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Solomon, J.C. (1963). Alice and the Red King—The Psycho-Analytic View of Existence. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 44:63-73.

(1963). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 44:63-73

Alice and the Red King—The Psycho-Analytic View of Existence

Joseph C. Solomon

An investigation of the phenomenon of existence has engaged philosophers and theologians for many centuries. In recent years interest in the subject has been awakened in students of human behaviour by the writings of the so-called existentialists. This paper will discuss the concept of existence from the psycho-analytic point of view. It will be treated as a phenomenon of ego development and as an on-going activity of ego function.

The term 'existence' as used in this paper will refer to the awareness or appreciation of one's existence. A piece of furniture exists, but has no knowledge of its existence, nor does it have any fears of non-existence. The subjective quality of human existence is contingent upon a perceptual system and particular elements of ego mastery. The concept of human existence, a subject which has been discussed by philosophers through the ages, is explainable along well-known psychodynamic lines.

My interest in the concept of existence began when a patient reported an unusual dream:

'There is a giant lying on the grass. There is a big round circle above him indicating that he is dreaming (like in the comic strips). I'm in that dream just doing ordinary things. I get the idea that I exist only in his dream. It is important for him to stay asleep, because if he wakes up, I will disappear. This is a tremendous fear.'

The dream reveals something important about the patient, even without further background on the case. We suspect the patient has a very tenuous hold on reality, and that a plausible cause for this was a serious problem with the patient's father.

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