Male chimpanzees are about twenty times as likely to fight as females are, but the fights don’t last more than a few minutes and rarely result in major injury. Two male chimps who fight each other this morning may be grooming each other this afternoon. According to Frans de Waal, a primatologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, “Picking a fight can actually be a way for [male chimps] to relate to one another, check each other out, and take a first step toward friendship.” Female chimps rarely fight, but when they do, their friendship is over. The hostility that results can last for years. Serious injury is also more likely to occur when female chimpanzees fight. Female chimps who have fought each other are “vindictive and irreconcilable, according to Dr. de Waal.
In our species these differences are apparent as soon as children can talk. Boys as young as two years of age, given a choice between violent fairy tales and warm and fuzzy fairy tales, usually choose the violent stories. Girls as young as two years of age most often choose the warm and fuzzy stories. In another study psychologists found that five- and seven-year-old girls who like to make up violent stories are more likely to have significant behavior problems than girls who prefer warm, nurturing stories. However, among boys, a preference for making up violent stories is not an indicator of underlying psychiatric problems. A preference for violent stories seems to be normal for five- to seven-year-old boys, while the same preference in five- to seven-year-old girls suggests a psychiatric disorder.
Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.51
Active support and channeling consist of creating a regressive, primitively structured environment with which the child is able to integrate; this, ideally, should continue in a sliding balance between the maturing bio-psychological structures, functions, and needs, and parental support. In actuality, however, the opportunities and conditions of practical necessity for an imbalance in this relationship, especially in our culture, are legion. Too little or too much, too early or too late support and channeling, and the varieties of conflict between the two parents in their capacity as supporting agents to the child represent a multitude of possibilities for such imbalance. With the increasing complexity of a culture other agents, in addition to parents, gain in importance, and the period of maturation lengthens.
Hans Loewald – The Essential Loewald: Defense and Reality p.22
As infant (mouth) and mother (breast) are not identical, or better, not one whole, any longer, a libidinal flow between infant and mother originates, in an urge towards re-establishing the original unity. It is this process in which consists the beginning constitution of a libidinal object. The emancipation from the mother, which entails the tension system between child and mother and the constitution of libidinal forces directed towards her, as well as of libidinal forces on the part of the mother toward the child – this emancipation and tension culminate in the phallic phase of the psychosexual development, lead to the Oedipus situation, and to the emergence of the super-ego.
The development away from primary narcissism, that is, the development of the ego, culminates in the resolution of the Oedipus conflict through the castration complex. The castration threat, directed against the gratification of libidinal urges toward the mother so that she is given up as a libidinal object, is seen as the representative of the demands of reality, and the submission to the castration threat as the decisive step in the establishment of the ego as based on the reality principle.
Hans Loewald – The Essential Loewald: Ego and Reality p.6
In any event, boys start to compare the fact that they have penises with other facts they come to recognize, that girls have vulvas rather than penises, that women grow breasts, get pregnant, give birth to babies, and nurse babies at their breasts. As the cognitive categories of present and absent are created, a boy wonders about his own body. Could he lose his penis and look like a girl? Could he have babies and nurse them? Longing, envy, and fear mix with interest and awe.
Neil Altman, Richard Briggs, Jay Frankel, Daniel Gensler, Pasqual Pantone – Relational Child Psychotherapy p.97
Freud insisted that a developing infant must experience frustration if he is ever to perceive an independently existing world. It is from the disappointment that the breast cannot forever magically meet the infant’s wishful lips that the infant begins to differentiate himself from the world. And it is through all the frustrating descendants of this primal frustration that the world comes to have psychological reality for him. A necessary condition of there being a world for this person is that it be a world that is not immediately responsive to his wishes. And so, one might say it is the essence of the world that it could never be better than good enough.
Jonathan Lear – Love and Its Place in Nature p.157
One way to get to these contents [of the infantile mind] might be to treat Hans as forming a community of one. The meaning of “widdler” would then be given by what Hans does and would call a “widdler.” The focus on Hans’s actual and potential use will give us Hans’s dispositions to call things “widdler”. But there is a problem which confronts any attempt to determine what this disposition is. Would Hans call an elephant’s trunk a widdler? An anteater’s nose? A large draining cyst? An octopus’s tendril? We have no way of answering these questions. We may see a certain coherence in Hans’s way of going on, but it is not sufficient for us to feel confident that we can go on to use the expression in respect to these problematic cases. More importantly, there does not seem to be any way to investigate what the disposition is without possibly altering it. Suppose, for instance, that Hans had called an elephant’s trunk a widdler. Is there any room for thinking that he might have made a mistake, even by his own lights? Suppose that we pointed out to Hans that this elephant also had a penis or a vagina; suppose, too, that we showed Hans that the elephant urinated through his penis, and that he used his trunk both as an olfactory and as a prehensile organ. It is not clear how Hans would respond. He might decide that the elephant has two widdlers. But let us suppose that he revises his original judgment: he comes to deny that the trunk is a widdler and asserts that the penis is one. There is no way to decide whether Hans has corrected a mistake in his own use of widdler or whether he has revised the concept of a widdler in the light of our teaching.
There is, then, a severe limit to the extent to which anyone can go native in a tribe that consists of one three-and-a-half-year-old speaker. Any attempt to focus in on what he means will to some extent draw his attention to our perceptions of salience. In trying to enter his linguistic community, we inevitably draw him into ours. There seems to be a gap that cannot be completely closed between the conceptual content of a mental state and the content of an infant’s mind.
Jonathan Lear – Love and Its Place in Nature p.102
I have now come to the end of what I had to say upon this case. There remain two problems, of the many that it raised, which seem to me to deserve special emphasis. The first relates to the phylogenetically inherited schemata, which, like the categories of philosophy, are concerned with the business of “placing” the impressions derived from actual experience. I am inclined to take the view that they are precipitates from the history of human civilization. The Oedipus complex, which comprises a child’s relation to its parents, is one of them – is, in fact, the best known member of the class. Wherever experiences fail to fit in with the hereditary schema, they become remodeled in the imagination – a process which might very profitably be followed out in detail. It is precisely such cases that are calculated to convince us of the independent existence of the schema. We are often able to see the schema triumphing over the experience of the individual; as when in our present case the boy’s father became the castrator and the menace to his infantile sexuality in spite of what was in other respects an inverted Oedipus complex. A similar process is at work where a nurse comes to play the mother’s part or where the two become fused together. The contradiction between experience and the schema seem to introduce an abundance of material in the conflicts of childhood.
The second problem is not far removed from the first, but it is incomparably more important. If one considers the behaviors of the four-year-old child towards the re-activated primal scene. Or even if one thinks of the far simpler reactions of the one-and-a-half-year-old child when the scene was actually experienced, it is hard to dismiss the view that some sort of hardly definable knowledge, something, as it were, preparatory to an understanding, was at work in the child at the time. What this may have consisted in we can form no conception; we have nothing at our disposal but the single analogy – and it is an excellent one – of the far reaching instinctive knowledge of animals.
If human beings too possessed an instinctive endowment such as this, it would not be surprising that it should be very particularly concerned with the processes of sexual life, even though it could not be by any means confined to them. This instinctive factor would then be the nucleus of the unconscious, a primitive kind of mental activity, which would later be dethroned and overlaid by human reason, when the faculty came to be acquired, but which in some people, perhaps in every one, would retain the power of drawing down to it the higher mental processes. Repression would be the return to this instinctive stage, and man would thus be paying for his great new acquisition with his liability to neuroses, and would be bearing witness by the possibility of the neuroses to the existence of those earlier, instinct-like, preliminary stages. But the significance of the traumas of early childhood would lie in the fact that to this unconscious they would contribute material which would save it from being worn away by the subsequent course of development.
Sigmund Freud – Three Case Histories p.278