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Sperber, M.A. (1972). Freud, Tausk, and the Nobel Prize Complex. Psychoanal. Rev., 59(2):283-293.

(1972). Psychoanalytic Review, 59(2):283-293

Freud, Tausk, and the Nobel Prize Complex

Michael A. Sperber, M.D.

In 1966 Helen Tartakoff7 introduced a nosological entity, the “Nobel Prize complex,” to apply to people who have in common many of the following characteristics: They are preoccupied with the achievement of diverse ambitious goals, which may include, for example, the wish to become President, to attain great wealth, to be a social leader, or to win an Oscar. Many are intellectually or artistically gifted and possess charismatic qualities that others admire. They are often firstborn and frequently only children. They adopt an all-or-nothing attitude toward their aspirations. They are hypersensitive to disappointments in life, particularly to lack of recognition, and may become depressed and develop psychosomatic symptoms at the time of real or fantasized disappointment. They unconsciously look upon psycho-therapeutic treatment as a magical cure and expect to be rewarded during their treatment with the same applause they received from their mothers. Often their preoccupation with extrinsic, anticipated acclaim interferes with the effective use of their capacities. The problem appears to have pregenital and Oedipal determinants in individuals with precocious ego development. They need not be either borderline or psychotic. Psychoanalysis reveals a circumvention of the resolution of Oedipal conflict. Certain of society's norms and goals appear to reinforce their narcissistic orientation.

Individuals with the syndrome appear to have two types of fantasies in varying combinations, according to Tartakoff:

(1) the active, omnipotent fantasy of being the “powerful one,” with grandiose features; and (2) the passive fantasy of being the “special one,” chosen by virtue of special gifts.7a


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