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Hoch, S. Grossman, L. (1993). The Significance of Religious Themes and Fantasies During Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:755-764.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:755-764

The Significance of Religious Themes and Fantasies During Psychoanalysis

Samuel Hoch, M.D. and Lee Grossman, M.D.

HOCH SET THE TASK FOR THE PANEL, to attend to the psychological processes expressed in religious form in clinical work. He surveyed a range of ways in which religious references appear. For example, a young man retreated from awareness of passive feminine longings toward the analyst, via a regression marked by memories of his attachment to his mother. He noticed his excitement at Church as the minister, who was a woman, placed the Communion wafer in his mouth. Subsequent work exposed details of an unconscious fantasy in which concealed negative oedipal wishes were expressed in oral terms. A year later, the patient announced with both anxiety and triumph that he was to be married. He recalled a visit to his mother, and then thought of Michelangelo's Pieta, which he saw as the fusion of mother and child. He remembered how he had held his parents' undivided attention before his siblings were born. He thought of the Son being crucified but resurrected, being "God's only begotten Son," sitting at God's right hand, symbolic of his father's eternal protection and love. He wished that the analyst felt that way about him, and that the analysis would never end.

The oedipal victory of marriage revived conflicts in the transference, expressed in religious imagery. The patient's identification with Christ was a central element in the recovery of a fantasy which had absorbed him during Church services when he was a child. Over time, it had been reshaped to organize and compromise various oedipal conflicts. Crucifixion, symbolizing castration, was undone by resurrection. Jealousy of each parent and of younger siblings was replaced in a regressive attachment to a preoedipal idealized virgin mother, and a remodeled version of an oedipal triad was restored, from which ambivalence and aggression had been eliminated.

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