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Alexander, F. (1941). “The Voice of the Intellect is Soft …”. Psychoanal. Rev., 28(1):12-29.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Review, 28(1):12-29

“The Voice of the Intellect is Soft …”

Franz Alexander, M.D.

In the Future of an Illusion, Freud wrote: “The voice of the intellect is a soft one but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.” There are few statements which pertain more closely to the central problem of analytic therapy—indeed to the essential problem of man—the guiding influence of the intellect over the impulses, the struggle between Dionysus and Apollo.

The first part of this statement expresses the greatest difficulty of analytic therapy, namely, that the voice of the intellect is so soft; the second part of the statement expresses the strength of psychoanalysis, namely, that this voice, although soft, is permanent. Once a clear insight is reached, it is impossible to get rid of it completely.

The study of painful dreams has shown us that even in our dreams, where wish-fulfillment rules, we cannot get rid of the voice of our conscience. Before we can satisfy ego-alien wishes in dreams, we must pay a price in the form of fulfilling, at least to some degree, the claims of the conscience, in the form of suffering or other methods of bribery. More recently, French has demonstrated that not only can we not rid ourselves of the voice of conscience in dreams but we cannot even fully disregard the external obstacles interfering with our wishes. Both observations are based on the same principle, since the conscience is nothing but a part of the environment's attitude which has been incorporated within the ego. The principle is that the impression of the external reality upon the mental apparatus in the form of recognition of the factual situation or in the form of the norms of the conscience is not fully reversible.

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