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Mészáros, J. (1997). The Return of the Repressed. Ann. Psychoanal., 25:243-247.

(1997). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 25:243-247

The Return of the Repressed

Judit Mészáros, Ph.D.

When “Mendl” called me late one evening, he told me briefly he was in trouble, he would be in Budapest for only a few days, and he would need a psychologist. His voice was hurried, quiet, and desperate, and he spoke with great emphasis. I gave him an appointment for late the next evening.

Standing in the door was a tall, gaunt, Orthodox Jewish man with fervent eyes and a long gray beard, in a very elegant black coat. His movements were measured, and his behavior strikingly distant. He had sought me out as though I were a dentist; he described where it hurt and wanted to be treated as quickly as possible, so as to be cured before moving on. We had four days, four sessions to work with. Yet, in spite of the situation's absurdity, I felt the presence of that rare feeling which allows one to rise to the challenge and begin to believe in miracles.

Mendl began his story. Three weeks ago, in a large American city, his wife had passed away suddenly. She was being treated for a malignant tumor, but her death was unexpected. Since then, several times daily, Mendl had erupted into uncontrollable weeping. He wasn't surprised by the intensity of his pain in mourning for his wife—he loved her very dearly—but by the torrent of his tears. During our first session, I learned that in 1944 he was deported from Hungary with his entire family to Auschwitz. He was the youngest of eleven children, not quite thirteen years old at that time. Only he and one of his sisters survived the Holocaust. They returned to Hungary, but with the support of a Jewish youth organization Mendl and his sister emigrated to Israel. He met his wife there, fell in love, and they were married. But what work could he find? Selling milk. In the course of his moving and animated recollection, this hardworking young man appeared before me with his own growing family. In spite of difficulties caused by constant shortages, he was a dependable and honest supplier to his customers.

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