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Reik, T. (1951). “Jessica, My Child!”. Am. Imago, 8(1):3-27.

(1951). American Imago, 8(1):3-27

“Jessica, My Child!”

Theodor Reik


As I consider, in retrospect, the various ways and byways, the many detours and turns through which my thought wandered to their destination on that evening, it seems to me, that we all of us marvel too little at our own mental processes. We are not astonished enough at the wide circle of our own thoughts. We speak most casually of unconscious emotions and impulses and are not ready to admit that the area of the repressed is a state within a state, an underground in which movement and power can be felt and in which continual life and productivity can be observed. Without such an astonishment, psychoanalysis is reduced to a science without human interest, with technology as its medical application.

As I look back at the meanderings of my thoughts, I am inclined to agree with the sentiment expressed by a patient the other day. This clever man who had gained insight into his own bizarre obsessional ideas, said “The mind is an insult to the intelligence.” Yet in my own case, there were no such obsessional thoughts nor any other extraordinary mental phenomena. Nothing of this kind; no conspicuous pathological speculations or ideas. Just an every day-train of thoughts and a fairly average slice of human experience.

It is, of course, necessary to sketch the external situation from which my train of thoughts emerged. Tired after a long day of psychoanalytical sessions, I relaxed on the couch after dinner. My daughter, Theodora, whom we call “Thody” came into the room and said: Good night, Daddy.” “Where are you going”? I asked. “I have a date”. “Don't come home too late. Good night.” I should know better than ask her with whom she has a date. It seems she does not like such questions. Well, she is seventeen years old… In my time children were not so independent.

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