Weiss, Edoardo (1889-1970)

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WEISS, EDOARDO (1889-1970)

Edoardo Weiss, a physician and psychoanalyst, was born in Trieste (then a part of Austria-Hungary), on September 21, 1889, and died in Chicago on December 14, 1970. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Trieste, part of a stable, well-to-do Jewish family originally from Bohemia. After studying German in high school, he enrolled in 1908 in medical school in Vienna. In October of that year, he visited Freud, whose essay on the Gradiva he had previously read. Weiss suffered from a slight case of agoraphobia and wanted to talk to Freud about his desire to practice psychoanalysis. Freud sent him to see Paul Federn, with whom he began therapy, which lasted until 1911. Weiss, the first president of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society and a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1913, was the real founder of the psychoanalytic movement in Italy.

In 1914 he joined the Austro-Hungarian army as a physician. He was initially assigned to Lublin, Poland, then sent to the Croatian front. It was in Lublin, in a hospital train, that he met his friend and fellow student, Viktor Tausk, whose depression from the war and declining relations with Freud had affected him deeply.

In 1917 Weiss married Wanda Shrenger. Weiss met his wife at the University of Vienna; she would become the first woman admitted to the Italian Psychoanalytic Society. In 1919 he returned to Trieste, then a part of Italy, to work as a psychiatrist in a provincial hospital. He also opened his own practice as a psychoanalyst, introducing the field to men such as Italo Svevo and Umberto Sabain other words, the leading representatives of Italian literature.

In 1927 he was forced to resign from the psychiatric hospital where he worked, due to his failure to join the Fascist party and Italianize his name. He moved to Rome, where he published Elementi di psicoanalisi (1931). In 1932 he re-established the Società Psicoanalitica Italiana and launched the review, Rivista italiana di psicoanalisi.

In 1932 Emilio Servadio, who had trained with Weiss and who was interested in parapsychology, organized several sessions with a medium in order to demonstrate the existence of paranormal phenomena. Weiss informed Freud of his conviction in the authenticity of the phenomena he had witnessed firsthand and received the following response: "Given your role as a pioneer of psychoanalysis in Italy, it would be unfavorable to consider you at the same time a pioneer of occultism."

In 1935 Weiss managed to obtain official recognition from the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) for the small Italian psychoanalytical society and, with his students Nicola Perrotti and Emilio Servadio, attended the International Congresses in Wiesbaden (1932), Lucerne (1934), and Marienbad (1936).

Having emigrated to the United States in 1939, he joined the Meninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, in 1940, then moved to Chicago, where, together with Franz Alexander, he became interested in the application of psychoanalysis to psychosomatics. In 1942 he became a training analyst at the Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis. In 1950 he took on the responsibility of collecting the writings of Paul Federn in order to promote an awareness of phenomenological ego psychology, which in his opinion had been misunderstood by Freud.

In his last years Weiss taught at Marquette College in Milwaukee as a guest lecturer for a couple of years, while he was consistently a training analyst at Chicago for many years, until his retirement. In 1970 his correspondence with Freud was published under the title Sigmund Freud as Consultant.

His writings include Agorafobia, isterismo d'angoscia (1936), Principles of Psychodynamics (1950), The Structure and Dynamics of the Human Mind (1960), Agoraphobia in the Light of Ego Psychology (1964), and some seventy articles. It was Weiss who introduced the term destrudo to express the death instinct, and the concepts of projective identification (created by Weiss in 1925, before Melanie Klein and with a slightly different meaning), psychic presence, resonance, and ego transition, which were critical for understanding the nature and modality of object relations. Weiss was especially interested in agoraphobia, our understanding of which he considerably deepened in several articles and two monographs.

Anna Maria Accerboni

See also: Claustrophobia; Death instinct (Thanatos); Ego Psychology and Psychosis ; Elementi di psicoanalisi, Libido; Italy; Rivista di psicoanalisi .


Accerboni, Anna Maria. (1988). Psychanalyse et fascisme: deux approches incompatibles. Le rôle difficile d'Edoardo Weiss. Revue internationale d'histoire de la psychanalyse, 1, 225-243.

. (1990). Sigmund Freud as remembered by Edoardo Weiss, the Italian pioneer of psychoanalysis. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 17 (3), 351-359.

Federn, E. (1982). Edoardo Weiss und der Beginn der psychoanalytischen Ichpsychologie. Sigmund Freud House Bulletin, 6 (1), 25-32.

Freud, Sigmund, and Weiss, Edoardo. (1970). Sigmund Freud as a consultant: Recollections of a pioneer in psychoanalysis. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Roazen, Paul. (2004). Edoardo Weiss: The house that Freud built. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Weiss, Edoardo (1964). Agoraphobia in the light of ego psychology. New York: Grune & Stratton.