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Phylogenetic Fantasy, A: Overview of the Transference Neuroses

PHYLOGENETIC FANTASY, A: OVERVIEW OF THE TRANSFERENCE NEUROSES

During World War I, Freud worked on a series of papers on fundamental theoretical issues, intending originally to publish them as a book entitled Zur Vorbereitung einer Metapsychologie (Preliminaries to a Metapsychology). He eventually published only five of these papers, including "The Unconscious" (1915e) and "Mourning and Melancholia" (1917e [1915]), in the Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse. From his correspondence, we know that Freud effectively finished the seven other texts, but the projected book never materialized.

Since the seven manuscripts had disappeared without a trace, it was long suspected that Freud had destroyed them. The surprise was general when a manuscript draft of the twelfth in the series was discovered in 1983 among Sándor Ferenczi's papers. The work was published in 1985a facsimile reproduction of Freud's own manuscript and a printed transcription of itunder the titleÜbersicht derÜbertragungsneurosen. Ein bisher unbekanntes Manuskript (Overview of the Transference Neuroses. A Hitherto Unknown Manuscript). An English translation followed in 1987.

Freud had sent this draft to Ferenczi for his opinion on July 28, 1915. In the accompanying letter, he specifically stated that the fair copy followed the draft as transmitted to Ferenczi sentence by sentence. The manuscript draft thus gives us a very accurate idea of the lost twelfth metapsychological paper.

The text is clearly divided into two parts. The first sets forth, in telegraphic style, a systematic comparison of the three transference neuroses (conversion hysteria, anxiety hysteria, obsessional neurosis) on the basis of the essential factors involved: repression, anticathexis, symptom-formation, relation to the sexual function, regression, and disposition. True to the promise implied by the title of the draft, this review is based on careful observation and strictly confined to the onto-genetic plane. But once at the sixth factor, namely the role of inherited disposition in the etiology of neurosis, which is almost entirely handwritten, Freud embarks on the speculative adventure of phylogenetic reconstruction (not to say construction). The title is likewise abandoned, as Freud extends his discussion to the "narcissistic neuroses": dementia praecox, paranoia, and melancholia-mania.

This second part is unquestionably the most groundbreaking section of the draft. The phylogenetic fantasy outlined here may be read as a variation on a theme introduced by Freud in Totem and Taboo, the hypothesized murder of the tyrannical father of the primal horde by the sons, giving rise to the sense of guilt as the emotional foundation of emerging civilization. In order to explain the "archaic" inheritance of the mental life of modern man, which is in his view based not only on dispositions but also on actual contents, actual memory traces, Freud postulates a Lamarckian form of hereditary transmission. As scientifically unacceptable as this phylogenetic fantasy is, it presents the greatest interest today, for it may be interpreted as an attempt by Freud, in the context of the etiology of neurosis, to link the model of the drive to the model of trauma by claiming that what are normally considered primal fantasies belonging to psychic (inner) reality are in fact the product of traumatic events that took place in external reality in prehistoric times.

The discovery of this draft also attests to the close collaboration between Freud and Ferenczi, at the time of its writing, especially with respect to metapsychology and, ultimately, with respect to "psychobiological" themes.

Ilse Grubrich-Simitis

See also: History and psychoanalysis; Metapsychology; Myth of origins; Oedipus complex; Phylogenesis; Processes of Development; Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality .

Source Citation

Freud, Sigmund. (1985 [1915])Übersicht derÜbertragungsneurosen. Ein bisher unbekanntes Manuskript. (Ilse Grubrich-Simitis, Ed.) Frankfurt-am-Main: Fischer Verlag; GW, Nachtr., 634-651; (1987) A phylogenetic fantasy: overview of the transference neuroses. (Ilse Grubrich-Simitis, Ed.; Axel Hoffer and Peter T. Hoffer, Trans.) Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press.

Bibliography

Ferenczi, Sandor. (1968) Thalassa: A theory of genitality. (Henry Alden Bunker, Trans.) New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1924)

Freud, Sigmund. (1915e) The unconscious. SE, 14: 159-204.

. (1917e [1915]). Mourning and melancholia. SE, 14: 237-258.

. (1912-13) Totem and taboo. SE, 13: 1-161.

Grubrich-Simitis, Ilse. (1987 [1985]) Metapsychology and metabiology. In Sigmund Freud, A phylogenetic fantasy (p. 73-107). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1987.

Grubrich-Simitis, Ilse. (1987) Trauma oder trieb. Trieb und trauma. Lektionen aus Sigmund Freuds phylogenetischer phantasie von 1915. Psyche, 41, 992-1023.

Lacoste, Patrick. (1986) Destins de la transmission. In Sigmund Freud, Vue d'ensemble des névroses de transfert. (p. 65-210) Paris: Gallimard.

Further Reading

Grossman, William. (1989). Review of A phylogenetic fantasy: overview of the transference neuroses. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37, 853-858.

Hoffer, Peter T. (1992). The concept of phylogenetic inheritance in Freud and Jung. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40, 517-530.

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