Love and Lust: On the Psychoanalysis of Romantic and Sexual Emotions (Book Review)
Author: Reik, Theodore
Publisher: New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2002 (Reprint of 1941 Edition with a New Preface by Paul Roazen)
Reviewed By: Howard H. Covitz, Fall 2004, pp. 60-63
Some Thoughts On The Reissuing Of Love And Lust
The landscape of American Psychoanalysis is pockmarked with schisms. In spite of the recent landmark settlement by a handful of psychologists against the American and International Psychoanalytic associations, it remains so. Some several years ago, by way of example, I mentioned to a member of NPAP (a study group that eventually grew to an institute founded by Theodore Reik when training was unavailable for psychologists, osteopaths, social workers and other prospective non-medical practitioners) that his work of the past twenty-five years resonated with Shengold’s more recent publications on Soul Murder. He responded by explaining that he was unaware of the details of Shengold’s work and that Shengold was more than likely unaware of his. He sighed: “Alas, we attend different shuls. ” And so it was and to some extent remains on the American scene which includes inter alia The Academy, The Association, Division 39 (and its subdivisions) and the Lay Folk and others who long ago gathered about Theodore Reik with the founding of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP).
It would be pointless to fascinate over whether details would have been different had Reik the psychologist (first ever to receive a PhD in psychology with a psychoanalytic dissertation) been more like the physicist Robert Waelder and had agreed to the terms set out by the Americans for immigrating lay analysts; the past recast is, indeed, unbewusste... unknowable, and in any case, the psychoanalytic civil war, as Frosch, the emeritus editor of JAPA referred to these schisms (1991), went far beyond the Lay v. Medical question.
Reik was known among his students as an amiable if obstreperous type. Seeing himself as Freud’s heir in the United States and, for whatever other reasons, maybe later to be unearthed by definitive biographers, Theodore Reik did not bend to the demands of the New York Psychoanalytic. To the contrary, Reik baited the New York analytic establishment in his quite popular writings (some dozen of his books are still in and out of print and many have gone through multiple printings and editions). Consider the following (1948): “Perhaps, it will dampen the conceit of those gentlemen who call themselves “Freudians” when I tell them that Freud once smilingly said to me: “Moi, je ne suis pas un Freudiste”(p. 513).”
Reik was not one to pull his punches. In any case, Reik did found NPAP, soon-to-be home to the Psychoanalytic Review, and within several years began traveling down to Philadelphia on weekends to train those who could not there find acceptance in the medical institutes and opened, with his interested colleagues and students, the Psychoanalytic Studies Institute (PSI) in the early 1950’s. NPAP continues to thrive in New York and, while PSI closed its psychoanalytic training track in 1980, one spin-off group (PSP) continues training in the Philadelphia area. As I had myself trained at PSI and thereafter directed it for some dozen years when its name altered to represent the broadening scope of analytic practice (Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies, 1980-1998), I was particularly pleased when approached to comment on the occasion of the reissuing of Theodore Reik’s Of Love and Lust. If he was not to be my analytic father, he was, indeed, my analytic grandfather ... or grandmother. Allow me for a moment to diverge, then, with a personal historical anecdote that, in the end, says something about Reik... and about me!
Perhaps the year was 1976. Reik and his work were already well known to me, as was Freud’s On the Question of Lay Analysis, in which Freud defended Dr. Theodore Reik against charges of quackery, of practicing psychoanalytic medicine without a license. I was familiar, as well, with his imprimatur within the community from framed documents on the walls of analysts whom I knew; the handwritten document under glass would read (from memory):
I hereby attest that Dr. So-and-so is well-trained in the scientific principles and practices of Freud’s psychoanalysis and fully-fit to pursue its practice, independently. Sincerely, Dr. Theo. Reik
But back to the story. Four of my fellow candidates (Ann Gilpin, Jeffrey Kauffman, Beverly Mitchell, and Victor Schermer) and I had heard rumors that there was a tape of Reik somewhere hidden in the belly of the Institute, somewhere in PSI’s archives. We petitioned Ed Parnes, one of Reik’s students and PSI’s Dean, and after sufficient guarantees were proffered, we were given a date on which we might come to the Institute with a proper reel-to-reel recorder, one that wouldn’t snag the old and precious tape. On the appointed Sunday, we arrived carrying with us a carefully chosen bottle of toasting wine and our machine, which even then was outdated. The apprentices had arrived to peer in through the Master’s window in order to vision the Master at work. Glasses were set, bottle uncorked, tape loaded onto the Webcor tape machine; alia jacta est, the die was indeed cast, and anticipations ran high. One click and the voice of an unidentified osteopathic psychiatrist was heard on the scratchy tape (again, from memory):
”Dr. Reik. You have been practicing Psychoanalysis for more than half a century. You walked and talked and argued with Freud and he gave you the first prize in psychoanalysis [actually, it was a prize that was shared with two medical analysts; the division of such prizes among Lay and Medical recipients was a practice that lasted for several years]. He even carried a hobbyhorse up the stairs to your flat for your son to play upon. We are just beginning our journey into the Unconscious. Maybe you have some advice for us.”
This was the moment for which we had waited. There was a not insignificant pause before the heavily accented Eastern European voice of an obviously elderly man was heard speaking slowly and methodically, one word at a time:
“Be friendly. These New York analysts don’t even let their patients smoke. If your patient would like a cigarette, maybe you could get them an ashtray and then listen! And listen some more for the surprises of psychoanalysis.”
And so it was that five neophyte analytic therapists came to know that their institute’s founder was human, was humorous... and had a voice.
There have been many traditions put forth in psychoanalysis; we are a community that functions, at least in part, by inherited traditions. In the time my four colleagues and I had trained, the rhythms of Hartmann, Kris and Loewenstein’s ego psychology and its rigorous analysis of ego functions and resistances and the ego psychology paradigm, in general, held sway in North America and most of the prominent psychoanalytic journals throughout the world. Where Freud, in his Papers on Technique, had outlined suggestions to those practicing analysis, in the post World War II period his students had built a rigid scaffolding to support der alte Hexenmeister’s more impressionistic technique. Reik, on the other hand, stayed closer to that more heimlich style and spoke of surprise in the analyst and his or her need for genuineness. The following comments made by Reik a half century ago (1948) resonate with certain sentiments that today appear not only in interpersonal approaches to analysis but have found their way into mainstream thinking, as well.
“The analyst, as he is often trained in psychoanalytic institutes, is an interpreting automaton, a robot of understanding, an independent analytic intellect without ever becoming a personality. He confuses the calmness and control of the observer with lack of sensitivity, objectivity in judgment with absence of sensation and feeling. When he sits behind the patient, he tries to be everything else but himself. But only he who is entirely himself, only he who has the sharpest ear for what his own thoughts whisper to him, will be a good psychoanalyst. I am of the opinion, not shared by many New York analysts, that the personality of the psychoanalyst is the most important tool he has to work with (p. 272).”
As the reader of the above may sense, Reik was not one to pass up an opportunity to offer an edgy fillip to those whom he considered the posturing pretenders within the analytic establishment.
Reik’s oeuvres were broad, variegated and textured, though uniformly presented in the warm, and heimlich, conversational and investigative style of his teacher, Sigmund Freud. By the appearance of Grinstein’s first series in his Index of Psychoanalytic Writings (1958), nearly 250 of his published pieces were listed beginning in 1913; Reik continued publishing till shortly before his death on the last day of 1969.
There were more than a half-dozen book-length works on Biblical themes (and dozens of papers), including those on religious ritual and Divine revelation on Sinai (1931, 1951, 1959), on Eve and Lilith (1960), and on Isaac and Jesus (1961). In each, the author invited the reader on something approximating an archaeological dig. His style was closer to Freud’s and the students of Ferenczi (the likes of the Balints and Edmund Bergler, and Reik’s own student Robert Lindner) than to the ego psychologists. Unlike Ernest Jones who focused heavily on the symbolic (e.g., in his 1912 piece on salt where he equates Salt=Semen=Shit etc.) and for whom Reik often had some barbs and nigh-on mocking comments (cf. 1952, p.36, where he calls him Emperor Jones), Reik’s emphasis was on the manner by which various elements flowed into one another psychologically. As to initiation rites, for instance, other writers tended to look at the homology between the ritual surgery and castration and parricide. Reik was circumspect in his study of Isaac and Jesus and his conclusions about the superstructure upon which culture is built (1961, p. 236): “It would perhaps be preferable to say that it [the cultural superstructure] was built on the enduring effects of that initiation, namely on the bond between the older men of the tribes and the newly accepted young men... (forming) a firm tie between the generations and a strong link in the chain of traditions.”
There were many volumes, as well, that looked at the inner processes of the analyst. The newcomer to Reik’s writings may find “Jessica, My Child” (in The Secret Self, 1952) a particularly compelling demonstration of the manner in which the life of the analyst, his or her reveries and associations with literature, and the capacity to integrate these into a whole may not only be clinically relevant (qua analysis of what we today think of broadly as countertransference) but enriching to the personhood of the analyst. The analyst was inseparable from the work of analysis—maybe like the farmer who doesn’t exist without the farm. Listening with the Third Ear (1948; by 1949 this work was into a third printing) is, perhaps, Reik’s best known work on clinical process, though Reik’s memoir pieces (e.g., Fragment of a Great Confession, 1949; The Search Within, 1956, and others) were peppered with a decidedly holistic way of looking at clinical process and the psychoanalytic clinician’s life with analytic purview, as was his From Thirty Years with Freud (1942; an interesting piece which looks at both the life of his then-dead Master and of the life of his Master’s much younger protégé).
On Love and Lust: On the Psychoanalysis of Romantic and Sexual Emotions was first published in 1941. It was reissued four years after Reik’s death with a thoughtful forward by Murray Sherman, which in its brief ten pages offered a retrospective of Reik’s life and of his life work. The reissued printing (pagination is identical to 1974 Sherman edition) comes with a brief forward by Paul Roazen. It omits Sherman’s interesting piece and in no substantive way does it either replace or add to it. Perhaps, my discomfort for Roazen’s preface is a matter of personal taste on my part. The first time I heard Roazen speak (sometime in the mid-1980’s at a public lecture at Temple University), I was surprised by his use of the word “diabolical” to describe Freud and asked him about it. He commented that the word was quite fitting for any theory that presents anthropos as constitutionally bisexual. ” The words of King David after hearing that his friend had been killed (Samuel II, 1:23) ring in my ears: “How are the mighty fallen in the midst of battle/Jonathan, slain upon your heights.”
Alas. living authors in conjunction with their editors are given the right to choose the identity of those who write prefatory comments to their work. Reik was indeed posthumously blessed to have a sensitive piece to accompany his work at the hand of Murray Sherman. There was, I might add, no whitewashing in the earlier preface but a sensitive, deferential psychoanalytic look at Reik’s life and work. Sherman’s emphasis was placed on both the manner in which Reik agreed and disagreed with Freud. Differences are, indeed, notable between Freud’s notion of primal repression and Reik’s sense that parts of the Ego are split off from the whole and forced to face the remainder of the Ego as a stranger. While Freud saw masochism as a vicissitude of the Death Drive, das todestriebe, Reik conceptualized masochism as an attempt to maintain control through a flaunting of defeat. Similarly love was not seen by Reik as an irreducible precipitate of libido, as it was for Freud, but rather as a complicated end-product of the envy that one experiences for another who has certain attributes that the lover lacks (similar to Aristophanes’ search for the missing half in Plato’s Symposium). Consistently, these differences are played out on the Biology-to-Psychology continuum with Reik opting for more psychologically-informed models.
Love and Lust is divided into four sections or, more correctly, is a volume that combines three book-length essays and a shorter one. In the first essay, “A Psychologist Looks at Love” (abbreviation of a volume by the same title, 1944), Reik (p. 21) argues his position that love is not derivative from sex and is certainly not the same as sex: “Sex is a passionate interest in another body; love a passionate interest in another personality, or in his life.” Here, he more clearly than in his other works, explains how envy grows into love and how this history of love lends itself so easily to hatred.
The second essay, “Masochism in Modern Man,” discusses with ample clinical vignettes, the manner through which victory through defeat is attained; one can, after all, never guarantee victory, but one can always assure defeat. The final two essays unabashedly attempt to examine the different reasons that bring men and women to marry (“The Unmarried”) and differences that exist, in general, between men and women (“The Emotional Difference of the Sexes”). This final piece is a compilation of many short ones... akin to the passing thoughts that a clinician might have at the end of a lengthy day. This last section, chocked full of generalities, will likely raise many a contemporary reader’s hackles. Still and all, there is something particularly refreshing about writing that doesn’t hide in abstractions and—right or wrong—comes forth with speculative pabulum that the brave can chew upon with vigor and choose to either spit out or metabolize. This is, indeed, rare.
From 1990-1994, I had the pleasure to chair a study group on Freud’s writings. As we ended, clinicians and non-clinicians commented that Freud was unique and decidedly unlike many contemporary writers in psychoanalysis, inasmuch as he wrote clearly enough so that we each knew when we disagreed with what he was saying. About one of these less clear works, Eckardt (1992) commented: “It is full of abstractions and conceptual formulations that require the assistance of a non-existent special dictionary. It pretends an aura of depth and scientific wisdom that it rarely delivers. It obscures rather than clarifies.” Reik was a good student of Freud and like his Master garnered no pleasure in being obscure. He wrote both for the interested analyst and for the sentient layperson. Reik, early on in Love and Lust, spells out his frankness, as always, in simple language: “I do not shrink from calling a spade a spade, but I am reluctant to call a rake a spade, even if they stand side by side in the same barn” (p. 15).
I shall leave it to the reader to bathe in Reik’s literary style, in his love for Shakespeare and his obsession with Goethe, and most especially in his reveling in the elegant arguments that he proffers for the psychological method of thought as applied to this or that bit of everyday life. Like Freud’s, his work stimulates disagreement... as he functions as an able interlocutor for the reader’s thoughts.
An anecdote and a thought with which to end. Reik (1952) reports that when he met Freud one evening walking on the Ringstrasse, he was admonished (p. 3) not to scatter his “intellectual energy on too many different subjects. It would be better,” Freud explained, “to concentrate it on one problem at a time, and then after you have led to its solution, to take on another and concentrate on that.” I am moved to say that all analysands are wise to decide for themselves whether such admonitions as are occasionally made by our analysts and mentors need be, from time to time, ignored. The psychoanalytic community was blessed by Reik’s obstreperous willingness and bravado in going his own way and taking on the spectrum of unconscious processes that accompany each of us in our trek to make sense of and find meaning in our lives.... and that he found in his half century of practicing psychoanalysis. I close, then, by paraphrasing Psalm 34, as I commend those who are unacquainted with Reik and those others who have been away from his writings for too many years: O, Taste and See that Reik is Good.
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Reik, T. (1959). Mystery of the mountain: the drama of the Sinai revelation. New York: Harper.
Reik, T. (1960). The creation of woman: a psychoanalytic inquiry into the myth of Eve. New York: Braziller.
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Reik, T. (1964). Pagan rites in Judaism. New York: Farrar, Strauss
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Howard H. Covitz is a clinical psychologist in private analytic practice in Melrose Park, PA. He was on the faculty and Director of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies and has recently been visiting faculty at Temple University’s Department of Statistics, Temple University’s Department of Mathematics, and Chestnut Hill College’s and LaSalle University’s Departments of Psychology. He is the author of Œdipal Paradigms in Collision: A Centennial Emendation of a Piece of Freudian Canon (New York: Peter Lang, 1997).
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