Racker, Heinrich (1910-1961)

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RACKER, HEINRICH (1910-1961)

Heinrich Racker, a doctor of philosophy, was born in Poland in 1910 and died in Buenos Aires on January 28, 1961.

When World War I broke out his family sought refuge in Vienna. In the course of his youth he acquired a solid grounding in general culture: He took an interest in literature, discovered psychoanalysis, and became an excellent pianist. In 1935 he obtained a doctorate in philosophy and one year later he was admitted to the Vienna Institute of Psychoanalysis, where he was analyzed by Jeanne Lampl-de Groot. In 1937 he enrolled as a medical student. One year later the Anschluss took place.

Racker fled from Vienna, finally emigrating to Buenos Aires in 1939 after many vicissitudes. In spite of his financial difficulties he commenced analysis withÁngel Garma, who generously received him. He later did his training analysis with Marie Langer and in 1946 he completed his training in the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA). In 1947 he became a subscribing member of the Association and a full member in 1950, becoming a training analyst one year later.

Racker was very young when he presented his first work on countertransference, a subject that was to confirm his reputation as one of the most original analysts in the history of the discipline. Presented at an APA conference in September 1948, "La neurosis de contratransferencia" (The countertransference neurosis) made a very strong impression. In this paper, which was not published for another five years, Racker emphasized the dialectical relation that exists between the transference and the countertransference. He revolted against the myth of the impersonal analyst and pointed out that countertransference reactions can give the analyst an indication of what is happening for the analysand. This was the essential point in the new theory of the countertransference that came into being in the middle of the twentieth century.

Simultaneously, at the sixteenth International Congress (Zurich, 1949) Paula Heimann presented her study On Countertransference, which was published in 1950. Without any consultation between them, Racker and Heimann had reached the same conclusions. But, as Cesio (1961) pointed out, whereas Racker developed the subject without delay and succeeded in interesting the scientific community, it took Heimann ten years to reconsider the question and her work had only a small impact.

In the 1950s Racker produced fundamental work. "Observaciones sobre la contratransferencia como instrumento técnico" (Observations on the counter-transference as a technical instrument), presented to a conference in 1951 and published one year later, and "Los significados y usos de la contratransferencia" (Meanings and uses of the countertransference), in 1953, published in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly in 1957.

Apart from his studies of the countertransference, Racker wrote essays on music, art, and literature, which were published in book form in 1957. Psycho-pathological stratification was another of his interests, on which he published an article in the same year.

Although his publications and his work as an analyst and teacher were the most remarkable aspects of his activity, Racker also shone through his participation in the life of the Argentinean Association. With the publication of his work on psychoanalytic technique, Racker was appointed Sloan Visiting Professor at the Menninger School of Psychiatry, as well as being made a member of the symposium "The factors of healing in psychoanalysis" at the Edinburgh International Congress in 1961. Death did not leave him the time to complete these tasks. But in November 1960 he gave a conference entitled "Psychoanalysis and Ethics," which was published 1966, after his death. It was the crowning glory of a noble life and a message of love for science, psychoanalysis, and humanity. He died in 1961, aged fifty, at the height of his creativity.

R. Horacio Etchegoyen

See also: Argentina; Change; Empathy.


Racker, Heinrich. (1951). Observaciones sobre la contratransferencia como instrumento técnico. Revista de psicoanálisis de la Asociacíon psicoanalítica argentina.

. (1953). A contribution to the problem of countertransference. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34 (4), 313-324.

. (1957). The meanings and uses of countertransference. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 26 (3), 303-357.

. (1957). Psicoanálisis del espíritu. Buenos Aires: Nova. A.P.A.

. (1968). Transference and countertransference. New York: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1960)