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Larsen, K. (1999). Questions For Freud—The Secret History of Psychoanalysis: Nicolas Rand and Maria Torok. London: Harvard University Press, 1997. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(2):311-314.

(1999). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 22(2):311-314

Questions For Freud—The Secret History of Psychoanalysis: Nicolas Rand and Maria Torok. London: Harvard University Press, 1997

Review by:
Kim Larsen

The authors' goal is to call attention to fundamental paradoxes in psychoanalysis, paradoxes which have reduced the utilitarian value of psychoanalysis, and to localize their causes in a trauma Freud suffered as a 9-year-old in 1865. The authors declare that, in contrast to disciplines in the field of the natural sciences, psychoanalytic theories are always influenced by the originator's life.

The first paradox the authors take up is the analysis of the symboliclanguage in dreams either as personal, in that interpretation of dreams presupposes basic knowledge of the unique psychology of the dreamer, or as universal, in that a generally-accepted symbol key is available. The first possibility demands that the patient make use of the symbols of dreams as a starting point for free association and requires an intimate knowledge of the patient before it is possible to make a meaningful interpretation of the patient's dreams. The other possibility presupposes a universal symbol language that can be used with everyone, once it has been found. The authors consider these two alternatives irreconcilable. The first is personal and flexible while the other is universal and rigid. In Freud's works both these alternatives are present, existing side by side.

The other paradox concerns the importance Freud attaches to genuine traumas and the outer objective reality versus instinctually-based impulses and the inner psychic reality. Just as in the preceding paradox, Freud vacillates in his emphasis on these two factors, never completely making up his mind. However, he thought of it in such a way that these two factors were mutually exclusive and operated at each other's expense in an explanatory model.

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