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Grünbaum, A. (1997). Is the Concept of “Psychic Reality” a Theoretical Advance?. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 20(2):245-267.

(1997). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 20(2):245-267

Is the Concept of “Psychic Reality” a Theoretical Advance?

Adolf Grünbaum, Ph.D.

1.   Psychic Reality” was the governing theme of the 39th Congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1995. But the concept of “psychic reality,” which originated in Freud's modified seduction theory, and singles out wishful fantasies from the remainder of our mental life, is quite misleading. Indeed, it has generated dubious etiologic inferences.

2.   The free associations of male patients typically lack the probative resources to license the attribution of male “social anxiety” (e.g., diffidence) to hypothesized unconscious castration phantasies, even when these fears of castration are psychically real.

3.   In Freud's seduction etiologies of hysteria and obsessional neurosis, he offered no cogent evidence that, before a child is socialized, any of its actual or fancied sexual experiences (“seductions”or “primal scenes”) are at all traumatic (emotionally distressing),

let alone pathogenic (morbific). Nor did later analysts fill these evidential gaps. In all of psychiatry, traumaticity needs to be distinguished from pathogenicity.

Melanie Klein's theory and practice of child analysis are replete with the several serious fallacies exposed in this paper.

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