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Bergmann, M.S. (1993). Reality and Psychic Reality in Ernst Kris's Last Papers: An Attempt to Update His Findings. Psychoanal. Inq., 13(4):372-383.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 13(4):372-383

Reality and Psychic Reality in Ernst Kris's Last Papers: An Attempt to Update His Findings

Martin S. Bergmann

In a well-known letter written on September 21, 1897, Freud confided to Fliess that he no longer believed in his “neurotica.” He was referring, of course, to his seduction theory. Among the reasons he cites: “there are no indications of reality in the unconscious, so that one cannot distinguish between truth and fiction that has been cathected with affect” (Masson, 1985p. 264). Since then the distinction between “psychical reality” and “material reality,” to use Freud's terms (1900p. 620), remains central to psychoanalytic theory and technique.

In his last three papers written just a year before his death, Ernst Kris (1956a, b, c) challenged the clear-cut distinction between memories and fantasies. He outlined a major technical change by shifting his clinical emphasis away from the actual historical reality to the nature of the psychoanalytic hour itself. Kris argued that in a productive analysis every hour had its unique structure. Dreams, fantasies, memories, and current events, as well as transference reactions, were enlivened by the flow of the hour. Thus the hour had a reality of its own that was bound to affect the conceptualization of actuality and illusion.

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