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Meissner, W.W. (1976). Schreber and the Paranoid Process. Ann. Psychoanal., 4:3-40.

(1976). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 4:3-40

I Psychoanalytic History

Schreber and the Paranoid Process

W. W. Meissner, SJ, M.D.

I. Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Paranoia

The Schreber case (Freud, 1911) has a unique position in psychoanalytic history. Perhaps of all of Freud's brilliant case studies, it has had the most profound influence on psychoanalytic thinking and on the general psychiatric application of psychoanalytic ideas.

The reasons for this are many, but have to do primarily with two important facts. First is that Freud's analysis of the Schreber case came at a very important time in his own intellectual development. He undertook it when the major considerations of his theory of repression had been worked through, and when he stood more or less at the threshold of a number of significant theoretical breakthroughs–particularly with regard to the understanding of narcissism and the beginnings of an emerging structural viewpoint. The second important aspect of the Schreber case is that in it Freud undertook his important considerations of the mechanism of projection and the psychodynamic roots of paranoid psychopathology, thus opening the way to a psychoanalytic understanding of psychotic processes that was to be second in significance only to his theory of dreams.

However significant Freud's formulations of Schreber's illness might have been, the Schreber case continues to offer an almost endless ground for calling forth new insights and developing new understandings of basic psychological processes. In the present reevaluation, we would like to review some of the criticisms of the Schreber case and the post-Freudian attempts to use it as a basis for a reconsideration of and a broadened perspective on the paranoid process.

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