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Humbert, E. (1988). The Well-Springs of Memory. J. Anal. Psychol., 33(1):3-20.

(1988). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 33(1):3-20

The Well-Springs of Memory

Elie Humbert

I sank so low, so low

Till in the end I reached my prey

St John of the Cross

The Methods we use to understand ourselves forces us to give increasing recognition to the fact of repetition. Formerly it was called destiny; by linking it more or less explicitly with the gods, man sought to come to terms with them.

Nothing depresses me more than to observe, over the years, how complacently schemas of the psyche have been introduced which were new when I was a child, or inherited from earlier generations. My attempts to free myself brought to mind the dream of a woman who, no longer able to stand the noise of the boiler in the basement, left her ground-floor flat for one on the first floor, then for one on the second floor, and so on up to the seventh floor, all in vain. On every floor the noise was always the same.

To take a more dramatic example: another woman dreamt she was on the edge of a forest asking a woodcutter, a decent type of man who knew the district, for the way. He told her and she set off. Soon she felt herself sinking slowly into a bog in which she felt lost; she then heard the sardonic laugh of the woodcutter. She had put her confidence in her parents and had received from them the psychotic fragments which had progressively tormented her life.

The implicit wish of these two women is that of most people who enter analysis today: can you change something? The analytic approach is no longer centred only on the attempt to make unconscious contents conscious, to work on them and then observe what changes are happening in the psyche. Analysis is concerned more openly than in the past with the repetition of past events, and in this way seeks ways and means of bringing about a change. Freedom is hardly ever mentioned in this connection, but that is what is in question.

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