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Kris, E. (1956). The Recovery of Childhood Memories in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. St. Child, 11:54-88.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 11:54-88

The Recovery of Childhood Memories in Psychoanalysis

Ernst Kris, Ph.D.


This presentation might be compared to the visit to a familiar scene, repeated after a lapse of time. I propose to pass over a wide and well-mapped-out area and to stop at certain points in order to see in what way our reactions to the scenery may have changed. Though I do not set a definite date for our last visit, I have a period of a quarter of a century in mind. During these years we have been exposed to the impact of new observations and to more numerous, more varied and (possibly through the advantages of cooperative teamwork) better recorded therapeutic experiences. Few, if any, parts of psychoanalysis as a body of knowledge have not profited by these developments. Though neither in theory nor in clinical or therapeutic practice it can be stated with general (or possibly even wide) agreement in which specific respects changes of assumptions or reformulation of hypotheses are required, it seems that the progress of which I speak allows in several instances for fruitful perspectives where alternative hypotheses have been proposed, some as part of broader controversies.

The area of this survey is firmly established in psychoanalysis: the recovery of childhood memories by analytic patients. The advance in ego psychology and the more detailed understanding of childhood conflicts seem to have an immediate bearing on our study. I shall deal with these influences in the two major sections of this paper.

Where any advance in our understanding, in our experience or in our clinical practice can be reported, we tend to become aware of new uncertainties and limitations in our knowledge. We are forced to realize that some of our general assumptions need to be elaborated and some to be modified. Tentative suggestions of this order will be offered in a third concluding section.

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