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The term "anality" may refer to the second stage of libido development, to a feature of the pregenital organization of the libido, to an aspect of sexual life, or to a salient personality trait. In his letter to Wilhelm Fliess of November 14, 1897, Freud indicated that by adulthood the regions of the mouth and throat and of the anus no longer "produce a release of sexuality" (1950a, p. 279). Their appearance and representation no longer excite, but instead provoke the disgust associated with repression. In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), Freud defined anality as sexual activity in the child that is anaclitically dependent on another physiological function: defecation. The erogenous zone, the zone of attachment of the impulse, is in this case the anal region. This is why certain disturbances of a neurotic origin involve a range of digestive disturbances.

In "Character and Anal Eroticism" (1908b, p. 169), Freud discerned some specifically anal character traits: orderliness, parsimony, and obstinacy. These traits, in his view, are the result of the sublimation of anal eroticism. The handling of money, for example, is clearly connected with an interest in excrement.

In a letter to Dr. Friedrich Krauss (1910f), Freud spoke of the universal tendency of people to "dwell with pleasure upon this part of the body [the anus], its performances and indeed the product of its function" (p. 234). In "The Disposition to Obsessional Neurosis" (1913i), Freud distinguishes passivity, fed by anal eroticism, and activity (mastery), which coincides with sadism. Accentuating this eroticism during the stage of pregenital organization will, during the genital stage, leave men with a significant disposition to homosexuality. When he began his fundamental study "Mourning and Melancholia" (1916-1917g [1915]), Freud wrote, "As regards one particular striking feature of melancholia that we have mentioned, the prominence of the fear of becoming poor, it seems plausible to suppose that it is derived from anal erotism which has been torn out of its context and altered in a regressive sense" (p. 252).

In Freud's correspondence with Karl Abraham (Freud, 1965a [1907-1926]), the study of melancholic depression was a central theme. Abraham (1927), considered object loss to be an anal process. One form of behavior specific to melancholic depression is an impulse for coprophagy (feeding on feces), which is associated with the oral process typical of introjection and central to melancholy. Abraham went on to claim that anal eroticism embodies two diametrically opposed forms of pleasure. The same opposition can be seen in sadistic impulses. His distinction between two anal-sadistic stagesprimitive expulsion (a show of hostility toward the object) and late retention (including tendencies to dominate)therefore seems fundamental. For Abraham, sexual development after the oral phase went through a second, anal-sadistic, phase, reinforcing the ambivalence that arose during the oral-sadistic substage. This phase itself comprises two substages. The first is characterized by destructive tendencies, while in the second the subject seeks to possess and preserve the object. Freud summarized this approach in his New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1933a).

Melanie Klein (1940) adopted Freud's and Abraham's conception of depression and mourning, and expanded on it. She treated melancholy as associated with loss of the object and theorized that the archaic character of some pathologies is signaled by the mechanisms of projection and splitting. For Klein (1945), fantasies of emptying the breast and penetrating it to steal its milk, or of attacking it to fill it with fecal matter, underlay paranoid anxieties. Klein then describes the mechanism of projective identification, which is based on earlier work of hers (1955). Through this mechanism, parts of the self empty out into various objects. In this connection, anality assumes central importance in pregenitality and the capacity for sublimation.

Donald Meltzer (1966) makes use of the concepts of the false self and the as-if personality, introduced by Donald W. Winnicott and Helene Deutsch, in his investigation of the features of pseudomaturity, which he associates with anality. Meltzer views anality as a defense against a relation to the breast, and later against the total mother-object.

André Green (1973) suggests that anal regression leads to the destructuring of thought. Primary anality provokes, attacks, and discharges until a state of blank psychosis arises. This approach allows Green (1983) to distinguish two forms of narcissism: a narcissism associated with the life instinct and a narcissism associated with the death instinct (a negative form of narcissism).

Dominique J. Arnoux

See also: Activity/passivity; Anal-sadistic stage; Asthma; Character; Coprophilia; Encopresis; Eroticism, anal; Erotogenic zone; Feces; Gift; Mastery; Modesty; "Notes upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis" (Rat Man); Obsessional neurosis; Partial drive; Pregenital; Psychosexual development; Sadism; Stage; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality .


Abraham, Karl. (1927). A short history of the development of the libido. In his Selected papers on psycho-analysis. London: Hogarth Press.

Donnet, Jean-Luc, and Green, André. (1973). L'enfant de ça. Paris: Minuit.

Freud, Sigmund. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.

. (1908b). Character and anal erotism. SE, 9: 167-175.

. (1910f). Letter to Dr. Friedrich S. Krauss on Anthropophyteia. SE, 11: 233 ff.

. (1913i). The disposition to obsessional neurosis: A contribution to the problem of choice of neurosis. SE, 12: 311-326.

. (1916-1917g [1915]). Mourning and melancholia. SE, 14: 237-258.

. (1933a [1932]). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 22: 1-182.

. (1950a [1887-1902]). Extracts from the Fliess papers. SE, 1: 173-280.

. (1965a [1907-1926]). A psycho-analytic dialogue: The letters of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham, 1907-1926 (Bernard Marsh and Hilda C. Abraham, Trans.). New York: Basic Books.

(1985c [1887-1904]). The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904 (Jeffrey M. Masson, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1985.

Green, André. (2001). The dead mother. In his Life narcissism, death narcissism (Andrew Weller, Trans.). New York: Free Association Books. (Original work published 1983)

Klein, Melanie. (1940). Mourning and its relation to manic-depressive states. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 21, 125-153.

. (1945). The Oedipus complex in the light of early anxieties. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 26, 11-33.

Klein, Melanie; Heimann, Paula; and Money-Kyrle, Roger (Eds.). (1955). New directions in psycho-analysis: The significance of infant conflict in the pattern of adult behaviour. London: Tavistock Publications.

Meltzer, Donald. (1966). The relationship of anal masturbation to projective identification. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47, 335-342.