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Silber, A. (1969). A Patient's Gift: Its Meaning and Function. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:335-341.

(1969). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50:335-341

A Patient's Gift: Its Meaning and Function

Austin Silber

Freud (1917), in discussing the concept of gift in analytic terms, made the following statement which forms the justification for this brief paper.

Those who question this derivation of gifts should consider their experience of psycho-analytic treatment, study the gifts they receive as doctors from their patients, and watch the storms of transference which a gift from them can rouse in their patients (p. 131).

This paper will occupy itself with the analysis of a gift received from a patient.

Freud (1917) noted that, in the unconscious,

The concepts faeces (money, gift), baby and penis are ill-distinguished from one another and easily interchangeable … For its faeces are the infant's first gift, a part of his body which he will give up only on persuasion by someone he loves, to whom indeed, he will make a spontaneous gift of it as a token of affection; for, as a rule, infants do not dirty strangers … Defaecation affords the first occasion on which the child must decide between a narcissistic and object-loving attitude. He either parts obediently with his faeces, 'sacrifices' them to his love, or else retains them for the purposes of auto-erotic satisfaction and later as a means for asserting his own will (p. 130).

Freud (1917) notes further:

It is probable that the first meaning which a child's interest in faeces develops is that of 'gift' rather than 'gold' or 'money' (pp. 130–1).

And finally (1933):

We have learnt, then, that after a person's own faeces, his excrement, has lost its value for him this instinctual interest derived from the anal source passes over on to objects that can be presented as gifts (p.

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