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Lewin, B.D. (1970). The Train Ride: A Study of One of Freud's Figures of Speech. Psychoanal Q., 39:71-89.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 39:71-89

The Train Ride: A Study of One of Freud's Figures of Speech

Bertram D. Lewin, M.D.

In an apt analogy, Freud compares the psychoanalytic situation to a train ride and the emergent free associations to the passing scenery. This appears in his 1913 paper, On Beginning the Treatment (6), one in a series of papers on technique written to counsel his younger colleagues. Freud writes as a friendly mentor, taking the less experienced into his confidence and letting them have a look over his shoulder while he handles the various concrete details of psychoanalytic treatment. His matter-of-fact, didactic but undogmatic style is consistently that of an adviser who assumes implicitly that his readers are journeymen and professionals with skill and experience, capable of making intelligent comparison of the master's way and their own.

The passage that includes the train-ride figure is written in direct discourse, as if Freud were addressing a beginning patient and explaining to him the requirements of the analytic situation:

So say whatever goes through your mind. Act as though, for instance, you were a traveller sitting next to a window of a railway carriage and describing to someone inside the carriage the changing views which you see outside (p. 135).

This figure is now so familiar that the reference is rarely given, and it is sometimes attributed to the Introductory Lectures.

I have made this mistake, and I am grateful to Lottie M. Newman for setting me right and also for referring me to another train-ride comparison which I shall quote from the letters to Fliess.

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