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Fox, H.M. (1959). The Theory of the Conversion Process. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 7:173-181.

(1959). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 7:173-181

The Theory of the Conversion Process

Henry M. Fox, M.D.

Felix Deutsch indicated that the discussion of the conversion process would attempt to give a more precise meaning to what Freud described as the never fully comprehensible "leap from the mind to the body." Deutsch added that although at the time he conceived the theory of conversion Freud thought of the transition from mental processes into organic symptom formation as enigmatic, he did not assume the existence of a dichotomy or a dualism. Freud in fact never left any doubt that "mental phenomena are to a large extent dependent upon physiologic ones and that both have the most powerful effects on each other." Freud maintained that the instincts are the source of the energies on which the mind-body processes depend and that the human organism is a mind-body entity. Deutsch quoted Freud's statement that "emotions and instinctual gratifications and feelings of frustration do not consist of mere thoughts but of physical alterations." Freud never gave up the hope that sometime in the future a comprehensive fusion of biological and psychological concepts would be possible. The panel was introduced as a current attempt to reconsider and to illustrate relevant psychoanalytic methods and theories.

Leo Rangell then reviewed the role of conversion in psychopathology. He indicated that a re-evaluation of the concept of conversion requires a more accurate delimitation as well as a widening of its scope. He suggested that the essence of conversion is the shifting or displacement of psychic energy from the cathexis of mental processes to that of somatic innervations in order for the latter to express in a distorted way the derivatives of repressed forbidden impulses.

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