The peculiarity of the play activities of children of early age

Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory. IT is a part of popular belief about the sexual impulse that it is absent in the peculiarity of the play activities of children of early age and that it first appears in the period of life known as puberty.

This, though an obvious error, is a serious one in its consequences and is chiefly due to our present ignorance of the fundamental principles of the sexual life. This remarkable negligence is due partly to conventional considerations, which influence the writers on account of their own bringing up, and partly to a psychic phenomenon which has thus far remained unexplained. On the other hand we must assume, or we may convince ourselves through psychological observations on others, that the very impressions which we have forgotten have nevertheless left the deepest traces in our psychic life, and acted as determinants for our whole future development. We shall not, however, hesitate to assert that the existence of the infantile amnesia gives us a new point of comparison between the psychic states of the child and those of the psychoneurotic. We have already encountered another point of comparison when confronted by the fact that the sexuality of the psychoneurotic preserves the infantile character or has returned to it.

May there not be an ultimate connection between the infantile and the hysterical amnesias? The connection between the infantile and the hysterical amnesias is really more than a mere play of wit. The hysterical amnesia which serves the repression can only be explained by the fact that the individual already possesses a sum of recollections which have been withdrawn from conscious disposal and which by associative connection now seize that which is acted upon by the repelling forces of the repression emanating from consciousness. The extraordinary frequent discoveries of apparently abnormal and exceptional sexual manifestations in childhood, as well as the discovery of infantile reminiscences in neurotics, which were hitherto unconscious, allow us to sketch the following picture of the sexual behavior of childhood. It seems certain that the newborn child brings with it the germs of sexual feelings which continue to develop for some time and then succumb to a progressive suppression, which is in turn broken through by the proper advances of the sexual development and which can be checked by individual idiosyncrasies. Nothing definite is known concerning the lawfulness and periodicity of this oscillating course of development.

It is during this period of total or at least partial latency that the psychic forces develop which later act as inhibitions on the sexual life, and narrow its direction like dams. These psychic forces are loathing, shame, and moral and esthetic ideation masses. What are the means that accomplish these very important constructions so significant for the later personal culture and normality? We can also venture an opinion about the mechanisms of such sublimation. The Emergence of the Latency Period.

Without deluding ourselves as to the hypothetical nature and deficient clearness of our understanding regarding the infantile period of latency and delay, we will return to reality and state that such a utilization of the infantile sexuality represents an ideal bringing up from which the development of the individual usually deviates in some measure and often very considerably. Hungarian pediatrist, Lindner, has devoted an excellent essay. No investigator has yet doubted the sexual nature of this action. 8 Still, the best theories based on the observations of adults leave us in the lurch in the face of this manifestation of infantile sexual activity. It is our duty here to arrange this state of affairs differently. Havelock Ellis, we will say that it is autoerotic. It is, moreover, clear that the action of the thumbsucking child is determined by the fact that it seeks a pleasure which has already been experienced and is now remembered.

Through the rhythmic sucking on a portion of the skin or mucous membrane it finds the gratification in the simplest way. It is also easy to conjecture on what occasions the child first experienced this pleasure which it now strives to renew. Not all children suck their thumbs. It may be assumed that it is found only in children in whom the erogenous significance of the lip-zone is constitutionally re├źnforced.

Children in whom this is retained are habitual kissers as adults and show a tendency to perverse kissing, or as men they have a marked desire for drinking and smoking. But if repression comes into play they experience disgust for eating and evince hysterical vomiting. In the thumbsucking or pleasure-sucking we have already been able to observe the two essential characters of one infantile sexual manifestation. This manifestation does not yet know any sexual object, it is autoerotic and its sexual aim is under the control of an erogenous zone. Let us assume for the present that these characters also hold true for most of the other activities of the infantile sexual impulse.

The Characters of the Erogenous Zones. From the example of thumbsucking we may gather a great many points useful for the distinguishing of an erogenous zone. It is a portion of skin or mucous membrane in which the stimuli produce a feeling of pleasure of definite quality. There is no doubt that the pleasure-producing stimuli are governed by special determinants which we do not know. The rhythmic characters must play some part in them and this strongly suggests an analogy to tickling. The erogenous quality may adhere most notably to definite regions of the body.

As is shown by the example of thumbsucking, there are predestined erogenous zones. The production of the sensation of pleasure therefore depends more on the quality of the stimulus than on the nature of the bodily region. The sexual aim of the infantile impulse consists in the production of gratification through the proper excitation of this or that selected erogenous zone. In order to leave a desire for its repetition this gratification must have been previously experienced, and we may be sure that nature has devised definite means so as not to leave this occurrence to mere chance. It is in full accord with our physiological knowledge if the desire happens to be awakened also peripherally through an actual change in the erogenous zone. The action is only to some extent strange, as one stimulus for its suppression seems to want another applied to the same place.