Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis

By Coline Covington; Barbara Wharton | Go to book overview

Chapter 13

Three psychoanalytic studies

Sabina Spielrein

(Translated from the Russian by C.J. Wharton)


1.

The unconscious phantasies inKuprin's Duel

As an interesting piece of information about how close Freud's theories are to modern thinking, I should like to take the following quotation from Kuprin's Duel. It should be noted that this particular story by a well-known Russian writer was written some twenty years ago, that is, long before the name of Freud was known in his native land.

While driving at about five o'clock in the afternoon to the house where the Nikolayevs were living, Romashchov noted with surprise that his cheerful conviction of the morning that the day would be a success had given way to some strange and inexplicable disquiet. He felt that this had not suddenly happened, right there and then, but much earlier; evidently he had at some stage or other started to become afraid without noticing it. What could it be all about? There had been such occasions previously, from very early childhood, and he knew that in order to relax he would need to identify the original cause of his vague fear. Once, having spent the whole day worrying, he remembered only towards the evening that in the middle of the day, while crossing the railway line to the station, he had been deafened by the whistle of a steam-engine, that this had startled him, and that, without being aware of it, he had become bad-tempered; but he recalled that he had relaxed immediately, and even become cheerful.

The analysis is not a full one: we are given no explanation of why the trauma (the whistle of a steam-engine) was suppressed from consciousness, for it was not without meaning in his mind, otherwise it would not have produced so long-lasting a sign of his 'upset'. If it did have a meaning in his mind, then there must have been some reason for forgetting about it; yet at the same time he had experienced a hint of some negative emotion, which must not enter his consciousness, so a whole series of associations were suppressed. Romashchov's negative feelings do not fit the description of the experience; he should

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