Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Emil A Gutheil, M.D.: "Dream and Suicide"

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Emil A Gutheil, M.D.: "Dream and Suicide"

Article excerpt

Commenting on a "classic" article written half a century ago by my father raises many issues-intellectual, historical, contextual-not to mention oedipal. Predating by decades the more electro-mechanistic approaches to dream causation, the article is true to its times in focusing on dream analysis in psychodynamic terms for utility in the ongoing treatment.

As part of his practice of Stekel's "active analysis," my father kept "dream charts" or "dream diaries" of each patient's analysis. This approach permitted deliberate use of the vagaries of the patient's dream content as a kind of tracking system for the currents of the patient's unconscious material, just as radio isotope tracings can be used to map the path of blood flow deep in the brain. Both understanding of current unconscious issues and predicting future directions of the clinical material were possible in this manner. The prediction (and consequent prevention) of suicide would be a logical outgrowth of this stratagem.

The reader may be struck by the sudden auctorial interpolation of the query, as if from an unseen audience in another literary dimension: "But where is the wish fulfillment?"

In his classic textbook, The Handbook of Dream Analysis (still selling actively and continuously in print since 1951, two years after the subject article), my father includes in the didactic text of each chapter some commonly asked questions and their answers. These actual mini-dialogues are drawn from some of the countless dream seminars he offered at the Postgraduate Center in New York and around the world. Thus, this single query, a harbinger of the textbook's Q and A section, captures his "teacher's instinct" for what an audience, particularly one schooled in Freud's model of dream interpretation, might be wondering at just this point. …

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