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Ornston, D.G. (1985). The Invention of 'Cathexis' and Strachey's Strategy. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 12:391-398.

(1985). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 12:391-398

The Invention of 'Cathexis' and Strachey's Strategy

Darius Gray Ornston


Freud used a broad variety of stirring words from everyday life to describe his conceptions. Therefore, Freud's ways of picturing what goes on unconsciously are already somethat familiar to his reader. And, they may continue to develop.

Ernest Jones and James Strachey worked out a strategy for translating Freud's plain and descriptive German into an elegant style with a 'classical nomenclature'. They used fewer metaphors and they took many of their technical terms from Latin and Greek. They believed artificial terms 'with no ostensible meaning at

all' could be precisely defined and would require a reader to study what Freud meant.

Freud's Besetzung is an everyday figure of speech. It was one of Freud's many ways of portraying the relative intensity (Intensität) of a need or comparing a person's unconscious interests (Interesse). Freud never defined, or even directly discussed, any of his, various but common, quantitative metaphors. However, Strachey gradually came to see 'cathexis' as Freud's 'most fundamental concept'. Strachey's invention then became a standard.

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