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Sachs, H. (1935). Karl Abraham's Contribution to Applied Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal Q., 4:627-629.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:627-629

Karl Abraham's Contribution to Applied Psychoanalysis

Hanns Sachs

It is an enviable destiny to be among the first to take up and develop a great discovery, an advance in human knowledge, to derive from it new conclusions, new problems, and to fructify with it other fields. Needless to say such an advantage entails many dangers and one must possess considerable self-criticism and strength of character if one is to avoid exaggeration or the foolish pursuit of novelty. It was especially difficult for the small group that gathered around the newly formed science of psychoanalysis to find the correct approach to the problems of the arts and sciences. This group consisted almost exclusively of physicians trained in the natural sciences, whose interest, like Freud's, was derived most directly from the practice of psychotherapy, and which approached psychology from the direction of psychopathology. On the other hand Freud had not only pointed from the very beginning to cultural analogies, but had made it clear that it was one of the peculiarities of the new depth-psychology that it would be appreciated fully only if it included the investigation of the rôle of the unconscious in art and mythology:—the "age-old fantasies" (Säkular-Phantasien) of mankind. This rejection of one-sidedness provided psychoanalysis with its rich content and with its splendid élan, but made difficult demands on its first disciples.

It was fortunate, though undoubtedly far from fortuitous, that this small circle included a young physician whose inclinations and cultural background enabled him to meet those demands. Karl Abraham had acquired the richness of the humanistic education which characterized the currently so much vilified Liberal Era. In addition to his thorough training in medicine and the natural sciences he was equipped with a wide knowledge of cultural history and a lively interest in the arts and literature, which was reënforced by exceptional linguistic talent. In addition to many living tongues he commanded the classical languages well enough to be able to enjoy the Greek dramatists and Latin historians in the original. But far more valuable than these accomplishments was his crystal-clear intellect, his cool, unbiased judgment, and his fine personal integrity which made him serve the truth unswervingly.

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