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Friedman, L. (1996). The Loewald Phenomenon. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:671-672.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:671-672

The Loewald Phenomenon

Lawrence Friedman

Hans Loewald, M.D.

Hans Loewald is an unusual figure in the history of analytic theory. Although by the end of his life his work was no longer “controversial” in the marginalizing sense of that word, it remains controversial as a classic of our day, stirring extremes of both respect and disapproval. Among his admirers, Loewald inspires a type of reverence rarely bestowed on theorists who do not cultivate disciples. But even among admirers, each seems to have his own sense of the main thrust of the work, a remarkable fact when you consider how compact and coherent Loewald's writings are. To some, he is the humanizer of a too scientistic theory, breathing life into ego apparatuses and warmth into neutralized energies. To others, he is a liberator of loving feelings in the working analyst. Some think he was trying to free analysts from the dead hand of transference theory. And some celebrate him as an early hermeneuticist. Among critics, these same images inspire fear of sentimentalism, infantilization, and personal influence in treatment. One reason for the variety of portraits is that Loewald managed to compress into a small body of writing a vision of the whole of Freudian theory, as interlocked with a theory of treatment. The nugget has many facets, and each one can be taken for its essence. Another reason for the multiple images may be that Loewald often wrote in nontechnical (though not necessarily conversational) language, which more readily evokes personal resonance.

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