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Weiss, H. (2020). Three contributions on psychosis: A brief introduction. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(1):128-135.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(1):128-135

Education Section

Three contributions on psychosis: A brief introduction

Heinz Weiss

The psychoanalytic investigation of psychosis dates back to the very origins of psychoanalysis itself. Freud discusses the process of psychotic symptom-formation on several occasions in his letters to Fließ (for instance in Draft H. on paranoia from January 1895; Freud 1950, 206–212), in his “Project of a Scientific Psychology” (Freud 1950 [1895], 283–397), as well as in his papers on the “Neuro-Psychoses of Defence” (Freud 1894, 1896), where he differentiates paranoia from obsessional neurosis through the prevailing mechanism of projection. He touched on the theme of hallucination and perceptual identity in his “Interpretation of Dreams” (Freud 1900, 535, 565–569) and in his pivotal paper on the “Two Principles of Psychic Functioning” (Freud 1911a).

In the same year, Freud published his study on the paranoid psychosis of Daniel P. Schreber, based on the former court president’s autobiographical accounts. Analysing the nature of Schreber’s psychotic breakdown and his resulting complex delusional system, Freud came to the conclusion that the “delusional formation which we take to be the pathological product, is in reality an attempt at recovery, a process of reconstruction.” (Freud 1911b, 71) It was following his Schreber paper that Freud wrote “On Narcissism” (1914, 84–86) where he formulated the idea that under certain psychic conditions there is a withdrawal of the libido from the objects to the ego.

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