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Schimek, J.G. (1974). The Parapraxis Specimen of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 3(1):210-230.

(1974). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 3(1):210-230

The Parapraxis Specimen of Psychoanalysis

Jean G. Schimek, Ph.D.

The Interpretation of parapraxes played an important part in Freud's explanation of the origins and meaning of neurotic symptoms and dreams. The dynamics of parapraxes are usually less complex than those of neurotic symptoms or dreams, and share with dreams the advantage of being part of “the psychopathology of everyday life.” Among the hundreds of examples of parapraxes mentioned by Freud, his own experience of the forgetting of the name of the Italian painter, Signorelli, deserves special attention. Not only is it the first interpretation of a parapraxis that Freud published, but the one he analyzed most extensively, devoting an entire paper to it (1898) a few weeks after its actual occurrence as well as the whole first chapter of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud, 1901b). Thus, the Signorelli example has the claim of being the prime specimen of a “Freudian slip,” playing a role similar to that of the Irma dream, but in a minor key.

In this paper I shall present a detailed re-examination of Freud's interpretation of this specimen of motivated forgetting. In addition to the data and arguments specifically included by Freud, I shall make use of information about the broader context of the event in terms of Freud's life circumstances and the development of his thinking at the time (using mostly the published Fliess letters [Freud, 1887-1902], and some of the autobiographical information included in The Interpretation of Dreams [Freud, 1900]).

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