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Sachs, O. (1967). Distinctions Between Fantasy and Reality Elements in Memory and Reconstruction. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:416-423.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:416-423

Distinctions Between Fantasy and Reality Elements in Memory and Reconstruction

Oscar Sachs

The difficulties we frequently encounter in distinguishing between fantasy and reality elements in the "memories" of traumatic events brought to us by our patients, often seem insurmountable. The problem revolves in part about our own credulity, and as such, mirrors the discovery which played such an important role in the development of psycho-analysis. Freud's realization that many of the childhood seduction "memories" which he had originally believed, were in fact fantasies growing out of developmental conflicts and desires, led him to draw the conclusion that "as far as neurosis was concerned, psychical reality was of more importance than material reality" (Freud, 1925). With the expanded knowledge and understanding of the ubiquitous fantasies associated with infantile stages of development, our interest and accent has been placed more and more on fantasy, perhaps at times to the neglect of the accompanying events. Pragmatically almost, there seems to have developed an attitude that it made little difference whether a remembered traumatic event occurred or was fantasied; the latter, subjective, drive-dependent, experience came to be accorded the primary aetiological significance.

Although many of the interpretations and reconstructions we use during any analysis are often at best but approximations, (Reider, 1953) yet they exert dynamic and lasting effects upon the patient. We deal for the most part with "complex patterns" since, as Kris (1956) wrote,

the material of actual occurrences of things as they happen is constantly subjected to the selective scrutiny of memory under the guide of the inner constellation.

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