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4 - Fear of Death and Trauma of Birth

Otto Rank’s Tragic Saga

from Part I - Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 December 2020

Keh-Ming Lin
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
Keh-Ming Lin
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
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Summary

Known for the concept of the “trauma of birth,” Otto Rank’s contributions to the fields of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy have largely been obscured. Rank came from an impoverished family with an alcoholic father, and was sent to a trade school to become a locksmith. However, his unique insight into applying psychoanalytic concepts in understanding philosophy and art caught the attention of Freud, who supported him in his college education and graduate studies. Freud hired him to be the secretary of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, where he functioned as Freud’s “right hand man” for close to twenty years. Intriguingly, his “breaking away” from Freud’s circle coincided with Freud’s diagnosis of oral cancer and near-death from surgical complications. Ostracized by orthodox Freudians, he nevertheless was able to further explore pre-Oedipal issues and the significance of separation anxiety. He developed his patient-centered, brief psychotherapeutic approach, with particular focus on the “here and now” and on patients’ autonomy and self-healing potential. His ideas heralded the later developments of client-centered therapy, existential-humanistic therapy, and Gestalt therapy.

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Chapter
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Wounded Healers
Tribulations and Triumphs of Pioneering Psychotherapists
, pp. 55 - 63
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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