Robert Fliess SYMBOL, DREAM AND PSYCHOSIS New York: International Universities Press, 1973, 413 pp., $17.50.
This is the third and final volume of the analytic series entitled Symbol, Dream and Psychosis, by the late Dr. Fliess. The book is divided into four major topics: symbols, dreams, psychosis, and technique.
In the first portion of the book, the author discusses the general theory of the symbol, using new terminology that tends to confuse rather than to clarify. He describes many new symbols but gives inadequate clinical evidence to support their universality.
The chapter on dreams tend to be more unified and are the best material in the book. His updated versions of "On the Spoken Word in Dreams" and "On Typical Dreams" are well worth reading.
The third chapter, on ambulatory psychosis, is the least adequate section of the book. In regard to his thesis concerning the ambulatory psychosis, the author says:
If originally I had held the hope that my findings would be subjected to competent examination, I have gradually become aware that this expectation has on several counts been unjustifiably naïve. For one thing, from what I have heard and read, few analysts master Freud's method to the degree that would enable them to confirm my findings. Since this holds true for their teachers as well, the average analyst thus remains ignorant of his own psychotic parent, should he have one, and hence is not equipped for patients who confront him with fragments that are replicas of his own history.
This is a rather granthose statement. I think it is imperative for all psychiatrists and psychoanalysts to have their work reviewed and confirmed. The writer has seemingly placed himself above scientific inquiry and analysis.
Dr. Fliess then states that Freud made one crucial error in his judgment regarding the episodes of infantile sexual seduction reported by his patients. However, I feel it is indicative of Freud's genius. He was able to discard his original theory when he noted that the factual information did not agree with his theoretical formulations. Freud realized that much of the patient's reports of infantile material was mainly fantasy because of its ubiquitous nature. Fliess was unable to see the same parallel in regard to his hypothesis of the psychotic parent. Other investigators now working with psychotic patients and their parents have come to realize that the concept of the schizophrenogenic mother is totally one-sided. The interaction between two persons may be of more significance, and there is the possibility that constitutional factors may be extremely important in the way the psychotic person distorts the perception of the parent.
The section of the book on technique is quite good in that Dr. Fliess is able to support his theoretical position with excellent clinical examples that are very helpful to the practicing analyst. In sum, this book is of limited value to the practicing psychiatrist and of minor importance to the psychoanalyst.