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Greenacre, P. (1958). The Impostor. Psychoanal Q., 27:359-382.

(1958). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 27:359-382

The Impostor

Phyllis Greenacre, M.D.


While this paper has emphasized the importance of the Oedipal problems in the production of imposture, it should be stressed again that one might better refer to these as the effects of an Oedipal phase than the effects of the Oedipal relationships. The acting out of the impostor is largely an attempt to achieve a sense of reality and competence as a man more than to claim the mother in any deep sense. From the material of my analytic cases, it seemed indicated that the mother might be a phallic mother and that in so far as the child was closer to her than to the father and might identify with her phallus, this increased the whole quality of illusion with which the impostor paradoxically struggles for some self-realization.

It will be noted that this paper has dealt more explicitly with cases from history or from reports of others than from my own. This was unfortunately necessary since after a number of years of analytic practice and with a number of published articles, it becomes increasingly difficult to give the rich full clinical details that one would wish. This is particularly true when so delicate a subject as imposturous tendencies and impostures is involved. Patients tend to become aware of the analyst's writing and may later look for themselves in clinical publications. While it would be unfair to publish anything without the consent of the analysand, this still does not resolve the problem. To see their own life histories in print may, in any event, be too great a narcissistic injury even though permission has been given for such publication.

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