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Wittels, F. (1935). Masculine and Feminine in the Three Psychic Systems. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(4):409-423.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Review, 22(4):409-423

Masculine and Feminine in the Three Psychic Systems

Fritz Wittels

Masculine and Feminine as Erlebnis

The difficulties encountered in giving satisfactory psychological content to the concepts of masculine and feminine, indicate clearly enough that we have set foot on psychoanalytic borderland. We look for aid from our neighboring sciences, biology and sociology, but their aid avails nothing and into the bargain, leads us astray. We might make a step forward by assuming that masculine and feminine are direct and immediate experiences (erlebnisse). The realm of experiences, too, is psychoanalytic borderland. In psychoanalysis we happen upon erlebnisse time and again, but our analytical instruments do not suffice to enucleate them. We analyze certain conditions which lead to an experience, but by no means all of them, and the experience (erlebnis) in itself not at all. The erlebnis in itself is not a subject for psychoanalytic investigation.

This may be confirmed by citing a number of well-known remarks of Freud. He refuses to assay an explanation of experience such as trance, ecstasy, yogi practices and the like, and dismisses them with the words of Schiller's diver: “Who breathes overhead in the rose-tinted light may be glad!” We know that Freud reduces religious feeling to the child's helplessness and the longing for a father awakened by this helplessness. “There may be something else behind this,” says he, “but for the present it is wrapped in obscurity.” Freud does not undertake an examination of the religious erlebnis (“oceanic feeling”) which would lead beyond the classical statements of psychoanalysis. He has iterated several times that artistic creation-we substitute: erlebnis of the artist and his audience-is not amenable to any analytical understanding. Thus, in his introduction to Marie Bonaparte's book on Edgar Allan Poe, he says: “Such investigations cannot purpose to explain the genius of the poet. They merely show what motives have awakened him and what material has been ordained for him by his destiny.”

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