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Fig 2.18 – Breast Envy

Text: 83 and 84

Melanie Klein believed that the infant psyche was divided into two opposing states of mind, the good and bad breast. The good breast provided nourishment and love; the bad breast became bad because of the aggression and the destructive fantasies of retaliation by the child against the mother. To maintain homeostasis the child needed to split the experiences of mother into all good or all bad. This primordial split of a good and bad self, Klein called the paranoid-schizoid position because it produced persecutory anxiety generated by the death instinct.

How the child resolved the destructive aspects of the “good mother breast” and “bad mother
breast” split depended upon the constitution of the child and the nurturance of the mother. This resolution provided the psychological foundation for interpersonal relationships in adulthood. As Freud focused on penis envy, object-relations psychologists focused on the breast, declaring that men suffered from breast envy.

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