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Reichbart, R. (1981). Heart Symbolism: The Heart-Breast and Heart-Penis Equations. Psychoanal. Rev., 68(1):75-104.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Review, 68(1):75-104

Heart Symbolism: The Heart-Breast and Heart-Penis Equations

Richard Reichbart, Ph.D., J.D

“I have given up (mountain climbing) ‘with a heavy heart’—how meaningful colloquial usage is.” Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, letter dated June 22, 1894, in the midst of Freud's cardiac episode.44a


The heart: in daily conversation, we repeatedly invoke this organ. In our poetry, the heart is a traditional symbol of love. In visual arts, whether fine or popular, the stylized heart shape has become so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. As a consequence of the prevalence of heart disease and heart attack in the contemporary United States, the national consciousness reveals a near obsession with this organ—a concern that spills over to diet, physical exercise, style of life, and results in the allocation of phenomenal resources to medical research and treatment of heart disease and related illnesses. In psychological studies, the heart invariably is monitored to determine the effect of external or internal stimuli on animal and human subjects. In short, a tremendous expenditure of time and energy is accorded the heart by contemporary culture. Yet the psychoanalytic study of heart symbology is so sparse that the researcher is hard pressed to locate material on the subject and finds himself entering an intellectual territory where few have ventured.

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