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Gitelson, M. (1943). The Phantom of Omnipotence: Fritz Wittels. Psa. Rev., XXVIII, 1941, pp. 163–172.. Psychoanal Q., 12:296.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Phantom of Omnipotence: Fritz Wittels. Psa. Rev., XXVIII, 1941, pp. 163–172.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:296

The Phantom of Omnipotence: Fritz Wittels. Psa. Rev., XXVIII, 1941, pp. 163–172.

M. Gitelson

In this poetic vignette, Wittels continues his publications on Phantom Psychology. The present paper consists of a descriptive case history preceded by a somewhat general sketch on the phenomena of omnipotence fantasies in children, psychotics, and historical figures.

The patient is an only child, a rather pathetic male, who came for treatment because of difficulties in his career which he could describe only vaguely as: 'Things don't go the way they should'. He is characterized by a bland attitude of confidence that nothing can happen to him and by an apparent absence of emotion in all relationships except that with his mother. He represses all emotions because they 'might eventually "be stronger than you"' and are, therefore, 'incompatible with omnipotence'. In addition, a rather empty ambition is seen to exist pari passu with blind pessimism. This ambition is adduced to be the conquence of an unconscious wish to be again the princeling he once was during a period of separation from a hostile father between the ages of three and five. The character defense seems to have appeared when the child and his mother left the paradise of doting grandparents and returned to the harsher reality of life with his father. 'Pessimism was his armor or shield while ambition was his sword. He tried to conquer the world but instead of using more effective means … he used his phantom omnipotence and was naturally frustrated. He then turned to his I-knew-it pessimism.'

'The treatment consisted in showing to Toni with never ending patience that he was a victim of his phantom of omnipotence.' All events, rebukes, inconsistencies and sporadic successes were used to show him 'in what way he could conquer his life and in what way he could not'. A gall bladder attack in the midst of treatment appears to have helped for some time: 'His phantom omnipotence was considerably shocked, the emotion of pain … mitigated his rigid approach to the world… This is no surprise to all those who believe personal adversities to be our best education'.

The author does not indicate whether he considers the treatment a limited psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. Nor does he attempt an evaluation of the important fact that the patient's mother was an invalid and that the patient himself weighed three pounds at birth and only seventeen pounds at three years. In this connection it must surely be pertinent to an understanding of the problem of the character defense dealt with here to know something of the vicissitudes encountered by the patient during the earlier years of testing and learning to master reality.

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Article Citation

Gitelson, M. (1943). The Phantom of Omnipotence. Psychoanal. Q., 12:296

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