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Lidz, T. (1964). August Strindberg: A Study of the Relationship Between his Creativity and Schizophrenia. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:399-406.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:399-406

August Strindberg: A Study of the Relationship Between his Creativity and Schizophrenia

Theodore Lidz


The focus of this study has been limited to relating the circumstances of Strindberg's first marriage to both his schizophrenic development and to his genius—his capacities to create tragedies which are concerned with fundamental problems of human existence, the topics of the basic myths and classic drama; and which are replete with new insights concerning these issues. The marriage reawakened the unresolved and intense pre-oedipal and oedipal conflicts concerning longing for reunion with the mother, distrust of the parental objects, the rebelliousness against the authority of the father, the castration fears, and the insecurities over his sexual identity with its envy of the prerogatives of women. The tenuous defences against these childhood strivings were demolished when the oedipal situation was recreated through his relationship with the Baron and Baroness Wrangel. He had been attracted to a relationship in which he could rectify his unfortunate childhood through finding a Virgin Mother whom he could deify and a father figure whom he could adulate and both of whom cherished him. However, the erotic components of these relationships could not remain sublimated, particularly as the other parties were not sharing his childhood fantasy. The situation became catastrophic to Strindberg when his oedipal fantasies turned into an incestuous reality. He then not only suffered from primal guilt and fears of paternal retribution but also other profound consequences. Experiencing victory over the acquiescent father figure increased his megalomanic narcissism. Achieving reunion with his mother through the marriage to Siri Wrangel, he lost his own identity and was caught in the symbiotic unification which he could never again relinquish—even as a child who achieves the desired incestuous union becomes fixated and cannot seek completion as an independent individual.

The encounter with the Wrangels fitted uniquely into Strindberg's strange and complex life to open the door for the living out of unrequited childhood needs and fantasies. Thereafter, repression and his defences against the return of the repressed failed. Strindberg and the characters he created paid the penalties for infractions of basic taboos; and the audiences who could tolerate his plays experienced catharsis for their unconscious fantasies.

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