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Kris, E. (1956). The Personal Myth—A Problem in Psychoanalytic Technique. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 4:653-681.

(1956). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4:653-681

The Personal Myth—A Problem in Psychoanalytic Technique

Ernst Kris, Ph.D.


In the analysis of certain patients a particularly detailed and careful scrutiny of their life history seems essential in order to achieve meaningful results. In a number of cases in which this procedure proved to be indicated I have gained the impression that these individuals use their autobiographical memories—a term which I borrow from Freud's early (1899) writings—as a protective screen. In some cases this screen as a whole is carefully constructed, and built as some isolated screen memories tend to be (3), (4), (7), (8), (16): the firm outline and the richness of detail is meant to cover significant omissions and distortions. Only after omissions have been filled in and distortions have been corrected, can access to the repressed material be gained. In other cases occurring more frequently, it is not the total life history but only a more or less well-defined period or isolated stretches of the personal history which have been worked up as screen; even then the well-knit structure suggests further and searching investigation. The question might well be raised which dynamic and developmental conditions favor the choice of this method of defense.


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