The Letters of Sigmund Freud & Otto Rank: Inside Psychoanalysis by E. James Lieberman and Robert Kramer (Book Review)

Author:  Lieberman, James E. and Robert Kramer (eds.), Gregory Richter (trans.)
Publisher:  Baltimore, Md: The Johns Hopkins University Press (2011)
Reviewed By:  Martin Winn, December 2012

The Letters of Sigmund Freud & Otto Rank: Inside Psychoanalysis, by E. James Lieberman and Robert Kramer, consists largely of Otto Rank’s letters to Sigmund Freud. Far fewer of Freud’s letters to Rank have survived: only about a quarter of the 250 letters are from Freud, and of those, a third are consigned to the appendix “Minor Letters.” Those letters are by and large quite uninteresting (“I am in possession of a registered letter addressed to you” reads one entire letter from Freud to Rank) (p.293).

Despite the relatively modest number of letters compared to Freud’s other correspondences— Freud and Ferenczi exchanged 1,240 letters—Rank was widely considered the closest to Freud of all of his disciples and, until his break with Freud, Rank was jealously viewed by Freud’s other disciples as the acknowledged “favorite son” and “heir.”

The 30 or so letters “of medium and major importance” (p.x) from Freud are quite interesting, and help add detail to a portrait of the close relationship between Freud and Rank, as well as the differences between them that led ultimately to Rank’s expulsion from Freud’s inner circle. Additionally, the letters add depth to an understanding of the psychoanalytic movement in the years preceding WWI up to Rank’s definitive departure in 1926.

Rather than being a simple collection of correspondence, which would in any case have resulted in a rather slim volume, the editors have elected to interleave these letters with a synopsis of the events that the particular letters refer to, or descriptions of events that were taking place during the time that the letters were written. The aim seems to have been to give a richer understanding of the significance of the letter’s contents, and is generally a successful attempt. Having no letters from the years 1919 to 1921, the editors rely instead on other sources for their history of those years (p.91).

In 1905, at age 21, Rank first met Freud, presenting him with a manuscript of an essay on The Artist. Freud was sufficiently impressed to eventually hire Rank as the secretary of his Wednesday Psychological Society, “stipulating that he finish academic high school (Gymnasium) and go on to the University” (p.2). Freud’s initial relationship to Rank was that of a mentor, guiding Rank’s academic as well as his eventual psychoanalytic development. This relationship, which began promisingly, grew into one of great importance for both men before its dramatic demise some 20 years later with Rank’s removal from Vienna and ultimate establishment in the U.S.

The history of the break, as it is generally presented by Rankians, is one of a steady theoretical development on the part of Rank that Freud ultimately would not allow, and is well represented in the preface to a biography of Rank written by Lieberman (1985):

If the maternal side of Freud had been stronger, he not only would have understood women better, but he might have allowed his protégé to separate more freely. Instead of nurturing Rank’s selfcreation, Freud withdrew as though it were a threat. (p.xxxi)

The beginning of the divergence with Freud occurs when Rank published his book The Trauma of Birth in 1924, the same year that he and Ferenczi published “The Development of Psychoanalysis,” in which they argue for an “active” therapy.

Rank’s “birth trauma” theory challenged Freud’s insistence that the relation to the father is primordial and constitutes the first identification. Rank proposed a “preoedipal” stage that takes precedence over the oedipal, and consisted of the primordial relation of the infant to the mother. Freud was initially impressed with Rank’s book, writing to Abraham in its defense, “I do not hesitate to say that I regard this work as highly significant, that it has given me much to think about, and that I have not come to a definitive judgement about it”(Jones, 1957, p.61). However, Freud was troubled by Rank’s reduction of the role of the father, who in Freud’s judgment functioned as the representative of the “authority that does not permit incest” (p.62). Freud’s hope was that Rank’s contribution would lead to “fruitful discussions” and to the general advancement of psychoanalytic theory (p.62). Freud was less sanguine about “active therapy.” In a letter to Ferenczi he issued a prescient warning that it could lead away from psychoanalysis on “a path for traveling salesmen” (Lieberman & Kramer, 2012, p.181).

As Lacan has noted of Freud’s position on the primordial identification to the figure of the father in Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego (1921): “This is very odd to be sure, and is to be placed in contradiction with everything that the development of analytic experience is found to have established concerning the primacy of the child’s relationship with the mother. There is an odd discordance between Freudian discourse and the discourse of analysts” (Lacan, 1991, p.88).

In line with Lacan’s view, Rank could then be seen as one of the first to have tried to address this discordance, and he was certainly not the last. In fact, the preoedipal primordial link to the mother is a basic tenant of the object relations school, which owes its existence to Otto Rank.

Through the late forties and fifties ego psychology struggled with the same dilemma, and by the sixties influential ego psychologists like Spitz, Mahler, and Jacobson, who all studied infant behavior, were describing early attachment issues that emphasized the infant’s relation to its mother (Jacobson, 1964; Mahler, 1968; Spitz, 1965).

By the early 1950s, when Lacan began delivering his first seminar, it was a widely accepted truism that Freud’s insistence on the significance of the position of the father was an outmoded relic of Victorian beliefs.

It will be left to Lacan to adequately confront Freud’s seemingly discordant insistence on the primacy of the role of the father, and to explain why Freud remained rightly adamant on this point.

Lacan (1991) addressed this “discordance” by reminding us that our work with our analysands is a “reconstructive collaboration” (p.88). By this he meant that the analysand speaks about his lived experience and something emerges that we interpret, not on the basis of the live events, but on the basis of what is said about those events. This is because the lived experiences are taken up in language, and it is language that structures them. It is in the relation of one signifier to another that “it is possible for this gap that we call the subject to open” (p.88). It is in the effects of this link between one signifier and another that an unconscious thought is represented.1

The introduction of language will, nachträglich, restructure the events that chronologically preceded it. As early as A Project for a Scientific Psychology of 1895, Freud used the term nachträglich (“afterwardness”) to describe when “a memory is repressed which has only become a trauma by deferred action”2 (p.356). Lacan considered this an extremely important concept, indicating that the lived events of the subject are structured logically rather than chronologically. That is, the introduction of language as a third term introduces the symbolic register, the register of the symbolic father. It is the introduction of language that acts as the incest taboo. This is the logical “first moment” that constitutes primary trauma and that, nachträglich, or in Lacan’s terms, après-coup, gives meaning to the chronologically prior events.

The prior events become traumas aprèscoup, but only secondarily in relation to the chronologically later event. There is no preoedipal stage that developmentally leads to an oedipal stage, there is only the intervention of the paternal metaphor that retroactively structures everything that has gone before, and is thus structurally “primordial.”

Hence, birth trauma is not primordial, but only becomes a trauma nachträglich, once the trauma of castration, as a primordial trauma, is encountered.

Additionally, the symbolic structure of language pre-exists the birth of the infant and, unless the subject is destined to be psychotic, there is a place already prepared in language for him by his parent’s unconscious desires. The emphasis on the so-called preoedipal does not recognize that the parents themselves are already immersed in the symbolic order. They are already subject to the structure of language, and their child is “always already” (as Althusser would say) determined by the symbolic order.

Rank’s position was thus apparently less heretical than an initial attempt to address analytic experience. And at least initially, this is how Freud seemed to have viewed Rank’s work.

On the other hand, Freud’s supporters responded by characterizing Rank as having undergone either some sort of “conversion” that, in the words of A. A. Brill, “invariably involves deep emotional upset. My feeling about Dr. Rank is that it is this emotional upheaval that is responsible for his present confusion” (Lieberman, 1985, p.292), or as manifesting the inevitable outcome of mental disturbance: “It took a couple of years before it became plain that a manic phase of [Rank’s] cyclothymia was gradually intensifying” (Jones, 1957, p.47).

Freud himself eventually wrote to Rank:

The exclusion of the father in your theory seems to reveal too much the result of personal influences in your life which I think I recognize, and my suspicion grows that you would not have written this book had you gone through an analysis yourself. (Lieberman & Kramer, 2012, p.208)

There are many possible factors that contributed to Rank’s break with Freud, not least of which was the fact that, as Freud noted, Rank never underwent an analysis. Among Rank’s many enduring contributions to psychoanalysis, an ironic one would be the increased awareness of how central one’s own analysis is in the formation of a psychoanalyst. Unfortunately, at that time, the importance of an analysis was misunderstood; the requirement to undergo an analysis was more likely to be prescribed as a kind of “punishment” for bad behavior. Later, the International Psychoanalytic Association would impose a “didactic” analysis as a kind of academic requirement, but it was not until Lacan that the significance of the relation between the end of an analysis and occupying the position of an analyst was actually addressed.

Rank’s response to Freud’s letter was particularly bitter. He attributed Freud’s criticism to the influence of “rabble-rousers” like Abraham about whom, in Rank’s opinion, Freud deludes himself:

The more light there is, the more pleasant it will be for me, as the profound ignorance of people like Abraham, among others, will be all the more apparent. Do you really believe, Professor, that an argument from someone like Abraham will impress me when I’ve lost faith even in your judgement in this matter?

He then concluded his letter with a sarcastic reference to Freud’s health:

I was very glad to hear from you directly that you’re satisfied with your condition, if one can trust the psychology of denial, this good condition will last a very long time. (Lieberman & Kramer, 2012, p.219)

Freud’s “condition” at that time was his cancer, which had been diagnosed roughly at the time that Rank began to develop his theory of birth trauma. Initially, Freud’s “condition” was thought to be so dire that he was assumed to have only months to live. His doctor apparently feared that if Freud was informed of the gravity of the initial prognosis, he was at risk of suicide. Instead, only Freud’s immediate family, and Rank, were informed. Thus Rank’s position as heir-apparent was solidified, although initially in secret, even from Freud.

As Siegfried Bernfeld (1962) noted in his paper “On Psychoanalytic Training,” by the summer of the following year Freud’s cancer was under control and Freud could now hope to live for many more years. Freud’s “death and resurrection,” Bernfield wrote, was decisive for the development of psychoanalytic training (p.467). One response to the threatened loss took the form of a “reaction-formation” that expressed itself in the establishment of “a rigid selection of newcomers, and…the institution of a coercive, long drawn-out authoritarian training” to safeguard the future of psychoanalysis (p.467). “In fact, they punished their students for their own ambivalence. At the same time, they consolidated the one trend that Freud always wanted to avoid: the shrinkage of psychoanalysis into an annex of psychiatry” (p.467).

The other response to Freud’s illness was what Bernfeld characterized as “outbursts of the id forces” exemplified by Rank’s behavior.

For Rank, Freud’s impending death had been the signal to go his own way. Since he was impatient and had started his departure somewhat too early, he found himself on Freud’s recovery with his bridges burned and could only advance into nowhere. (p.467)

It was Rank’s belief that Freud’s impending death was the signal for him to establish himself as the reigning psychoanalyst that precipitated Rank’s break with Freud. When Rank responded to Freud’s comment that his “condition” had stabilized by accusing Freud of “denial,” Rank was showing his cards: his expectation and hope that Freud would die.

Seen “in the light” of the crisis caused by Freud’s illness, while Rank’s birth trauma theory may have begun initially as an attempt to address the discord that Lacan notes, Freud’s illness was the more significant catalyst that unleashed the unconscious motivations for Rank’s challenging of Freud. As Rank’s letter cited above makes clear, Rank himself unconsciously linked his theory and Freud’s illness through the signifier “denial.” Rank accused Freud of denial in relation to the veracity of Rank’s theories, denial in relation to the true motives of those of Freud’s disciples who criticized Rank, and then, in the conclusion to his letter, he accused Freud of denial of the true state of his “condition.”

The phantasm expressed by Rank’s theory was precisely to deny the significance of the father in order to protect himself from the guilt associated with Freud’s “life-threatening illness.” Guilt, because Rank was counting on that death to cement his own position. What better way to declare oneself innocent than to declare the father, and therefore his death, unimportant?

In Rank’s phantasm, the mother, or “Mother” as Lieberman and Kramer insist on writing throughout their book, is a benevolent, omnipotent figure, a totality for whom the figure of the father, as representing a bar to incest, doesn’t exist. If there is no father who pronounces the incest taboo, there is no threat, there is nothing to fear, nothing to lose, no cost. In a letter of August 22, 1922, Rank had written to Freud about a “Scientific Campaign” that he and Ferenczi were starting “against the overestimation of the castration complex” (Lieberman & Kramer, 2012, p.140).

Thus, neither the infant nor “Mother” are subject to any privation, or loss. Indeed, this was the conclusion that Rank eventually arrived at with his emphasis of “will.” His conception of the outcome of a treatment in which the patient through an act of will becomes the “creator of himself ” (p.268), is, in the final analysis, to take oneself for God (“I am that I am,” Exodus 3:14). It is not surprising that Jones regarded The Trauma of Birth as “written in a hyperbolic vein more suitable for the announcement of a new religious gospel” (Jones, 1957, p.58).

An interesting note in this context is that one of Rank’s responses to his apparently brutal, distant father was to abandon his surname of Rosenfeld, and, at the age of 19, rename himself Rank after a character from Ibsen’s Wild Ducks. The belief that one could give birth to one’s self is at worst delusional, and at best a neurotic belief that the work of a true analysis would undo (as Freud’s letter cited above indicates).

While Rank’s birth trauma theory attempted to negate the position of the father (understood as uncastrated), that position returned “in act,” in the sense of an “acting out” in Rank and Ferenczi’s active therapy, since it was founded on the notion that the analyst functions as an uncastrated master. The analyst “knows” all about the analysand even before the analysand has said a word, and is therefore justified in injecting the answers as soon as possible without waiting for the possibility that the analysand will discover something new that neither the analysand nor the analyst were aware of.

It was Freud’s acknowledgment of the failure of an “active” method that had originally led him to abandon suggestion as a technique. It was the shift to “free association” that founded the radical discovery that is psychoanalysis: the hysteric is the one in possession of the truth (at the price of not knowing it). If the analyst thinks he knows the truth he only perpetuates his own ignorance of the unconscious. The analyst does not occupy an omnipotent position—a position that, in fact, no one occupies, least of all the one who takes himself for a master.

Freud was justifiably alarmed by Rank’s activities during his first stay in the US when he received a letter from Brill that:

…reported in lurid terms the extraordinary doctrines that Rank had been inculcating in New York, and the confusion he had thereby created; Rank’s pupils had gleefully related that it was no longer necessary to analyze dreams, nor to make any interpretations beyond that of birth trauma, and they were relieved also from going into the unpleasant topic of sexuality. (Jones, 1957, p.71)

When it became clear that Freud was in fact not in denial about his condition, Rank, back in Vienna, and faced with stern criticism from a very much alive Freud, had a second crisis in which he then retracted his theories:

Suddenly I found myself again, leaving behind me a condition which I now understand as neurotic, and have come to recognize in Professor’s life-threatening illness the trauma that precipitated the whole crisis and, furthermore, the type and mechanism of my reaction to it in terms of my personal childhood and family history—the Oedipus and brother complex. (Leiberman, 1985, p.249)

In order to salvage his status, and to undo the damage he had caused, Rank offered to return to America and to publicly recant his former views. Freud was the only one willing to believe in Rank’s reversal. However, once back in the US, Rank remained silent rather than renouncing his previous position. It was palpably clear that he knew he had burned his bridges and, in Bernfeld’s words, “can only advance into nowhere”(1962, p.467) in the psychoanalytic movement, and rather than address his “personal childhood and family history”(Leibeman, 1985 p.249), he ultimately took up his birth trauma and active therapy mantle again.

Unfortunately, these phantastic theories were extremely influential in the US. During his stays in America, Rank gave numerous talks in which he preached his theory of birth trauma and active therapy, and attacked Freud’s insistence on the importance of the Oedipus complex and the castration complex, while elevating the role of the mother as central.

That Rank’s views were so wildly popular in America, land of religious fundamentalism and Puritanism, is not surprising. Rank’s technique also appealed to an American ideology of “pragmatism,” with its emphasis on brevity, the “here and now,” “self-creation,” active intervention and guidance on the part of the therapist, and the “real” relationship between therapist and patient, as opposed to transference.

On his website dedicated to Otto Rank, Leiberman has noted that:

Otto Rank’s emphasis on will, relationship and creativity appealed to psychologists Rollo May, Carl Rogers, Esther Menaker, Paul Goodman, and Henry Murray. Noted psychiatrists influenced by Rank include Frederick Allen, Marion Kenworthy, Robert Jay Lifton, Carl Whitaker, and Irvin Yalom; writers and critics include Ernest Becker, Maxwell Geismar, Max Lerner, Ludwig Lewisohn, Anais Nin, Carl Rakosi, and Miriam Waddington.

Some of Rank’s ideas which seemed radical in his time are now in the mainstream of psychoanalytic thought: the importance of the early mother-child relationship; the ego, consciousness, the hereand- now, and the actual relationship—as opposed to transference—in therapy. He anticipated and influenced interpersonal, existential, client-centered, Gestalt, and relationship therapies. (n.d.)

Given the provenance of Rank’s theories, the degree of his influence for American psychoanalysis (even as it disavowed him), as well as for many strains of psychology and psychotherapy that followed, has, to say the least, a tragicomic aspect.

Rank’s influence was due precisely to the fact that he attacked the very premise of psychoanalysis, undoing Freud’s frightening “Copernican” displacement of man’s consciousness from the center of the world. Freud’s concluding remarks from Studies in Hysteria that “much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common unhappiness” ( 1893–1895, p.305) was hardly a welcome thought for a country that has the “pursuit of happiness” guaranteed in its constitution. Rank offered a happy vision of a “pre-Copernican,” pre- Freudian, preoedipal view of the human as potential master of his universe.

In addition to the collaboration and eventual break between Rank and Freud, their letters reveal a great deal about the internal relations of Freud’s inner circle. In reading the letters, as well as Jones’s 1957 biography of Freud, and Freud’s comments and letters to his other disciples, one is struck by the level of imaginary conflict taking place. There are constant accusations back and forth of “death wishes toward the father” and “brother complexes” that underlie disagreements. Freud too is constantly wary in the same vein; Lou Andreas-Salome writes in her diary:

I understand very well that men of intelligence and ability like Otto Rank, who is a son and nothing but a son, represent for Freud something far more to be desired [than Carl Jung, or Victor Tausk]. He says of Rank: “Why is it that there can’t be six such charming men in our group instead of only one?” Even in his wish for a half-dozen the individuality of the man referred to is put in some doubt. And yet just this serves to reassure Freud in the face of threatening “ambivalence.” During one evening’s discussion, when Rank lectured on regicide, Freud wrote the following note to me on a piece of paper: “R. disposes of the negative aspect of his filial love by means of this interest in regicide; that is why he is so devoted.”
(Lieberman & Kramer, 2012, p.25)

In the letters from the years 1922 to 1924, beginning in a chapter entitled “Fratricide,” the other members of Freud’s committee and the younger analysts surrounding them were subject to harsh criticism by Rank, who was constantly complaining of the inadequacies and foibles of his colleagues. Jones and then Abraham, whom Rank clearly saw as his chief rivals, were the main targets of his ire. Only Ferenczi, with whom he formed a close tie, escaped unscathed. Freud’s responses varied; sometimes he was in agreement, sometimes he seemed to attempt to stay above the fray, and at other times he appeared to actually foster the conflicts among his disciples. In one particularly charged letter Freud wrote to Rank,

Perhaps you haven’t fully appreciated the motivation for my regret, recently expressed, that I didn’t permit you to study medicine. In that case I believe there’d be no doubt about the person to whom I’d bequeath the leading role in the psychoanalytic movement. As things stand, I’d wish that Abraham’s clarity and correctness could be melded with Ferenczi’s talent, and that Jones’ inexhaustible pen could be added as well. (p.135)

As Bernfeld (1962) justly noted, this configuration would have escalating repercussions by 1924, when Freud’s cancer was first diagnosed: Freud’s illness transformed the incipient squabbling into all-out war among his disciples, effectively destroying the “Committee,” and decisively marking the subsequent trajectory of the psychoanalytic movement and the transmission of psychoanalysis.

That there was so much internal conflict among Freud’s disciples raises a significant question: was there something particular to the way Freud conceptualized the structure of the Committee that inevitably lead to its demise?

Freud’s idea of his group as constituted by sons organized around a father followed his conception of society laid out in Totem and Taboo (1913), founded on the murder of the primordial father by his sons. Jean Allouch (1991) read this “myth” as Freud’s interpretation of the conflicts that developed in the Committee. Allouch noted that Freud “presents a familial-ist reading of these conflicts (notably the identification of the student as son), a version that was from the beginning largely admitted by the persons concerned” (p.193).

In conceiving of the Committee as structured along familial lines, Freud misrecognized the incompatibility between family and psychoanalysis. Allouch noted that the two “never stop manifesting something close to an antinomy” (1991, p.191). Lacan wrote in 1938 that “the individual who does not struggle to be recognized outside the familial group will never attain a personality before dying” (Lacan, 1984, p.35). One aim of a psychoanalysis is for the analysand to find a way out of the labyrinthine impasses of their family “drama.”

Allouch lamented, “It could seem that the family, at one moment undone by psychoanalysis, always ends up, at the end of who knows what sort of alchemy, recreating itself and then taking over psychoanalysis” (1991, p.191).

Freud proposed the Oedipus complex to conceptualize the “drama” of the family. In his seminar of 1968, L’enverse de la psychanalysis, Lacan called the Oedipus complex “Freud’s dream.” Lacan then asked: as a dream, what is it designed to mask? His answer: that the father is castrated (1991, p.115). Freud and his disciples, with all their talk of “brother complexes” and “regicide,” phantasized Freud as occupying an omnipotent role within his group, masking the fact that the father is castrated. This consigned Freud’s disciples to a position of impotence and rivalry. Freud’s illness and impending death heightened the impotence and rivalry to an unbearable level of angst.

As Bernfeld noted, the disciples reacted in two distinctly pathological manners. In a manic episode triggered by his belief that he was the chosen heir, Rank developed a theory of a fatherless family,3 while believing himself to be the uncastrated master. The others erected the bureaucracy that became the IPA, with its regulations, qualifications, requirements, and exclusions, the ultimate aim of which was to safeguard against castration. Then they sought a guarantee by aligning themselves with medicine, the perceived uncastrated masters, thus reproducing their position of impotence in relation to a master.

The end of a psychoanalysis, in the words of Moustapha Safouan (1983):

…concerns the relation of the analysand not to the person of his analyst, but to analysis. It is, if I can express myself in this manner, the moment where the algorithm of the sujet-supposé-savoir 4 delivers its secret of being also the algorithm of what Lacan calls the “ternary component of the analytic function,” or as well of [being] the object…a.” 5 (p.68)

The significance of this moment, which is a logical moment, is precisely the recognition of castration: there is no all-knowing master in the person of the analyst; rather, there is the object a, the remainder that is left over as a result of the operation of castration, and that causes desire. It is the recognition of the operation of castration that will allow the analysand to act in accordance with his desire. Desire, which the will opposes and masks.

The end of an analysis is marked by a shift from a position of impotence to one of impossibility. At first blush, this doesn’t sound like much of an improvement. However, the position of impotence is one of constant frustration and envy, the epitome of neurotic misery. “Impossibility” signifies a loss that has to be mourned and that releases the analysand from the impasse of impotence. The recognition of desire is founded on the recognition of a loss that sustains desire as, among other things, the possibility of a substitution, of something else in place of the lost object, in place of the neurotic hope for the return of the lost object.

Any association of psychoanalysts must strive to sustain the relations of its members “not to the person of the analyst, but to analysis.” In the case of a psychoanalytic association, Saphouan’s distinction is less an allusion to the notion of a group that derives its coherence from a shared identification with a concept or belief, than to the adherence to psychoanalytic truth.

This relation to psychoanalysis is opposed by the “alchemy” that Allouch noted, an alchemy that is inherent in the imaginary relations fostered by group structure. Lacan remarked in The Ethics Of Psychoanalysis that he read in Jones (Lacan doesn’t mention where) “[a] sort of exclamation on the sublime virtues of social pressure without which our contemporaries, our brother men, would present themselves as vain, egotists, sordid, sterile, etc. But one is tempted to punctuate in the margin, but are they anything else?” (1992, p.25).

Certainly any attempt at developing an organizing structure is contingent and risks failure; the history of psychoanalysis is littered with failed attempts at creating a truly psychoanalytic association, the worst failures having been the most successful bureaucracies! If the attempts have failed it is because they are confronted with a structural impossibility, but paradoxically, it is only the recognition of that impossibility that offers a possibility of a successful outcome.

If an association of psychoanalysts is to sustain the relation of its members to psychoanalysis, it must somehow account for the impossible. An organization that derives its coherence on the basis of a phantasm of an omnipotent master can only result in an impasse, consigning its members to futility and impotence.

It was not until about 16 years after the initial appearance of the life-threatening illness that threw his followers into disarray that Freud finally succumbed to his cancer on September 23, 1939. Barely more than one month later, on October 31, 1939, Otto Rank died from a sudden, rapidly progressing illness, perhaps an infection or a reaction to medication he was taking for kidney problems. His last reported remark: “Komisch” (comical, strange, peculiar) (Lieberman, 1985, p.389).


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About the Author

Martin Winn is a Lacanian psychoanalyst practicing in New York. He is an analyst, supervisor, and member of Après-Coup Psychoanalytic Association. As a member of the Après-Coup faculty, he conducts a yearly workshop in the Après-Coup Formation Program Foundation Series.

1. “Millionaire” and “familiar,” for example (Freud, 1905, p.19).
2. The Strachey translation of nachträglich actually controverts and obscures the significance of the term. Nachträglich in not a deferred action, “due to some kind of storing procedure, between stimulus and response” (Laplanche & Pontalis, 1973, p.114).
3. Jones reported an encounter with Rank and Rank’s pregnant wife in March 1919 in which Rank remarked “in a dismal tone that men were of no importance in life; the essence of life was the relationship between mother and child” (1957, p.58).
4. “Subject-supposed-to-know” or “supposed-subjectof- knowing.” The position that the analysand initially ascribes to the analyst: the one who is supposed as knowing the answer to the analysand’s suffering. Rank will mistake himself for an actual sujet-supposé-savoir.
5. The lost object, the object—cause of desire.


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