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Enckell, M. (1988). Psychoanalysis and the Jewish Tradition. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 11(2):141-159.

(1988). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 11(2):141-159

Psychoanalysis and the Jewish Tradition

Mikael Enckell, M.D.

A psychoanalyst may have two good reasons to disregard the Jewish element in what Freud called the psychoanalytical movement. The first is if he is a Jew. The second is if he is not a Jew.

On a rational level, the first reason often assumes a politico-tactical guise … “If the idea is to promote the cause of psychoanalysis”, says one “it is not wise to stress the strong Jewish element which dominated the movement in its early days, lest the opposition towards psychoanalysis may be further increased by the manifest and potential anti-semitism, which is a powerful universal phenomenon”. Freud's argument was of the same nature when making Jung the first president of the International Psychoanalytical Association. He wanted psychoanalysis to be administratively led by a Gentile, and not appear to be a purely Jewish matter for Jews.

The second reason is a justification of the first. It is painful for the gentile psychoanalyst to explain even to himself the extent and depth of the Judaic heritage in the psychoanalytical tradition. Once again we are exposed to the offensive belief of the God-chosen people, of the ultimate trustees of the spiritual truth of man's nature and destiny on earth. The fact that we can try to defend our offended self-esteem by referring to the irrational and archaic mythical character of these beliefs is of little relief, as we hear from the depth of our soul an equally archaic, low, but persistent voice asking: “But what if still …?” And more is not needed to put into motion the never remote anti-semitism within us, which abruptly interrupts the examination of this emotionally charged, tempting and repugnant problem area.

Thus, there are well-founded tactical considerations which hold back and restrain the wish of both Jewish and Gentile psychoanalysts to investigate this question.

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