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Waugaman, R. (1986). A Footnote in Freud's Work and the Isakower Phenomenon. Psychoanal Q., 55:310-312.

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(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:310-312

A Footnote in Freud's Work and the Isakower Phenomenon

Richard Waugaman, M.D. Author Information

Since Isakower's classic description in 1938, the Isakower phenomenon has been discussed rather extensively in the psychoanalytic literature. Yet, to my knowledge, no one who has written about this topic has ever noted Freud's 1917 account of a patient who had hypnagogic experiences which closely resembled those in Isakower's account. Freud's remarks occur in a footnote to his paper, "A Childhood Recollection from Dichtung und Wahrheit." The paper explores Goethe's earliest memory: throwing the household crockery out the window. Using material drawn from patients with similar memories, Freud concluded that Goethe's recollection was a screen memory for his reaction to the birth of a sibling. As Freud wrote, "the throwing of crockery out of the window was a symbolic action … by which the child … gave violent expression to his wish to get rid of a disturbing intruder" (p. 152). Near the end of the paper, Freud made some passing remarks on pregnancy symbolism. In the course of illustrating the pregnancy symbolism of heavily loaded vehicles, Freud described a woman in her fifties who had experienced as a child what would later come to be called the Isakower phenomenon:

At about that time [when she was roughly two and three quarters years old] the brother next to her was born… At about the same time, she often had an alarming feeling before going to sleep of something uncannily large, that came up to her, and 'her hands got so thick' (p. 155, n.2).

In this brief passage, Freud adumbrated several elements of the phenomena which bear Isakower's name—nineteen years before Isakower presented his paper in 1936 at the Fourteenth

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