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Grossman, W.I. (1998). Freud's Presentation of ‘The Psychoanalytic Mode of Thought’ in Totem and Taboo and His Technical Papers. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:469-486.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:469-486

Freud's Presentation of ‘The Psychoanalytic Mode of Thought’ in Totem and Taboo and His Technical Papers

William I. Grossman

Freud considered ‘the psychoanalytic mode of thought’ to be an instrument of research. In ‘Totem and Taboo’, he demonstrated his mode of thinking by applying it to the data of contemporary studies of totemism. While taking the reader along the paths of his selection and weighing of information, he also applied clinical discoveries about mental life in reconstructing ‘primitive psychological situations’ in the distant past. In the technical papers that appeared concurrently with his book, he applied to the clinical situation the ideas on transference, narcissism, primitive mental mechanisms and unconscious communication that he had explored in ‘Totem and Taboo’. In this paper, the author presents material showing the structure of Freud's exposition as a model of analytic exploration. Some of the principles of mental organisation mentioned by Freud are discussed. Examples are given of the close parallels between ‘Totem and Taboo’ and two technical papers. The author suggests that ‘Totem and Taboo’ is an important step in Freud's development of his theory of object relations and his ideas about the intersubjectivity of unconscious mental life.

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