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Vizard, E. (1987). Excusing Masson. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(2):203-206.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(2):203-206


Excusing Masson

E Vizard

Dear Dr Hinshelwood

I was delighted to see that the British Journal of Psychotherapy had decided to grasp the nettle and publish some controversial papers on Child Sexual Abuse (Vol. 3, no. 4). All four papers seemed very relevant to current practice, but for the purposes of brevity I will comment only on the paper by Richard Skues.

Richard Skues is right, I believe, to say that neither gleeful welcoming nor cursory dismissal is sufficient to meet Masson's challenge. I am afraid I do not think that Dr Skues has met Masson's challenge either in that, it seemed to me on re-reading Skues's article, he is simply joining the ranks of those who decry Masson's views about the importance of sexual abuse as a real-life trigger for later disturbance, rather than making alternative suggestions as to how we should understand Freud's reneguing on the seduction theory.

I started off feeling pleased at Skues's clarity in the construction of his article which looked at Masson's historical reconstruction, Freud's isolation, the Eckstein episode, Masson's theoretical reconstruction, and the conclusion. All this tantalisingly implies some clarity of thinking; however, I am afraid I found the bulk of the paper muddled and unclear. Skues tends to make rather dogmatic statements such as (in relation to Freud's dropping the seduction theory - page 306) ‘When he did eventually change direction it was certainly not towards a more popular theory’. Surely this is not correct? I agree that oedipal theory and a notion of infantile sexuality were immensely unpopular amongst Freud's colleagues at the time; however, this unpopularity would have been nothing compared to Freud's fate if he had stuck with the so-called seduction theory.

[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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