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Cohn, L.S. (1989). Pseudostupidity and Analyzability. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:131-145.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:131-145

Pseudostupidity and Analyzability

Lawrence S. Cohn, M.D.


This paper seeks to heighten awareness of pseudostupidity and the potential analyzability of patients who manifest it by defining and explicating it, reviewing the literature, and presenting in detail the psychoanalytic treatment of a pseudostupid patient. Pseudostupidity is caused by an inhibition of the integration and synthesis of thoughts resulting in a discrepancy between intellectual capacity and apparent intellect. The patient's pseudostupidity was determined in part by his need to prevent his being more successful than father, i.e., defeating his oedipal rival. Knowing and learning were instinctualized. The patient libidinally and defensively identified with father's passive, masochistic position. He needed to frustrate the analyst as he had felt excited and frustrated by his parents' nudity and thwarted by his inhibitions. He wanted to cause the analyst to feel as helpless as he, the patient, felt. Countertransference frustration was relevant and clinically useful in the analysis. Interpretation of evolving relevant issues led to more anxiety and guilt, less pseudostupidity, a heightened alliance, and eventual working through. Negative therapeutic reactions followed the resolution of pseudostupidity.

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