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Barchat, D. (2000). Class Unconsciousness in Psychoanalytic Training. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 9(1):65-73.

(2000). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 9(1):65-73

Class Unconsciousness in Psychoanalytic Training

Dr. Deborah Barchat, Ph.D.

Knowledge, and the quest for it, has great significance in psychoanalysis. The biblical story of Joseph had particular meaning for Freud, whose own father had the same name as Joseph's father. The story has relevance for this consideration of the experience of psychoanalytic candidates in their classes.

Joseph was smart, well built, and handsome, and was blessed not only by his father, but seemingly by God. Jacob, Joseph's father, loved him best of his twelve sons and had a decorated tunic made only for him which served as a visible reminder of his favored status. Over time, envy poisoned his brothers' relationships to him. Joseph himself contributed: When he was 17, after tending sheep with two of his half-brothers, he brought his father bad reports about them. He also told them two of his dreams, which his brothers, listening only to the manifest content, interpreted as arrogant. Joseph's father recognized the dreams as derivatives of unconscious meaning. His brother decided to kill him, and would have succeeded had his oldest brother not intervened and suggested they throw him down a well instead, intending to retrieve him later and restore him to their father. But the other brothers sold him into slavery, took his coat and dipped it in the blood of a slaughtered goat, and then gave it to their father, who concluded that wild animals had killed him. Distraught, his father went into a prolonged period of mourning. (It's harder to compete with a lost object than a living one.)


The author wishes to thank Drs. William Glover, Arnold Rothstein, and Maxine Fenton Gann.

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