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Clark-Lowes, F. (2001). Freud, Stekel and the Interpretation of Dreams: The Affinities with Existential Analysis. Psychoanal. Hist., 3(1):69-78.

(2001). Psychoanalysis and History, 3(1):69-78

Freud, Stekel and the Interpretation of Dreams: The Affinities with Existential Analysis

Francis Clark-Lowes

In this paper I shall argue that Stekel's therapeutic approach to dream interpretation has affinities with existential psychotherapy and, in particular, with the approach of Irvin Yalom. I shall begin by showing that existential ideas and formulations surfaced in Stekel much earlier than in Freud (where they never became so pronounced). I will then consider Stekel's approach to dreams and look at an example which he gives of a dream analysis. And finally I will compare Stekel's approach with the case presented by Irvin Yalom in the last chapter of his book, Love's Executioner (Yalom 1991, pp. 230-70).

It is not clear when Wilhelm Stekel met Freud though this may have occurred as early as 1891 at the Kassowitz Institute. Whatever the case, by 1901 Stekel knew Freud personally and was analysed by him during this period. He was also tremendously impressed by The Interpretation of Dreams. At that time Stekel had just started to write for the Viennese daily Neues Wiener Tagblatt, and in this widely-read newspaper he published one of the earliest positive reviews of Freud's book (Stekel 1902). This was to be the beginning of a flood of newspaper and journal articles on psychological subjects in which he critically appraised Freud's work and introduced it to the general public. Wittels's remark, ‘the printing presses of all the German language newspapers groaned under the weight of his eulogies’ (Wittels 1923, p. 132), was exaggerated but it contained an element of truth.

For my doctoral research on Stekel (Clark-Lowes 1999, pp. 166-7)1 identified over 500 of his newspaper articles in a number of different publications, mainly in Vienna, but also elsewhere in the German-speaking world. They cover a wide range of subjects and give a fascinating insight into the time in which he was writing.

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