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Simon, B. (1992). "Incest—See Under Oedipus Complex": The History of an Error in Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:955-988.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:955-988

"Incest—See Under Oedipus Complex": The History of an Error in Psychoanalysis

Bennett Simon, M.D.

ABSTRACT

This paper is intended as a contribution to the understanding of errors in our field. The title refers to the index entries "incest" in several classic psychoanalytic texts. In a way that is analogous to the defenses utilized by survivors of incest, psychoanalysis has both known and not known, avowed and disavowed, the traumatic impact of actual incest. It is argued that psychoanalysis erred in (a) focusing too heavily on the implications of incest for the Oedipus complex instead of its implications for every stage of development, and (b) missing out on the full and detailed description of the clinical pictures of incest victims and of treatment issues, including transference and countertransference. The author presents an overview of the history prompted by Masson's original attack on Freud for abandoning the "seduction hypothesis." Topics covered are: Freud's early papers, the Freud-Ferenczi controversy (1932), and the state of psychoanalytic awareness in the 1960's of the importance of actual incest. Certain features of our field make it all too likely that new errors can be generated that may similarly take decades to recognize and undo. These include the politics of our discipline, and negative attitudes toward systematic gathering and assessment of evidence.

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