Otto Fenichel

Otto Fenichel

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Otto Fenichel (2 December 1897 in Vienna – 22 January 1946 in Los Angeles) was a psychoanalyst of the so-called "second generation".


  • Education and psychoanalytic affiliations 1
  • Writings 2
  • Criticism 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Education and psychoanalytic affiliations

Otto Fenichel started studying medicine in 1915 in Vienna. Already as a very young man, when still in school, he was attracted by the circle of psychoanalysts around Freud. During the years 1915 and 1919, he attended lectures by Freud, and as early as 1920, aged 23, he became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

In 1922 Fenichel moved to Berlin. During his Berlin time, until 1934, he was a member of a group of Socialist and/or Marxist psychoanalysts (with Wilhelm Reich from the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1934.


Fenichel was a prolific writer on psychoanalysis, and published some forty articles between "Introjektion und Kastrationkomplex" (1925) and "Neurotic Acting Out" (1945).[1] Among some of the areas he contributed to were female sexuality, the feeling of triumph, and the antecedents of the Oedipus complex. He also published an influential technical manual, Problems of Psychoanalytic Technique (1939).[2]

Three interwar papers on female sexuality, attracted Freud's own attention:[3] he wrote of the first that "Fenichel (1930) rightly emphasizes the difficulty of recognizing in the material produced in analysis what parts of it represent the unchanged content of the pre-Oedipus phase and what parts have been distorted by regression"."[4] His 1936 article on the symbolic equation of Girl and Phallus subsequently became a launch pad for Jacques Lacan.[5]

In his 1939 article "Trophy and Triumph", Fenichel pointed out that the feeling of triumph "results from the removal of anxiety and inhibition by the winning of a trophy", but added that as "the trophy is a super-ego derivative since it is a symbol of parental authority[...]it threatens the ego in the same way that the super-ego threatens the ego"[6]

Building on his own work, and the contributions of his peers and predecessors, Fenichel produced his encyclopedic textbook of 1945:[7] "For countless students and professionals Fenichel is synonymous with his Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis; and this text is regarded as synonymous with reliable and comprehensive psychoanalytic knowledge."[8] Nevertheless the work was not uncontroversial, challenging among others the findings of Melanie Klein, the neo-Freudians and much of the work of Franz Alexander, as well as displaying Fenichel's continuing Marxist affiliation.[9]


  • Otto Fenichel: 119 Rundbriefe (German)
  • Über die Psychoanalyse als Keim einer zukünftigen dialektisch-materialistischen PsychologieOtto Fenichel: (German)

External links

  1. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 610–611.
  2. ^ Jean-Michel Quinodoz, Reading Freud (London 2005), p. 109.
  3. ^ Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Times (London 1988) p. 521
  4. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (London 1991) p. 390.
  5. ^ Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection (London 1997) p. 207.
  6. ^ Ralph R. Greenson, "On Gambling" in Jon Halliday and Peter Fuller eds., The Psychology of Gambling (London 1974), p. 210.
  7. ^ Gay, Freud, p. 336 n.
  8. ^ Russell Jacoby, The Repression of Psychoanalysis: Otto Fenichel and the Political Freudians (Chicago 1986). p. 24.
  9. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 64, p. 588-9 and p. 507.
  10. ^ H. Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (1973) p. 80
  11. ^ J. Lacan, Ecrits (1997) p. 51
  12. ^ Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (London 1994) p. 11.
  13. ^ J. Lacan, Ecrits (1997) p. 51
  14. ^ Peter Fuller, "Introduction" in Halliday/Fuller, Gambling p. 28.
  15. ^ O. Fenichel, the Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 8
  16. ^ Patrick Casement, On Learning from the Patient (London 1990) p. 220.


See also

  • Otto Fenichel: Psychoanalysis as the Nucleus of a Future Dialectical-Materialistic Psychology (1934). In: American Imago, Vol. 24. (1967), pp. 290–311
  • Otto Fenichel: The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis. 3 vols, 1945
  • Otto Fenichel: 119 Rundbriefe. Hg. Johannes Reichmayr und Elke Mühlleitner, 2 Bände, Frankfurt: Stroemfeld 1998
  • Otto Fenichel et al. eds., Collected Papers of Otto Fenichel (1987).


Although Fenichel himself had warned from the start of his book that he was only offering illustrative examples, not case histories,[15] he may have unwittingly contributed to the vice of attempting to mastermind, not follow and learn from, the analytic process.[16]

[14] while others saw Fenichel as oversimplifying his accounts of neurosis by categorical taxonomies.[13]