Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank: debates and confrontations about anxiety and birth

ArticleinThe International Journal of Psychoanalysis 93(3):693-715 · June 2012with35 Reads
Impact Factor: 0.86 · DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-8315.2012.00594.x · Source: PubMed


    The publication of Otto Rank's The Trauma of Birth (1924) gave rise to an intense debate within the secret Committee and confronted Freud with one of his most beloved disciples. After analyzing the letters that the Professor exchanged with his closest collaborators and reviewing the works he published during this period, it is clear that anxiety was a crucial element among the topics in dispute. His reflections linked to the signal anxiety concept allowed Freud to refute Rank's thesis that defined birth trauma as the paradigmatic key to understanding neurosis, and, in turn, was a way of confirming the validity of the concepts of Oedipus complex, repression and castration in the conceptualization of anxiety. The reasons for the modifications of anxiety theory in the mid-1920s cannot be reduced, as Freud would affirm officially in his work of 1926, to the detection of internal contradictions in his theory or to the desire to establish a metapsychological version of the problem, for they gain their essential impulse from the debate with Rank.