Karl Abraham: The Birth of Object Relations Theory




Together with Ferenczi, Karl Abraham was perhaps Freud’s most creative and devoted disciple. In this book, after outlining the socio-cultural context of the day, Isabel Sanfeliu examines Abraham’s life as a student, his family environment and his first steps as a physician and psychoanalyst.

As a clinical doctor Abraham was calm and detached, and a good example of a stable and objective analyst. Despite his strong personality, his loyalty towards Freud never wavered. At the pioneering Psychoanalytic Institute which he founded and directed in Berlin, he established a series of professional standards which are still observed today. The present book is organised around an examination of Abraham's psychoanalytic work, according to his different fields of interest, before going on to consider his rigorously conducted clinical research.

Abrahams's findings regarding the positive role of aggression in the development of the baby constitutes one of his original theories, as does the establishment of boundaries with the onset of object love. Abraham was undoubtedly influenced by his experiences with psychotic and highly dysfunctional patients. Not only did he observe the discharge function of the mother, but also her structuring dimension. It is in this sense that Abraham can be regarded as the pioneer of object relations theory, much before this psychoanalytic concept was given its name.

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