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Rudnytsky, P.L. (1988). Redefining the Revenant—Guilt and Sibling Loss in Guntrip and Freud. Psychoanal. St. Child, 43:423-432.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 43:423-432

Redefining the Revenant—Guilt and Sibling Loss in Guntrip and Freud

Peter L. Rudnytsky, Ph.D.

HARRY GUNTRIP'S (1975) RECORD OF HIS ANALYTIC EXPERIENCES WITH W. R. D. Fairbairn and D. W. Winnicott is at once a moving autobiographical document and an important theoretical discussion of the nature of therapeutic action in psychoanalysis. Central to Guntrip's paper, and his motivation for seeking analysis in the first place, is "a total amnesia for a severe trauma at the age of three and a half years, over the death of a younger brother" (p. 447), Percy. Recognizing that it was this trauma which led him to become a psychotherapist, Guntrip convincingly argued that "it seems that our theory must be rooted in our psychopathology," and instanced as proof of this interplay between personal suffering and scientific insight "Freud's courageous self-analysis at a time when all was obscure" (p. 467). Although Guntrip's was not literally a self-analysis—he had over 1,000 sessions with Fairbairn in the 1950s and over 150 with Winnicott in the 1960s—part of his purpose was to investigate the continuing effects of an analysis after termination in order to assess its therapeutic efficacy. Emulating Freud's courage, Guntrip distilled the lessons of his encounters with two masters in a luminous piece of self-analysis.

In addition to the self-analytic component of his essay, Guntrip resembled Freud in the biographical accident of sibling loss. As is well known, Freud was profoundly affected by the death in infancy of his younger brother Julius, at a time when he himself was just under 2 years of age.

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