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Reconstructing Reminiscences

The Letter, Issue 66/67, Autumn 2017/Spring 2018, Pages 55 - 64


Terry Ball

‘Hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences’

This paper[1] looks at the distinction between three related but distinct terms, reconstructing, remembering and reminiscences, in order to examine the origins of the key psychoanalytic concepts of repression and the unconscious. Imbedded in this exploration is a discussion on psychoanalytic practice, its task and its aim. Freud’s texts from 1893 to 1937 are consulted as are some of Lacan’s Seminars and texts from the 1950s which support Freud’s theses. There are musings on Freud’s being made to feel like an alien in his early student years and how he later described the unconscious as an alien, foreign body.

Keywords: reconstructing; remembering; reminiscences; repression; unconscious; alien; foreign body; archaeology; metaphor; metonymy

The starting point of this paper is Freud’s assertion that ‘[h]ysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences’[2] and furthermore that the task of the analyst is to reconstruct these reminiscences so that the patient can be induced to remember. It is worth clarifying at the start, therefore, that reminiscences are not synonymous with remembrances and, furthermore, that remembering is not the same as reconstructing.

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