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Adams, P.L. (1987). The Mother Not The Father. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 15(4):465-480.

(1987). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 15(4):465-480

The Mother Not The Father

Paul L. Adams, M.D.

Otto Rank pioneered in regarding the mother's place as paramount in the emotional life of the child, even when he was enveloped in Freudian orthodoxy, but expanded his viewpoint after he had left the Freudian ranks. His more mature views were to stress separation and individuation as lifelong dilemmas because they were in tension with our urges to seek oneness and to merge with others and not to regard that struggle as a dialectic that got worked through or transcended in an early, pre-Oedipal stage. He believed that fusing and individuating were lifetime issues for all, in or out of their psychoanalyses.

Rank showed radical feminist attitudes far ahead of his time, contending that the female is central and superior to male existence, and that women need a psychology that is not warmed-over male biases but truly a “female psychology.” He foreshadowed later writers who emphasized the motherly warmth and caregiving of psychotherapists. He regarded many of his technical innovations as ways to heighten the reexperiencing of early child-and-mother interactions and thought of the analytic setting itself as being akin to the mother-child relationship.

Among psychoanalysts of all colorations respecting their Freudian orthodoxy, there is a special mystique and nostalgia around the Oedipus complex and paramountcy of the father in a child's mental life; but Otto Rank took a militant, yet reasoned, stand against such patriarchal biases.

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