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Freud, A. (1967). About Losing and Being Lost. Psychoanal. St. Child, 22:9-19.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 22:9-19

Problems of Psychopathology and Therapy

About Losing and Being Lost

Anna Freud


Losing and mislaying objects came under analytic scrutiny at an early date. In 1901, in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, we find it mentioned for the first time, and, further, more explicitly in the chapters on "Parapraxes" of the Introductory Lectures(1916-1917). In both publications, Freud explained losing, as he did the other common errors such as forgetting, slips of the tongue, etc., on the basis of a conscious intention being interfered with by a wish which arises from the unconscious. In the case of losing this means that we have the unconscious desire to discard something which consciously we wish to retain. The unconscious tendency makes use of some favorable moment (when our attention is turned elsewhere, when we are tired, preoccupied, etc.) to have its own way. We then lose the object in question; i.e., we throw it away, or put it away, without realizing that we are doing so.

A number of examples of such happenings were collected in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, aiming, above all, "at paving the way for the necessary assumption of unconscious yet operative mental processes" (p. 272, n.).

For our metapsychological thinking, on the other hand, it is significant that Freud's interest in the phenomenon of losing went, as early as 1916, beyond the explanation of two forces interfering with each other as well as beyond the need to prove the existence of an operative unconscious.

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