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Ahlskog, G. (2015). Freud and the Scene of Trauma. By Joseph Fletcher. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013, 365 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 102(4):588-591.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Review, 102(4):588-591

Freud and the Scene of Trauma. By Joseph Fletcher. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013, 365 pp.

Review by:
Gary Ahlskog, Ph.D.

If Joseph Fletcher's close reading of Freud is correct, psychoanalytic treatment and training in North America have been wrongheaded for 120 years. The issue is trauma, Freud's original discovery of widespread childhood psychic abuse followed by his repudiating, equivocating, and obscuring of his discovery. Students of Freud are well aware that his so-called repudiation of his Seduction Theory, in the famous Fleiss letter, wasn't definitive because only three weeks later Freud was back to invoking the centrality of trauma all over again. Students of Freud are well aware that, manifestly speaking, his later writings continued to throw a bone to the correctness of trauma, while his main focus shifted to his misreading of Oedipus, as if the source of symptoms and psychic distress are internal fantasies that the self somehow manages to make toxic to itself. What makes Fletcher's book unique, and central to the future of psychoanalysis, is his unveiling of Freud's latent confirmation of the centrality of trauma, even while Freud was trying to say otherwise.

Freud promoted a misbegotten clash as if memory were in conflict with fantasy—either/or (pp. 109, 135). However, his well-known effort to preserve the parallel between his understanding of symptoms and his method of interpreting dreams always meant that fantasy (dream work) is the patient's internal method of censoring, displacing, and making distress tolerable. Fantasy is not an alternative to memory. It is not in competition with memory. Fantasy is the ally that makes memory palatable. Trauma is the underlying truth. The patient's subsequent reworkings aren't “false” memories or “merely” fantasies. They reflect “memory work” (p.

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