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Grinker, R.R., Jr. (2001). My Father's Analysis with Sigmund Freud. Ann. Psychoanal., 29:35-47.

(2001). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 29:35-47

My Father's Analysis with Sigmund Freud

Roy R. Grinker, Jr., M.D.

I like to joke that I am the “last living man who met Sigmund Freud.” It is an exaggeration, but, if I live long enough, it may become true. My interaction with him was brief, but my father's was far more extensive, because he had an analysis with Freud. He was often urged to write a book about his experiences with Freud, as did several others (Aldington, 1926; Wortis, 1954; Dorsey 1976; Kardiner, 1977). He refused, claiming that Freud had wanted him to preserve his, that is, Freud's, confidentiality.

Grinker (as I will sometimes refer to my father in the portions of the essay describing his analysis) explained this point by bringing up the following anecdote. During the analysis, Grinker had difficulty understanding the concept of transference, which holds that a person in analysis has strong feelings about the analyst, feelings that are fueled by the unconscious. Once Grinker was at a party at the residence in Vienna of a Dr. Sippy (inventor of the famous “Sippy diet” for peptic ulcer) and his wife. He repeated a joke Freud had told him. Apparently Mrs. Sippy passed the story on to her analyst, Freud's daughter, Anna Freud, who in turn repeated the story to Freud. In Grinker's next session, Freud said, “I thought that we decided that this analysis was confidential.” “To my surprise,” Grinker recalled, “I burst into tears at this criticism. And [Freud] said, ‘Well, now you know what transference is’” (Grinker, 1979, p. 10).

Another aspect of this anecdote is that Grinker was surprised at being accused of a breach of confidentiality. He thought that confidentiality was supposed to protect the patient's privacy, not the analyst's. Current codes of ethics describe confidentiality in just that way; there is no such thing as confidentiality for the analyst or psychotherapist. Grinker, moreover, noted that no mention was made of Anna Freud's egregious transgression of her patient's confidentiality.

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