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Freud's Case of the Rat Man Revisited: An Existential-Phenomenological and Socio-Historical Analysis

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image of Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

After reviewing Freud's 1909 case of the Rat Man, the form of the patient's psychological life is analyzed from existential-phenomenological and socio-historical perspectives.The predominant structure of the analysand's individual life is characterized by the image of an incarcerated criminal. Its constituents include power expropriation, devaluation of self, and epistemic disavowal and oblivion that are subject to intermittent overthrow by lightening strikes of disruptively revolting and irresponsible arrogance. This individual existential structure is traced to the collective structure of the panoptical institutions of modern society delineated by Foucault. An examination of anomalous data in Freud's case study, especially in his evening process notes, suggests a different though tentative and faint form of existence that is more proximally the patient's own, one based on authentic care in the sense of Heidegger. Freud's psychoanalytic treatment ingeniously extends and implements the panoptical social order. However, key modifications of modern discipline embodied in psychoanalysis undermine dehumanization and liberate the patient's subjectivity for a life of responsible action. Freud's interpersonal presence in this case shows such humanizing virtues as openness, respect, strength, mercy, trustworthiness, encouragement, and maternal acceptance at the heart of the therapeutic relationship.


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