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Wälder, R. (1936). The Problem of Freedom in Psycho-Analysis and the Problem of Reality-Testing.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 17:89-108.

(1936). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 17:89-108

The Problem of Freedom in Psycho-Analysis and the Problem of Reality-Testing.

Robert Wälder

Allow me first of all to ask your indulgence if in the remarks which I am about to make I do no more than suggest some fresh formulations bearing on facts which as such will be familiar to every analyst. To begin with, I should like to say at once, for the benefit of those in whom the title of this paper may have inspired a certain misgiving, that I have no intention of entering into any metaphysical discussions or of debating the problem of free will, which for centuries long has been the crux of philosophical systems; the problem to be investigated is the purely psychological one of freedom from something, for example, from affects or anxiety, or freedom for something, say freedom for coping with a task set before one. Anyone afflicted with an obsessional neurosis and acting under a compulsion is psychologically not free; if he is 'freed' from his compulsion, he will have acquired a measure of freedom.

Rather than circumscribe my subject-matter with elaborate definitions, I will try to take you at once to the heart of the matter with the help of some passages from Freud's writings, which will at the same time serve to shew that this kind of problem has always occupied a focal position in psycho-analytic interest. Thus, for example, Freud says in reference to the development of the obsessional neurosis: 'All these things combine to bring about an ever-increasing indecisiveness, loss of energy, and curtailment of freedom'. In another passage we read: 'Since the rules of analysis are diametrically opposed to the physician's making use of his personality in any such manner (sc. as guide or prophet), it must be honestly confessed that here we have another limitation to the effectiveness of analysis; after all, analysis does not set out to abolish the possibility of morbid reactions, but to give the patient's ego freedom to choose one way or the other.'

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