causes a worse reaction in me than trying to force feelings into me - it is the surest way to kill all feelings. Unfortunately, you have a strong tendency towards trying to enforce your way of viewing, of feeling, your interests, your friends, etc. onto me. I am now grown up and must be independent; I have my own life, my husband; I must be allowed to have interests, friends, feelings and thoughts which are different or even contrary to yours. I do not think that the relationship with her mother, however good, should be the centre of her life for an adult woman. I hope you do not expect from my analysis that I shall again take an attitude towards you which is similar to the one I had until a few years ago. This was one of neurotic dependence. I certainly can, with your help, retain a good and friendly relationship with you, if you allow me enough freedom, independence, and dissimilarity, and if you try to be less sensitive about several things." (42)

Melanie Klein and Hans Klein (1930)
Melanie Klein and Hans Klein (1930)

Members of the British Psycho-Analytical Society tended to take the side of Melanie Klein against the attacks of her daughter. Melitta believed that this undermined her own status in the organisation: "I always felt that the main objection was that I had ceased to toe the Kleinian line (Freud by now was regarded as rather out-dated). Mrs. Klein had postulated psychotic phases and mechanisms in the first months of life, and maintained that the analysis of these phases was the essence of analytic theory and therapy. Her claims were becoming increasingly extravagant, she demanded unquestioning loyalty and tolerated no disagreement." (43)

In April 1934, Hans Klein died while walking in the Tatra Mountains. It is believed that the path suddenly crumbled away beneath him and he plunged down the side of a precipice. Melanie was so distraught that she was unable to leave London and a close friend maintained that Hans's death was a source of grief for the rest of her life. Melitta's immediate reaction was that it had been suicide. At a conference in November she commented: "Anxiety and guilt are not the only emotions responsible for suicide. To mention only one other factor, excessive feelings of disgust brought about, for example, by deep disappointments in persons loved or by the break-down of idealizations prove frequently an incentive towards suicide." (44)

Depression and Loss

Freud attributed self-reproach in depression to hatred of others internalized in imagination within the self. Klein disagreed with Freud and suggested that the main reason for depression to love of others and despair at feeling unable to restore the harm done by hatred of them. Whereas Freud believed depression is rooted in self-love and attachment to others. Klein rejected this idea and argued that depression does not stem from self-love but from concern for others. "Suicide in such cases involves a last-ditch attempt to preserve those one loves within the self by destroying the bad." (45)

It has been argued that Klein was using her own experience to explain depression. As a child she suffered from chronic depression as a result of "the preference of her father for Emilie; the death of Sidonie; her anguish and guilt over Emanuel; her breakdown following her mother's death; her ambivalent feelings towards Arthur Klein; her devastation after Abraham's death". This was followed by Han's death and "Melitta's treachery". (46)

Klein built up a group of loyal followers but like Sigmund Freud, she could be ruthless in casting off those who expressed doubts about her theories. Hanna Segal pointed out: "Although she was tolerant, and could accept with an open mind the criticisms of her friends and ex-pupils, whom she often consulted, this was so only so long as one accepted the fundamental tenets of her work. If she felt this to be under attack she could be very fierce in its defence. And if she did not get sufficient support from those she considered her friends, she could grow very bitter, sometimes in an unjust way." (47)

In May 1936, Ernest Jones attacked Melanie Klein in a paper delivered to the Vienna Society. He claimed that Freud had provided the "scaffolding" and that they might see "considerable changes in the course of the next twenty years ago". However, he warned of those, who like Klein, who had succumbed to "the temptation to a one-sided exaggeration of whatever elements may have seized her interest". (48)

On 17th February, 1937, Melitta Schmideberg continued her strident campaign against her mother when she delivered the paper, After the Analysis - Some Phantasies of Patients, that was delivered to the British Society. (49) Joan Riviere wrote to James Strachey: "Melitta read a really shocking paper on Wednesday personally attacking Mrs. Klein and her followers and simply saying we were all bad analysts - indescribable." (50)

Melanie Klein was in poor health and in July 1937 she underwent gall bladder surgery. Afterwards she went to live with her younger son Erich and his wife, Judy, who was at the time pregnant with their first child. (As a result of the level of anti-semitism in England he changed his name to Eric Clyne in 1937).

In the summer of 1938 Klein gave a paper to the Paris Congress entitled Mourning and its Relationship to the Manic-Depressive States, where she criticised Freud's views on depression which he believed was rooted in self-love. Klein suggested that grief involves recognizing both external and internal loss. "Loss does not so much initiate internalization of the other as Freud claimed. Rather it painfully disrupts internalization processes began in relation to the mother in infancy." (51)

Melanie Klein met Virginia Woolf at a meeting of the British Psycho-Analytical Society. That night Woolf recorded in her diary her impression of Klein. "A woman of character and force some submerged - how shall I say - not craft, but subtlety, something working underground. A pull, a twist, like an undertow: menacing. A bluff grey haired lady, with large bright imaginative eyes." (52)

Conflict in the British Psycho-Analytical Society

Sigmund Freud and most of his family, including Anna Freud, arrived in London on 6th July, 1938, after the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. (53) Melanie Klein sent him a letter expressing the wish to call on him as soon as he was settled. He replied with a brief note saying that he hoped to see her in the near future. An invitation failed to materialize, although her daughter, Melitta Schmideberg, was a frequent visitor. (54)

Edward Glover, the scientific secretary of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, found himself increasingly opposed to the innovations and influence of Melanie Klein. For several years he tried to oust the Kleinians as a group within the Society. (55) The problem increased with Klein's supporters who arrived in England from Austria and Germany, fleeing from Adolf Hitler. This included people such as Hanna Segal, Paula Heimann, Herbert Rosenfeld, Nelly Wollfheim and Eva Rosenfeld. By 1938 one-third of its members were from the continent. She also had the support of British members such as Susan Sutherland Isaacs, Joan Riviere, John Rickman, Donald Winnicott and Clifford M. Scott. (56)

However, Ernest Jones, protected Klein from Glover. In March 1939 she wrote to Jones thanking him for his help. "You have created the movement in England and carried it through innumerable difficulties and hardships to its present position... Now, I want to thank you for your personal friendship, and for your help and encouragement in what is of infinitely greater importance to us both than personal feelings - namely our work. I shall never forget that it was you who brought me to England and made it possible for me to carry out, and develop, my work in spite of all opposition." (57)

Edward Glover
Edward Glover

Anna Freud joined with Glover in the attacks on Klein arguing at a meeting of the British Psycho-Analytical Society Training Committee meeting that "Mrs. Klein's work is not psycho-analysis but a substitution for it. The reason she gave for this opinion was that Mrs. Klein's work differs so greatly in theoretical conclusions and in practice from what they know to be psychoanalysis... Dr. Glover said that her work may either turn out to be a development of psycho-analysis or a deviation from it... Regarding the body of knowledge which should be taught to candidates, he said that controversial contributions should be excluded, referring to Mrs. Klein's work." (58)

Melanie Klein's daughter, Melitta Schmideberg, was also highly critical of the Kleinian group. At one meeting, on 13th May 1942: "Melitta's shrill accusations, based on innuendo and gossip, had been distressing and embarrassing; but Glover's thundering rhetoric in leveling the gravest of charges against the Kleinian group left everyone at the meeting shaken. Glover essentially accused one group of trying to insinuate its way into power through the training of candidates; and if the situation were allowed to continue, within a very few years the British Society would be entirely dominated by the Kleinians." Melanie Klein commented that her supporters were made to look like "a forbidden sect doing some harmful work, which should be prevented from spreading." (59)

Ernest Jones condemned the behaviour of Schmideberg and Glover and that Klein had good cause to bring a libel action against them. Anna Freud agreed and Klein reported to Susan Sutherland Isaac that: "She (Anna) is inclined to regard Melitta's attacks more in the way of a naughty child, and certainly underrates the disruptive effect on the Society which was - and here she is quite right - only so bad because the Society did not know how to deal with it." (60)

Glover argued that "in the six years up to 1940 every training analyst appointed (5 in all) was an adherent of Mrs. Klein". Sylvia Payne carried out research into these claims and wrote to Klein about what she found: "I have studied Glover's speech. He says that there are 8 or 9 of your adherents among training analysts. The following are the actual names. Klein, Riviere, Rickman, Isaacs, Winnicott, Scott (control of child analysis and lectures). To these names he must be adding Wilson and Sheehan-Dare (they accepted many Kleinian ideas, but refused to be described as adherents of anyone). I propose to say that his figures are open to argument." (61)

Edward Glover was outraged by a January 1944 suggestion that the teaching of the organization should cover Klein's controversial ideas. He now resigned, complaining that the Society was hopelessly "women ridden". (62) In a letter to Sylvia Payne he explained his decision: "I have now simply exercised the privilege of withdrawing from the Society (a) because its general tendency and training has become unscientific and (b) because it is becoming less and less Freudian and has therefore lapsed from its original aims." (63)

Glover attempted to persuade Anna Freud to leave the British Psycho-Analytical Society. Phyllis Grosskurth argued that "Glover lacked psychological insight and an understanding of the strength of Anna Freud's inflexibility. She would not allow herself, Freud's daughter, to be pushed out of the Society and branded as a schismatic. She sometimes said that she stayed in because she was grateful to Jones for bringing her family to England, but it is possible that she also felt that she could work things to her own advantage if she played her cards right." (64)

Negotiations continued for two years before an agreement was reached. On 5th November, 1946, a scheme of training was arranged which incorporated both the ideas of Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein. (65) "It is disturbing to accept that highly intelligent, well-educated people could succumb to the hysteria that swept through the British Society for some years. But one must realize that all human beings, even psychoanalysts, are subject to the same pressures; when engulfed in groups, they exhibit envy, anger, and competitiveness, whether the group be a trade union or a synod of bishops. The fact that the British Society did not split is, in the view of many members, evidence both of British hypocrisy and of British determination to compromise." (66)

Breast Envy

In 1955 Melanie Klein published a paper entitled, Some Theoretical Conclusions Regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant. She argued that the child seeks both enviously to spoil good things in the mother, and greedily to expropriate and devour and destroy them within itself. Such greed and envy, she insisted, begins not with envy of the father's penis as symbol of self-esteem as Freud had claimed. It begins with envy of the mother's breast. She agreed with Karen Horney that both boys and girls envy the breast. (67)

Klein believed that breast-feeding played an important role in the relationship between the mother and child: "A really happy relationship between mother and child can be established only when nursing and feeding the baby is not a matter of duty but a real pleasure to the mother. If she can enjoy it thoroughly, her pleasure will be unconsciously realized by the child, and this reciprocal happiness will lead to a full emotional understanding between mother and child… it is important that a mother should recognise that her child is not a possession and that, though he is so small and utterly dependent on her help, he is a separate entity and ought to be treated as an individual human being; she must not tie him too much to herself, but assist him to grow up to independence." (68)

In 1957 Klein published Envy and Gratitude. In the book she rejected the idea of "penis envy" and instead suggested that men suffered from "breast envy". She argued: "Experience has taught me that the first object of envy is the nourishing breast, as the child feels that the breast possesses all that he desires, has an unlimited amount of milk and love but holds it for his enjoyment. This feeling increases the child's resentment and hatred, and consequently disturbs his reationship with the mother." (69)

Freudians complained that Klein's method threatened to "imprison both patient and analysist in a matriarch world". (70) Julia Segal argues that there was another major reason for the attacks she received: "Many people opposed and still oppose Klein's view that a small baby may have powerful feelings of aggression not only towards its mother in general but even towards her breast at an age when the baby is too small to have a perception of her as a whole person... Teaching about Klein for many years, I have found that the idea that the small baby has feelings of hatred and aggressiveness from the beginning is extremely unpalatable, particularly among those; who like to see the baby as the innocent victim of a cruel world. Those who have given birth to babies themselves tend in my experience to have a view more accepting of Klein's. The idea that a baby has only good, loving feelings towards its mother does not really stand up to nights pacing backwards and forwards with a baby who is screaming and will not be comforted, or who sometimes turns away from the breast and screams for no apparent reason. Clearly, there may be a reason, but it is not a simple matter of being a bad parent." (71)

Melanie Klein found this criticism difficult to take and the main result was an intense feeling of loneliness. This was the subject of her final paper. "Loneliness is not the objective situation of being deprived of external companionship. I am referring to the inner sense of loneliness - the sense of being alone regardless of external circumstances, of feeling lonely even when among friends or receiving love. This state of internal loneliness, I will suggest, is the result of a ubiquitous yearning for an unattainable perfect internal state. Such loneliness, which is experienced to some extent by everyone, springs from paranoid and depressive anxieties which are derivatives of the infant's psychotic anxieties. These anxieties exist in some measure in every individual but are excessively strong in illness; therefore loneliness is also part of illness, both of a schizophrenic and depressive nature." (72)

Melanie Klein died on 22nd September 1960. Melitta Schmideberg did not attend the funeral and instead gave a lecture in London wearing red boots. (73)

Primary Sources

(1) Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude (1957)

Experience has taught me that the first object of envy is the nourishing breast, as the child feels that the breast possesses all that he desires, has an unlimited amount of milk and love but holds it for his enjoyment. This feeling increases the child's resentment and hatred, and consequently disturbs his relationship with the mother...

It took years, however, for the patient to fully experience envy of the breast and its creative capacity and desire to harm it, which had been completely split. At the beginning of his analysis he had a dream that he described as "ridiculous": he was smoking a pipe, which was filled with sheets torn from one of my books. He was very surprised because "one does not smoke printed paper". I interpreted that this was an aspect of the dream of secondary importance; the main meaning was given by the fact that he had torn my work and was destroying it...

The awareness achieved in the integration process allows the patient, in the course of the analysis , to recognize the existence of potentially dangerous parts of the Self. But when love can coexist with the hatred that has been split and with envy, these feelings become bearable and diminish, as mitigated by love. The various anxious contents mentioned above also diminish, such as the danger of being overwhelmed by a part of the split and destructive Self.

(2) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992)

The ideas published in Envy and Gratitude in 1957 created a furore…. The idea that a newborn baby could feel at all had been a stumbling block for many analysts. Others were happy with the idea that the baby could experience love towards the breast/mother but they balked at the idea of the baby hating the breast. Others found it tolerable that the baby could love and hate the breast/mother as long as the hatred was seen as a response to some kind of failure on the part of the breast/mother. The idea of envy of the penis had achieved respectability over the years. But the idea that the baby could hate and try to destroy a breast/mother felt to be good, loving and feeding was a step which turned more analysts against Klein. For others, this idea was, like the rest of Klein's work, a shock to the system but one which made sense and which opened up possibilities for understanding which had not existed in the analytical world before.

(3) Hanna Segal, Klein (1979)

Many people opposed and still oppose Klein's view that a small baby may have powerful feelings of aggression not only towards its mother in general but even towards her breast at an age when the baby is too small to have a perception of her as a whole person. Fairbairn, Winnicott and Bowlby all took issue with her over this.

Teaching about Klein for many years, I have found that the idea that the small baby has feelings of hatred and aggressiveness from the beginning is extremely unpalatable, particularly among those; who like to see the baby as the innocent victim of a cruel world. Those who have given birth to babies themselves tend in my experience to have a view more accepting of Klein's. The idea that a baby has only good, loving feelings towards its mother does not really stand up to nights pacing backwards and forwards with a baby who is screaming and will not be comforted, or who sometimes turns away from the breast and screams for no apparent reason. Clearly, there may be a reason, but it is not a simple matter of being a bad parent.

(4) Melitta Schmideberg, letter to Melanie Klein (August, 1934)

I hope you will therefore also allow me to give you some advice. You do not take it enough into consideration that I am very different from you. I already told you years ago that nothing causes a worse reaction in me than trying to force feelings into me - it is the surest way to kill all feelings. Unfortunately, you have a strong tendency towards trying to enforce your way of viewing, of feeling, your interests, your friends, etc. onto me. I am now grown up and must be independent; I have my own life, my husband; I must be allowed to have interests, friends, feelings and thoughts which are different or even contrary to yours. I do not think that the relationship with her mother, however good, should be the centre of her life for an adult woman. I hope you do not expect from my analysis that I shall again take an attitude towards you which is similar to the one I had until a few years ago. This was one of neurotic dependence. I certainly can, with your help, retain a good and friendly relationship with you, if you allow me enough freedom, independence, and dissimilarity, and if you try to be less sensitive about several things.

Also, don't forget that through our shared profession a difficult situation is created; this could most certainly be solved if you treated me like another colleague and allowed me all the freedom of thinking and expression of opinion, as you do the others.

(5) Melanie Klein, Our Adult World and Its Roots in Infancy (1959) Melanie Klein, Collected Works (2017)

The very greedy individual is liable to be ambitious. The role of ambition, both in its disturbing aspects, shows itself wherever we observe human behaviour. There is no doubt that ambition gives impetus to achievement, but, if it becomes the main driving force, cooperation with others is endangered. The highly ambitious person, in spite of all his successes, always remains dissatisfied, in the same way as a greedy baby is never satisfied.

(6) Elizabeth Spillius, Melanie Klein Today (1988)

There had been little focusing on aggression in psychoanalytic theory before the 1920s, even though Freud's case histories give ample illustration of his interpreting rivalry and aggressiveness as well as unconscious sexual wishes. Certainly Klein was very much aware of destructiveness and of the anxiety it arouses, which was one of her earliest areas of research, but she also stressed, both in theory and practice, the importance of love, the patient's concern for his objects, of guilt and of reparation. Further, in her later work especially, she conveys a strong feeling of support to the patient when negative feelings were being uncovered: this is especially clear in Envy and Gratitude (1957). It is my impression that she was experienced by her patients not as an adversary but as an ally in their struggles to accept feelings they hated in themselves and were therefore trying to deny and obliterate. I think it is this attitude that gave the feeling of `balance' that Segal says was so important in her experience of Klein as an analyst. Certainly that sort of balance is something that present Kleinian analysts are consciously striving for.

(7) Hanna Segal speech at the unveiling of the plaque to Melanie Klein (1985)

Apart from seeing her patients and supervisions Mrs Klein held through the years a regular postgraduate seminar. There she shared her discoveries, discussed her ideas and we were inspired by the freshness of her new approach. As a teacher she was generous, inspiring and never stifling. She stimulated creativity of others and was ungrudging in her help and comments. She was always respectful and encouraging to our own ideas.

I like to think of this house as a cradle of new generations of analysts and new ideas. She was a rich personality with many facets. But what stands out in my memory is her warm generosity, her spontaneity, sometimes to the point of impetuosity. She had a gift for intimacy and contact and a total lack of pretensions. I like to think of it as a gift for equality. Though one could not forget her stature and she herself was aware of it, particularly in her later years, her relationship with her friends was experienced by both parties as one of equals.

(8) Quotes by Melanie Klein (1920-1980)


(i) "The feeling of gratitude is one of the most obvious expressions of the capacity to love. Gratitude is an essential factor for establishing the relationship with the good object and for appreciating the goodness of others and one's own." Envy and Gratitude (1957)

(ii) "One of the consequences of excessive envy seems to be the precocious establishment of guilt. When the ego is not yet able to bear the guilt, it is felt as a persecution and the object that causes it becomes a persecutor." Envy and Gratitude (1957)

(iii) "A frequent defense mode is to stimulate envy in others with their success, with wealth and fortune, thus reversing the situation of those who experience envy." Envy and Gratitude (1957)

Student Activities

The Middle Ages

The Normans

The Tudors

The English Civil War

Industrial Revolution

First World War

Russian Revolution

Nazi Germany

References

(1) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 2

(2) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 6

(3) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 3

(4) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 206

(5) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 3

(6) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 16

(7) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 4

(8) Robert D. Hinshelwood, Maxine Klein: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(9) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 5

(10) Frederick Crews, Freud: The Making of An Illusion (2017) page 621

(11) Sigmund Freud, Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1910) pages 33-37

(12) Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) pages 146-147

(13) Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) page 165

(14) Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) page 261

(15) David Stafford-Clark, What Freud Really Said (1965) page 105

(16) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 7

(17) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 31

(18) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 30

(19) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 115

(20) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 99

(21) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 62

(22) Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, On the Technique of the Analysis of Children (1920)

(23) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 93

(24) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 177

(25) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 10

(26) Robert D. Hinshelwood, Maxine Klein: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(27) Susan Quinn, A Mind of her Own: The Life of Karen Horney (1987) page 196

(28) Ernst Simmel, Zehn Jahre Berliner Psychoanalytisches Institute (1930) page 12

(29) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 123

(30) Susan Quinn, A Mind of her Own: The Life of Karen Horney (1987) pages 182-183

(31) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 99

(32) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 110

(33) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 123

(34) Alix Strachey and James Strachey, Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey (1986) page 180

(35) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 224

(36) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 184

(37) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) page 13

(38) Hanna Segal, Dream, Phantasy and Art (1990) page 86

(39) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 229

(40) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 199

(41) Melitta Schmideberg, British Journal of Psychiatry (January, 1971)

(42) Melitta Schmideberg, letter to Melanie Klein (August, 1934)

(43) Melitta Schmideberg, British Journal of Psychiatry (January, 1971)

(44) Melitta Schmideberg, speech at British Institute of Psycho-Analysis conference (21st November, 1934)

(45) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) pages 232-234

(46) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 216

(47) Hanna Segal, Klein (1979) page 170

(48) Ernest Jones, speech delivered to the Vienna Society (5th May, 1936)

(49) Melitta Schmideberg, After the Analysis - Some Phantasies of Patients (17th February, 1937)

(50) Joan Riviere, letter to James Strachey (19th March, 1937)

(51) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 236

(52) Virginia Woolf, diary entry (15th March, 1939)

(53) The Manchester Guardian (7th June, 1938)

(54) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 241

(55) Richard Appignanesi, Introducing Melanie Klein (2006) pages 116-7

(56) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 241-2

(57) Melanie Klein, letter to Ernest Jones (11th March 1939)

(58) Minutes of the British Psycho-Analytical Society Training Committee (24th April, 1940)

(59) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 301

(60) Melanie Klein, letter to Susan Sutherland Isaac (2nd May, 1942)

(61) Sylvia Payne, letter to Melanie Klein (24th May, 1942)

(62) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 243

(63) Edward Glover, letter to Sylvia Payne (1st February, 1944)

(64) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 351

(65) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 244

(66) Phyllis Grosskurth, Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work (1986) page 362

(67) Melanie Klein, Some Theoretical Conclusions Regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant (1952)

(68) Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works 1921–1945 (1975) page 300

(69) Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude (1957) page 21

(70) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 239

(71) Julia Segal, Melanie Klein (1992) pages 93-94

(72) Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude and Other Works (1975) page 300

(73) Janet Sayers, Mothers of Psychoanalysis (1991) page 257