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Loewenberg, P. (1988). An Historical, Biographical, Literary, and Clinical Consideration of Freud's 'Analysis Terminable and Interminable' on its Fiftieth Birthday. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 69:273-281.

(1988). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 69:273-281

An Historical, Biographical, Literary, and Clinical Consideration of Freud's 'Analysis Terminable and Interminable' on its Fiftieth Birthday

Peter Loewenberg

This late paper, written two years before his death, is the place where Freud is most sceptical regarding the therapeutic efficacy of psychoanalysis, where he recommended re-analysis 'at intervals of every five years or so' for every analyst (Freud, 1937p. 249). He suggested that when analysis has not achieved its goal of curing neuroses by ensuring control over instinctual drives it is nevertheless 'always right in theory but not always right in practice'. This is the pessimistic piece in which Freud considers and rejects the efficacy of prophylactic analysis. Conflicts must be current and active to be treated. Potential conflicts, which are not at the time manifest, should not be stirred up in the name of 'therapeutic ambition'. If a conflict is not currently active, if it is not in evidence, it cannot be influenced by analysis. Freud firmly sets limits to the therapeutic power of analytic therapy. Here, he explicitly settled accounts with Otto Rank and the pretensions of brief psychoanalysis. He also, gently but firmly, dismissed the 'therapeutic experiments' of Sandor Ferenczi, 'which, unhappily, proved to be [in] vain' (Freud, 1937, 229–31).

In this essay, written in early 1937 and published in June when he was 81 years old, we again appreciate Freud the great stylist, who, in phrases which ring in the mind of every analyst, gives us lessons in technique and wisdom for life. I will cite only a few. In a discussion of the subtleties of fixing a time limit in analysis, he used vivid kinaesthetic imagery of the hunt and the kill: 'A lion only springs once' (Freud, 1937p.

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