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Knight, R.P. (1937). Practical and Theoretical Considerations in the Analysis of a Minister. Psychoanal. Rev., 24D(4):350-364.

(1937). Psychoanalytic Review, 24D(4):350-364

Practical and Theoretical Considerations in the Analysis of a Minister

Robert P. Knight, M.D.

Introduction—A rather careful search of the literature does not reveal any case reports of the analyses of ministers of the gospel, although undoubtedly a number of ministers, priests and rabbis have been under psychoanalysis. On the other hand, the literature contains a considerable number of papers which attempt psychoanalytic interpretations of religious beliefs from primitive religions down to the Christian creed. But it is one thing to interpret the various aspects of religious belief in the theoretical paper, and quite another thing to try to analyze the beliefs of a strongly religious patient on the couch. The material may demonstrate quite clearly to the analyst that the patient's religion represents, from one standpoint, a powerful delusional system which he has accepted and clung to as a solution of his own Oedipus situation and as a powerful defense against the guilt and hate and forbidden love associated with this conflict; but when the analyst attempts to make the patient aware of these sources of his faith, he may find that he is treading on dangerous ground, for the patient may not tolerate interpretation of his religious beliefs. The problem is further complicated if the patient's livelihood and professional integrity depend on the retention of his faith intact, and if he comes for treatment for disabling symptoms which are not, at least in his mind, connected in any way with his religion.

Such a situation raises the questions whether the patient can be freed from his symptoms and yet be allowed to retain his faith. Many practical and theoretical questions centering around religious beliefs of the patient arise in the treatment of a minister, and it is the purpose of this paper to present such a case and discuss the material more particularly from the standpoint of its relation to the patient's religion.

Present Illness. The patient was a Protestant minister, forty-one years old, tall and physically the picture of health, being powerfully built. The beginning of his analytic treatment had been preceded by an ‘acute nervous breakdown’ three months before.

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