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Skues, R. (1987). Jeffrey Masson and the Assault on Freud. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(4):305-314.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(4):305-314

Paperse on Sexual Abuse

Jeffrey Masson and the Assault on Freud

Richard Skues

Critical analysis of Jeffrey Masson's book The Assault on Truth has generally been inadequate; neither gleeful welcoming nor cursory dismissal is sufficient to meet Masson's challenge. He reconstructs the events which, he claims, led to Freud's abandonment of the seduction theory of neurosis and argues that this turning away from a ‘real event’ and towards phantasy represents an error from which psychoanalysis has never recovered. This paper argues on the contrary that Masson's historical reconstruction is unsound on its own internal evidence (although his exact thesis is often unclear), and that the theoretical conclusions he draws are based on a gross misunderstanding not only of psychoanalysis and the role of phantasy but also, ironically, of the seduction theory itself. His general reassertion of the aetiological significance of child sexual abuse is therefore misconceived.

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