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Trop, J.L. (1996). Freud's Case Studies, Barry Magid, ed. 216 pp. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1993.. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(4):635-637.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(4):635-637


Freud's Case Studies, Barry Magid, ed. 216 pp. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1993.

Review by:
Jeffrey L. Trop

This book is an attempt to examine Freud's case histories in the context of a self-psychological approach to clinical work. The contributors make a compelling case for the utilization of self psychology's clinical theory and its emphasis on the self-object dimension of experience. The central theme of the book is an inherent criticism of Freud's approach. Namely, most of the authors argue that Freud was attempting to impose his theoretical understanding on his patients. Thus, the overall thrust of the book concerns a criticism that Freud organized his patient's material with a view to supporting his theories of sexual and aggressive drives as central motivating forces. The authors thus are critical of the underlying process between Freud and his patients as subjective experiences of Freud's patients which did not fit his theoretical viewpoint. As an example, Ornstein (p. 37), discussing Dora, states: “What he wanted was nothing less than a confirmation of his sweeping theories of instinctual infantile sexuality.…He insisted that he was reading Dora, when in fact he was often only reading his own mind.” Magid also makes the same point about Freud's treatment of the “Wolfman” but comments specifically on the transference implications of Freud's stance. The Wolfman's central issue seemed to be an automatic willingness to surrender his subjective experience to another's vantage point in order to maintain a tie. Magid (p. 177) suggests that, “This mechanism unfortunately seems to have characterized his relationship with Freud, where his own reality was continually sacrificed to the necessity of making his experience conform to Freud's preordained theories of sexuality.” Thus, the Wolfman was deprived of the pivotal opportunity of mobilizing a spontaneous self-delineating self-object transference (Trop & Stolorow, 1991) where he would have acquired confidence in the validity of his own affective experience when it diverged from Freud's.

In her chapter in Freud's Case Studies, Orange, in her discussion of the Schreber case, illuminates another aspect of Freud's particular stance. Freud's model of psychopathology was centrally intrapsychic and did not emphasize the intersubjective aspects of personality development.

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