Morgenthaler, Fritz (1919-1984)

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MORGENTHALER, FRITZ (1919-1984)

Fritz Morgenthaler, a Swiss physician specializing in neurology and a member of the Swiss Psychoanalytic Society, was born at Oberhofen on July 19, 1919 and died on October 26, 1984, while visiting Addis Ababa.

The son of a famous painter (Ernst Morgenthaler) and doll designer Sacha Morgenthaler-von Sinner, he was also a painter and a professional juggler. He was educated in Zurich and Paris, studied medicine in Zurich and then worked as a physician in war-torn Bosnia for one year. This was the beginning of his friendship, then scientific collaboration and, beginning in 1952, joint practice with Paul Parin and Goldy Parin-Matthèy. In 1947 he commenced his analysis with Rudolf Brun. Between 1954 and 1971, Morgenthaler accompanied the Parins on six voyages of ethno-psychoanalytic research in West Africa (Parin, et al., 1963, 1971).

Most of Morgenthaler's remarkable influence was due to his charm and the intellectual sparkle of his personality as a lecturer, seminar director, and supervisor. Starting from a case history or a dream, he had an exceptional gift for communicating the psychic functioning of the patient, the unconscious emotional relations between the analyst and the analysand, and for discovering new and unexpected aspects therein. His original approach to Freud's dream in 1986: Ein Traum als Beweismittel (An evidential dream) is a good example of this: although he may not have opened up new theoretical pathways, he used Freudian concepts pertinently and effectively.

His often playfully dialectic mode of thinking earned him divided opinions with regard to the scientific value of his work. When his admirers praised him for making great progress and outstripping Freud in therapeutic technique (1978), in the theory of sexuality (1984), and in analyzing dreams (1988), more detached observers ranked him in classic psychoanalytic thinking somewhere between Freud and Kohut. In his later work he did, however, try to work politico-social (Marxist-inspired) concepts into the theory of psychic functioning, but without much success: the "sexual" as an indeterminate motion, without orientation of the primary process (1988, p. 106-107), is considered as an "emotionality" (p. 107) that alone enables us to "appear alive," (p. 107) and this "sexual" runs up against the "dictatorship of sexuality" (1988, p. 110), which is "established by the instinctual and ego developments by means of the events in the secondary process in order to absorb the motion of the primary process, guide it into certain controllable channels, and restrict it by means of conditions" (p. 110).

Kaspar Weber

See also: Switzerland (German-speaking).

Bibliography

Freud, Sigmund. (1913a). An evidential dream. SE, 12: 267-277.

Morgenthaler, Fritz. (1978). Technik zur Dialektik der Psychoanalytischen Praxis.

. (1986). Der Traum, Fragmente zur Theorie und Technik der Traumdeutung (P. Parin, Ed.). Frankfurt am Main: Campus.

. (1988). Homosexuality, heterosexuality, perversion. (Andreas Aebi, Trans.). Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.

Parin, Paul, Morgenthaler, Fritz, and Parin-Matthèy, Goldy. (1963). Die Weissen denken zuviel. Psychoanalytische Untersuchungen bei den Dogon in Westafrika. Zürich: Atlantis.

. (1971). Fürchte Deinen Nächsten wie Dich Selbst: Psychoanalyse und Gesellschaft am Modell der Agni in Westafrika. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.