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Rangell, L. (1968). A Further Attempt to Resolve the "Problem of Anxiety". J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 16:371-404.

(1968). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 16:371-404

A Further Attempt to Resolve the "Problem of Anxiety"

Leo Rangell, M.D.


A comprehensive psychoanalytic theory of anxiety, which applies to all instances of anxiety, combines elements of Freud's two historical theories of anxiety. The anxiety reaction is always set in motion by an existing traumatic state, either one which has invaded the ego involuntarily and from outside of its control (as in Freud's first theory); or one which has been brought about by the ego under its control in a minimal and experimental way (from Freud's second theory). This constitutes a twofold origin, in agreement with Freud's persistent idea. Both origins then converge in setting off a single common and unitary mechanism. The reaction is always a signal of the anticipation of danger (from the second theory). The danger is that of the traumatic state getting worse and out of control (first theory), or that the trauma which was sampled tentatively will come on in full force (second theory). The reaction always results automatically and involuntarily (as in the first theory), and is then used by the ego in an

active way (from the second). The reaction, which is experienced by the ego (second theory), has both id (first theory) and ego (second theory) components. The reaction itself is both a psychological (from second theory) and a somatic one (from first theory).

While neither Freud's first nor his second theory alone is complete in itself, the combination given, in my opinion, retains the valid and indispensable elements of each and can explain all the observable clinical phenomena. With this combined unitary explanatory theory the small but definite kink at the heart of psychoanalytic theory may be smoothed out, and Freud's "non liquet," I submit, can be changed to "liquet."

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