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Macalpine, I. (1949). A Case of 'De-Conversion'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 30:57-58.

(1949). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 30:57-58

A Case of 'De-Conversion'

Ida Macalpine

In 1927 an interview which Freud had given to an American journalist was published. In it Freud's lack of religious faith and his indifference to a life after death were reported. An American physician, who read this conversation, subsequently wrote to Freud and related that he himself had gone through a short experience of unbelief, but had been cured of it in a miraculous way, and he expressed the hope that Freud, too, might yet find the path to faith.

Freud made the contents of two letters which he received from the American 'brother physician' the subject of a short analysis. In it he shows how the doctor, on seeing a 'sweet-faced woman' as a body in the post-mortem room, was suddenly overcome by grave doubts about the existence of God. There cannot be a God, he felt, because if there were he would never permit this 'dear old woman' to get into a post-mortem room. These qualms of conscience, however, were successfully overcome by an inner voice which the doctor heard within the next few days. His faith was firmly re-established and he never wavered again. Freud shows that seeing the 'dear old woman' in a post-mortem room re-awakened in a flash the doctor's Oedipus situation. But all he experience consciously was a rebellion against the Father.

Cases of de-conversion, however short-lived, are rarely reported—in contradistinction to a not inconsiderable literature on conversion. A case has come to my notice which bears such close similarity to the one reported by Freud that it seems justifiable to give an account of it here.

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