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Lewis, G.F. (1979). Screen Memories as Transference Resistance. Ann. Psychoanal., 7:159-170.

(1979). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 7:159-170

Screen Memories as Transference Resistance

Gordon F. Lewis, M.D., Ph.D.


“Screen Memories” was the first formal psychoanalytic paper that Freud published after he abandoned his “seduction theory” of the psychoneurosis. It was the natural outcome of his own self investigation which he began in 1897. Although Freud maintained an abiding interest in screen memories throughout his career, relatively few contributions to the subject have been made by other writers. There is certainly nothing uncommon about interpreting, in terms of transference, any material that a patient might present during an analysis; nevertheless, this essay points up a particular utilization of screen memories which has not heretofore been described.

This paper explores the historical origin of the concept of screen memories, tracing the evolution of the additions to the concept in the psychoanalytic literature. After arriving at an expanded basic definition of screen memories, case material is presented which exemplifies the use of a screen memory as transference resistance and illustrates the need for an expansion of Freud's original paradigm.

My interest in looking into the matter of screen memories stems from a dramatic event that occurred at the very end of a psychoanalytic case. The patient was within sight of termination when she revealed a repressed “secret” that laid open in depth the true nature of her infantile neurosis. Moreover, this secret had been repressed within a childhood sexual memory that had been incompletely told and retold during the treatment. The repressed memory had been so successfully utilized by the patient as resistance, that it was not fully recognized as a screen during most of the analysis.

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