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Rosenbaum, J.B. (1961). The Significance of the Sense of Smell in the Transference. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 9:312-324.

(1961). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 9:312-324

The Significance of the Sense of Smell in the Transference

Jean B. Rosenbaum, M.D.

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that there are genital aspects to active and passive expressions of olfactory experiences encountered in oedipal transference material in therapy. An attempt will be made to show that acuity of the sense of smell may increase or decrease, appear or disappear, genetically and in treatment in connection with genital impulses and conflicts. An explanation of these smell expressions in therapy and genetically as either an autonomous ego function or as a manifestation of certain defensive activities within the ego will also be offered. The use of active or passive in this paper in connection with smell experiences refers to the subject smelling an object or the subject being smelled by an object, respectively.

In a letter to Fliess Freud discussed his theory of organic repression and the relation between man's susceptibility to nervous disease and his diminished acuity of smell. "To put it crudely, the current memory stinks just as an actual object may stink; and just as we turn away our sense organ (the head and nose) in disgust, so do the preconscious and our conscious apprehension turn away from memory. This is repression " (7p. 232). Later he advanced some further phylogenetic and biogenetic speculations about the importance of man's diminished smell acuity as compared with that of lower vertebrates. He attributed the less pronounced development of smell to man's upright position (9), (10). Clinically, Freud and Abraham regarded smell as a sensory modality connected to a specific psychosexual fixation at the anal level.

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