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Kwawer, J.S. (1975). A Case Seminar with Erich Fromm. Contemp. Psychoanal., 11:453-455.

(1975). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 11:453-455

A Case Seminar with Erich Fromm

Jay S. Kwawer, Ph.D.

MY CLEAREST MEMORIES of a case seminar with Dr. Erich Fromm involve a powerful sense of him as passionately committed to truth in the conduct of psychoanalysis, and to absolute honesty with patients. This is appropriate, because we met against the backdrop of the unfolding drama of deceitfulness and moral disgrace of the Watergate era. I presented my clinical work with a young man whose family epitomized the national crisis of moral identity of which Watergate was a reflection. In their pretentious, acquisitive, "money grubbing, " they represented to Dr. Fromm "the most naked and worst features of American capitalism."

Dr. Fromm's discussion of the clinical data reflected an immense concern for family (and tribal) history and tradition. His portrait of this family's history drew heavily on relations he articulated between character structures and economic systems. Dr. Fromm conceptualized my patient's struggle as an effort to confront the truth about his family's hollowness and emptiness.

Through the week, Dr. Fromm's conviction became increasingly clear, that patients know practically everything about themselves even though social convention may persuade them to repress these insights. By speaking the truth, the psychoanalyst assumes a revolutionary position. Fromm's psychoanalytic contract is perhaps best captured in his pledge to the patient, "I only promise I will not lie to you." Dr. Fromm's comments about my clinical work were likewise blunt, direct and unsentimental, and he urged us as analysts to "present the reality in the most precise way."


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