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Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein

“One of the many interesting and surprising experiences of the beginner in child analysis is to find in even very young children a capacity for insight which is often far greater than that of adults.”- Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein was a true legend in the field of developmental psychology. Born on 30th March, 1882, in Austria she was a psychoanalyst known for devising therapeutic techniques for children. She studied in depth about the relationship between a mother and child in order to devise play therapy technique in the field of developmental psychology. Melanie Klein was also the pioneer of formulating object relations theory.

She spent her early life in Vienna, Austria. She wanted to attend medical school initially, but later she developed an interest in towards the field of psychoanalysis. Her first subjects were her own children in the field of psychoanalysis. She moved to Berlin in 1921, where she studied psychoanalysis under the supervision of Karl Abraham. Karl Abraham also performed psychoanalysis on her. Her impressive work performance in the field of psychoanalysis led him to Ernest Jones who was a British psychoanalyst. He invited her to London to work for him in 1926. She worked there until her death in 1960.

Besides, Karl Abraham, Sigmund Freud also played a significant role as an influencer on Melanie Klein. During the period of her research association with Sigmund Freud and her psychoanalyst daughter, Anna, Klein developed ideas that conflicted with the views of continental analysts. These controversial views forced the British Psychoanalytical society to split into three schools of thought known as Kleinian, Anna Freudian and independent.

Klein was the first psychologist who performed psychoanalysis on children. She was very innovative in applying her versatile techniques in working with children. This also assisted her in formulating theories related to infant development. Klein is also one of the pioneers of object relations theory. This theory depicts the process of establishing a psyche surrounding the growth of an individual as compared to an individual’s surroundings and environment. The foundation of the psyche consists of Eros and Thanatos. Eros denotes the “life instinct”, whereas, “Thanatos” denotes the “death instinct”. According to the theoretical framework developed by Melanie Klein all the living organisms are continually flowing towards an inorganic state. This inorganic state is known as Thanatos or “death instinct”. This also proved that humans are driven towards death. Melanie Klein and Sigmund Freud regarded the forces of Eros and Thanatos as the biomental forces that form the base of the psyche. She observed that children do their emotional communication while playing. After studying and observing numerous children playing with dolls, plasticine, paper and other toys, Klein developed a sense in interpreting the behavioral pattern of children while playing.

Melanie Klein was a thoroughly accomplished psychologist. It was due to the hard work of Melanie Klein that kleinian psychoanalysis became one of the major schools of thought within the field of psychoanalysis. She breathed her last on 22nd September, 1960, in London, England.

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