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(1985). Freud Soulved. Brit. J. Psychother., 1(3):224.

(1985). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 1(3):224


Freud Soulved


Dr. Lieberman, in his review of Bettelheim's Freud and Man's Soul, (British Journal of Psychotherapy Vol. 1, No. 1) says ‘After reading this book 1, for one, will be able to approach Freud's work with less distaste for its distancing technicalities.’ I suggest that his apparent blanket acceptance of the work leaves many very complex questions in obscurity. Let me confine myself to some problems of translation.

We may agree that such words as ‘cathexis’ and ‘parapraxis’ are unedifying importations into English which has its own words -‘investment’, ‘faulty achievement’ -that will do the job better. I does not follow, though, that all Bettelheim's suggestions about translation can be so easily accepted. ‘The Ego’ and ‘The. Id’ do indeed sound strange and technical to the man on the Clapham omnibus; but I am assured that Das Ich and ‘Das Es’ sound equally strange to his German equivalent - certainly my linguistic eyebrows raise themselves at ‘The I’. In any case, this is not simply a matter of substituting one word for another; there is a broader question of how we talk about psychic structure. ‘Where it was I shall be’ sounds fine; yet it doesn't help, any more than did its predecessor, with where we fit in the unconscious ego.

Finally the rendering of ‘Seele’ presents a higher order of difficulty. ‘Mind’ is certainly wrong; but despite Bettelheim's claim ‘soul’ will not do either, since it has inescapable non-materialist connotations which ‘Seele’ lacks. And if there is one thing that we can all agree on it is that Freud, whatever his stand on humanism, stood to the end for a materialist psychology. (For what it's worth, my own suggestion is that until something better turns up we duck the problem by using ‘psyche’.)

Bettelheim's book raises many important issues. But I have too frequently found its assault on medicalisation being used as ammunition by those who wish to remove sexuality from its central place in psychoanalysis. Bettelheim is a serious writer who deserves a more intelligent and less uncritical response.

Yours sincerely,

David Mayers MPhil.,

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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