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Reik, T. (1924). Psycho-Analysis of the Unconscious Sense of Guilt. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:439-450.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:439-450

Psycho-Analysis of the Unconscious Sense of Guilt

Theodor Reik

My son Arthur, who is the chief inspiration of this article, is now eight years old. To me he seems to be a fairly normal child, of good average intelligence, with an impulsive, gay temperament, not particularly given to reflection. He loves to play and only reads when he must. He shows great confidence in his mother and father and talks freely to them. To my mind he represents a typical town child of a certain class, without any marked peculiarities.

One day when he was out for a walk with me we met an acquaintance who joined us and began to talk to me; in the course of our conversation this man chanced to say that an 'inner voice' had kept him back from something. When he had gone, Arthur asked me what an inner voice was. I answered at random: 'A feeling.' Next day the following conversation took place between Arthur and myself. I give it word for word:

'Papa, now I know what an inner voice is.'

'What is it?'

'I've found out what it is. An inner voice is what you think.'

'What sort of thought?'

'Like sometimes when I often (!) go to table without washing my hands and I feel as if someone was saying to me "Go and wash your hands." And sometimes when I go to bed at night I play with my gambi, and then the inner voice says, "You mustn't play with your gambi", and when I go on doing it the same voice keeps saying "Leave off!"'

'Is it really a voice?'

'No, there isn't really anybody there, but I just remember it.'

'How do you mean: you remember it?'

Arthur pointed to his head. 'In my mind, with my brain.

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