Vortrag an der internationalen Tagung der Sigmund Freud Universität Wien, 6. September 2018, zum Thema „Psychoanalytical Views of Death and Dying“


There are two ways by which we encounter death. The death of our body in the future – we do not know when, we do not know how – and the death of another, which we encounter and experience as a loss of someone we love, or – most irritating and also satisfying – when we kill somebody, in the inner world, or in reality in very extreme and rare situations.

We Swiss people love our mountains, the Alps.  All young people do either skiing, snowboarding or mountainclimbing, we start doing it as small children and we train all the time to get better and better and better…

When I was seventeen years old, I encountered death, I got a narrow escape. I was a member of a group of young mountainclimbers, it was a beautiful weekend in late summer, great weather, and we planned to climb a peak in the alps. We were twelve young guys, divided into three groups. My rope team consisted of three youngsters, including  myself and our  geography teacher, an experienced mountain climber.

Early sunday morning, we got up at four o’clock , and we started uphill towards the peak. There had been an embarrassing moment when we realized that in the mountain hut where we had spent the night, some of our equipment had been stolen by another team that had gotten up earlier. For twelve people you need three ropes, twelve ice picks, twelve iron shoes. But one set of three ice picks and three iron shoes had been stolen, so we only had nine ice picks, and nine iron shoes .

There was a discussion. The best solution – in retrospect, would have been – that one team had to stay in the hut, only two teams going for the peak. But the weather was nice, the peak not too difficult, we were all experienced climbers, all in very good shape, the three leaders of the team very experienced climbers. And we were in an adventurous mood. (You remember: Freud said, that live becomes empty and shallow when you are totally denying death. So we were – without goinginto it very deeply, aware of the risk of dying, but we wanted to live and enjoy the mountain climbing more…) We decided to split the material between the groups. Three ice pics, three iron shoes for every group.

At 4.30 we started uphill. My group was the last in the sequence. The leader was fully equipped, with ice pick and iron shoes. The second man had only an ice pick, the third man only shoes, and me as the last in row had again ice pick and shoes.

All went well as we climbed uphill, at 11 a.m. we reached the peak. We were in great mood, we shot pictures, rested. At noon we started downhill, we planned to cross a glacier field and a mountain pass and reach the village, our goal, to arrive at around  four in the afternoon.

Downhill is more difficult than uphill, you cannot cling to the stone and the ice, your movement is not into the mountain but away from it, you have to be even more careful of every step you take.

Then the catastrophe happened, when we were going downhill in very steep serpentines crossing the glacier. At a turning point of a serpentine, our leader lost balance and fell. The second man was taken by surprise and shock and froze instead of hitting his icepick into the ice and holding the man. So he too fell. The third man with no ice pick had no chance to stop the two of them falling by hitting his icepick into the ice because he had none. So it was all up to me as the last man in the row, fully equipped to stop the fall of my three colleagues. 300 kg against 100 kg. And the surface of the ice and snow was soft and melting in the afternoon summer sun. I hit my icepick with full force into the snow and ice, and laid myself with my full weight over it and waited. The rope got tightly stretched. I felt the weight of my colleagues. In the end I had no chance. 300 kg against my 100.  After about six or seven seconds of pushing with full force the ice pick with my full weight into the snow, the ice pick and me, we flew high up in the air and our group was falling about 500 metres downwhill on the steep icy mountain flank. The first thought , with utmost clarity was: Now, I am going to die. The shock was absolute. I felt nothing, dissociated immediately.

And in this five to ten seconds falling, I saw an inner film rolling down before my eyes: Me as a baby and little child, my mother smiling at me, me in kindergarten and primary school, me in holidays with my family, me going to the sports club, me laughing with my best school buddies, ….and then …full stop…I was hanging at the rope in some ice crevasse in the glacier. Some meters above me my I saw my colleague also hanging on the rope. And about twenty meters above me I saw some small piece of blue sky. I was surrounded by ice. What saved our lives, was that the team had not been falling into the same crevasse in the glacier, the first and second man falling in to one crevasse and me and the third guy in the neighbouringcrevasse, we were hanging in perfect balance on the rope. If the whole team had disappeared in the same crevasse, perhaps some fifty years later, the glacier would have released our corpses. There were no mobile phones at that time. It took the other rope teams two hours to get us out of the crevasse. We were lucky, no one dead, no one badly hurt. At seven in the evening we reached the village. That was my first close encounter with my own possible death.  Death as a realityhappening to me in the next few seconds had placed me in a state of shock, I was overwhelmed by emotions and I defended immediately against them by recalling at that time myvery short life. It was also like saying goodbye to my beloved, leaving the party, maximum pain experienced in the time of a blink of an eye.

The second close confrontation with death was three years ago when I was in Minsk together with my fiancée, now my wife Juliya, when my beloved sister, three years younger than me, age 53, called me and said the words: „Markus, I am going to die, I have pancreaticcancer.“ Four months later, she was dead.

It was very difficult to me to conceive that it was just a terrible disease, a natural process that nothing could be done, that there were no explanations, just the plain fact, that she died. I felt the tendency to fantasize into this void, looking for guilt, I felt the tendency to reason and to avoid the singularity of the event, that I was to lose my beloved sister just by the simple fact of death.

Another conscious confrontation with death was when the first time in my live I wanted to kill somebody. My first great love and girl friend whom I was together with for four years had left me after an ugly quarrel leaving me somewhere in the streets in the city. I was crying with desperation, pain and anger. I wanted to kill the bitch that caused unbearable pain to me. I fantasized about loosening the tyres of her car, and when she would be cruising the highway next time, the tyres would explode, the car would crash and she would die. Sweet revenge for the pain.

Of course I just enjoyed the fantasy and did not act it, but what I felt wasan immense desire and pleasure to kill her.

For those who are not familiar with this kind of feeling just watch the film Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino.

As you can see, the preparation for this lecture started an inner process of confrontation with death. I realized that memories from childhood and my adult life emerged, where I was confronted with death. I remembered this severe sports accident in the Swiss Alps thatI happily survived when I was seventeen years old. I recalled painful memories of losses: My beloved sister, dying from pancreatic cancer three years ago, the death of my mother a year ago, the death of some near friends and colleagues during the whole lifetime. And I realized again that my two grandfathers had died before I was born. I recalled several occasions during my childhood where my parents had referred to these deaths in all details:  both grandfathers quite young, around 50, in the middle of their lives, one with a sudden heart attack after a peaceful lunch with the whole family, under the eyes of his beloved, the other drowning in a lake while as a schoolteacher ice-skating with his pupils, and disappearing in a hole in the ice observed by all the teenagers, and I recalled situations where I wanted to kill somebody, condemn someone to death.

So I was suprised that there were confrontations, several ones, and I nearly had put them away totally, only occasionally I recalled them with apparently almost no feelings.

The preparation of the present speech attacked this denial of death and activated a lot of feelings and memories.


I will present the following theses in my speech, and discuss them:

  1. Death and Aggression are two central independent issues in our life, they are mixed and intertwined in a complex way in our psychic life. When we do not understand these issues and their complex psychological connection, we fail to understand either of them clearly.
  2. Psychoanalysis has neglected both issues, death and aggression, and failed to give them the adequate place in theory (and practice). It also failed to clarify the complex connection between the two issues, and thus repeated the psychological confusion we all have with these two issues, in psychoanalytical theory.

I will highlight the way psychoanalysis up to now dealt whith these issues, describe the still existing lack in psychoanalytic research concerning these issues, and make some proposals where the future journey of psychoanalytical thinking and research might go.




Death as the great underrated issue in Psychoanalysis



One might perhaps claim that psychoanalysis has no problem dealing with death. After all, there are is a lot of discussion in our scientific literature about the denial of death, about death anxiety, about the death drive, about Death as the only Real, and so on. But there is a problem.

Starting with Freud himself, there is a profound ambivalence towards giving death the adequate and deserved place in psychoanalytical thinking and theory. We can observe in psychoanalysis the same contradictory emotional movements toward death I encountered in my own relationship to it when preparing this lecture: On the one hand psychoanalysts accepts death as real, they confront our emotional tendency to deny it, but on the other hand, they themselves try to minimize theoretically the impact of death in our inner life, they secondarize it, they reduce the impact of death to the effect of other primary issues: Castration Anxiety, Guilt, Death Drive, and so on.

As Liran Razinsky in his comprehensive monograph about Freud, Psychoanalysis and Death has shown, this emotional ambivalence towards death can be observed throughout the whole history of psychoanalytical theory, starting with Freud, and continued with Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Kohut and others till today.

Due to the short time of my speech, I can only highlight a few points.

Freuds theoretical position is that death is not of psychic significance. It does not exist in the Unconscious. He puts forward two claims: Claims about the non-representability of death, and claims about the fear of death. Freud says, that there is no representation of death in the Unconscious, and that the fear of death is in fact something else, and can be reduced to be of just one of many other expressions of castration anxiety.

In „Thoughts for the times on war and death“ (1915) he writes:

„In the Unconscious every one of us is convinced of his own immortality“(p. 291).

But this refers only to one’s own death. Freud denies the psychic presence of death in one’s own case, but he specifically claims that the unconscious acknowledges death in the case of another person. Death and Castration, he asserts, are the only punishments the unconscious knows. He claims, that everyone of us, at least in imagination, castrates and kills others.  Another argument against the representability of death in the unconscious lies for Freud in the fact, that no living being has ever experienced death as long he is alive, and therefore, it cannot be a content in the Ucs:

„The unconscious seems to contain nothing that could give any content to our concept of the annihilation of life. Castration can be pictured on the basis of the daily experience of the faeces being separated from the body or on the basis of losing the mother’s breast at weaning. But nothing resembling death an ever have been experienced; or, if it has, in fainting, it has left no observable traces behind. I am therefore inclined to adhere to the view that the fear of death should be regarded as analogous to the fear of castration.“ („Inhibition, Symptom and Anxiety“, 1926, 129f.)

There are a lot of other quotes in Freuds work, where he supports the argument against the representation of death, I just pick out a philosophical one:„It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death; and whenever we attempt to do so we perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators“.(1915, S. 291).

As soon as we are thinking about our own death, Freud claims, we are in the position of Huckleberry Finn faking his own funeral and watching it from behind a tree. This may be true, as I realized in my experience falling down the mountain, but the difficulty to represent one’s own death is not an argument against its impact on us, it even makes the impact greater! Dissociation is the proof that the confrontation with one’s own death is traumatizing, unthinkable, overwhelming and that the fact of death leaves traces in the deepest layers of our psyche. The problem is not that death does not exist in the Ucs, but that we have difficulty to represent it, to symbolize and name it! We fail to symbolize the traces in the symbolic register.

To sum up, Freud did not acknowledge a representation of death in our deepest inner truth, the ucs, and therefore he had reduced death anxiety to something representable, castration anxiety.

The tricky thing about the relationship of psychoanalysis to death is that it is contradictory. The „official“ and predominant denial of the primary importance of death in our psychic life is counter-run by contradictory and more existential statements of „personal“ acceptance of death’s primary importance.

By example, Freud closes his text on war and death as follows:

„ Should we not confess that in our civilized attitude towards death we are once again living psychologically beyond our means, and should we not rather turn back and recognize the truth? Would it not be better to give death the place in reality and in our thoughts which is its due, and to give a little more prominence to the unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully suppressed? (…)Illusion becomes valueless if it makes this harder for us. We recall the old saying Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want to preserve peace, prepare for war. It would be in keeping with the times to alter it: si vis vitam, para mortem. If you want to endure and live your life, prepare yourself for death.” (p. 299f.)

So Freud oscillated in his work between the tendency to integrate death in psychoanalytical thinking and give it a primary stance which is due to its existential importance, and the other tendency to reduce its impact in psychic life to a secondary effect of other more important issues.

Some say that Freud acknowledged death by introducing the death drive in psychoanalytical theory, but as Razinsky showed clearly, this is not true.

Freud wrote in „Beyound Pleasure Principle“: „If we are to take it as a truth that knows no exception that everything dies for internal reasons – becomes inorganic once again – then we shall be compelled to say that ‚ the aim of all life is death’, and looking backwards, that ‚inanimate things existed before living ones’.“

Freud tried to soften the irritating impact of death by inventing the death drive, he „drived death away“, in the words of Razinsky, by constructing a teleological argumentation. If we all strive to die, then death becomes the fulfillment of a wish, a goal, a peak, something we reach, as a drive goal, it becomes something „living“, and it does not confront us as with something strange and uncanny we will never know, we have great difficulties to grasp and understand.

I will come to this point again in the next chapter when I address the problem of aggression.

And the followers of Freud, did they succesfully integrate death into psychoanalytical thinking in theory? I cannot resume the whole debate here, but the answer is no.

Also Melanie Klein who made the most of the death drive, and explained death and annihilation anxiety and aggression as a direct consequence of the death drive, reduced death anxiety to a consequence of an intrapsychic problem, namely the the fear to be annihilated by the action of the defused death drive within the psychic system.

What about Lacan? Lacan is said and rumoured within the psychoanalytic community to have given Death a central place in his theory. I cannot go here into the details of his arguments, I just remind you of some points: He asserted that Death is the only Real, we cannot grasp and symbolize it, therefore it stimulates a never-ending psychological activity to understand it, to circle around it, without ever succeeding in it. He also widely uses the term death in his whole theory, but he often uses it in his own way, mostly metaphorically: The word is the death of  the thing, and so on.

So Lacan too rather implemented improvised and exploreddeath, often in metaphorical use, in his own pre-existing conceptions than giving it an own status.

And so it was with the other psychoanalytical theorists up till today, they dealt with death within the main arguments of their theories, they fitted death into their theories, but did not give it a primary status to be studied.

Let me close the first chapter with the conclusion: Up to now psychoanalysis, like mankind, has not fully put death in its due place, and failed to make the study of the impact of death on our psychic functioning a primary research goal and project.


Aggression as the second great issue that psychoanalysis neglects



Let us turn to the the problem of Aggression, the other great taboo in psychoanalysis (and of course mankind).

This thesis may seem for some of you kind of intriguing because „officially“ psychoanalysis seems to have acknowledged the problem of agression by accepting aggression as a reality and studying its causes.

After all, Freud has introduced the death drive and the destruction drive, and later psychoanalysts, even if they deny the death drive as primary motivational source, they accept aggressive impulses related to frustrations and traumata and do not underestimate the need to control them and find ways of understanding and overcoming them.

But if we look more closely into the theory, we realize that due to unconscious super-ego resistances the psychoanalytic mainstream up to now fails to fully acknowledge and conceptualize the enormous aggressive pleasure experienced in violent acts, especially killing.

The pleasure to kill is all too often denied and explained away by other motives (trauma, frustration, identification with an aggressor, and so on). It seems difficult to accept that everyone of us is a potential murderer, and in the inner world, every one IS a murdererhaving castrated and killed in imagination his parents, or siblings, and other rivals our frustrators. What seems to be most intriguing seems to be the fact – we all emotionally know – that the idea of killing somebody is full of pleasure.

In some elements of the theory of the death drive put forward there is also some aspect of calming the super-ego. When our aggression in the form of the death drive is primarily directed against ourselves as auto-aggression, and only secondarily against the others, when directed outside, then we are not so „bad“. When the primacy of hetero-aggression and the pleasure inbuilt in it, is denied, then, from this softened point of view, the wish to kill is not a genuine wish, aspiring for this ultimate pleasure to kill somebody, it is just a deflection of in-built auto-aggression, a necessary move to save the threatened psyche. It is self-defence and not pleasure wanting to kill somebody. By this point of view we try to calm down our super-ego. Child analysis and adult analysis proves the primacy of hetero-aggression over auto-aggression every day.

The Hungarian and Swiss psychoanalyst Judith Le Soldat has revised classical Oedipus Theory where aggression only has a secondary importance. According to the classical concept, we murder the father only because he blocks the way to the mother, because he is in our way and is opposing our incestuous wishes. It is Le Soldat’s merit to clarify Oedipus Theory and make it very clear that the aggression is a primary motive, the child revenges himself for the frustration of wishes and castrates and kills the  parents in a state of fury, and he or she enjoys the revenge and aggressive pleasure. That is why Le Soldat explains Castration anxiety as a direct consequence of one’s own aggressive desires and deeds.

So we come to conclude , that Castrating and Killing are the greatest aggressive pleasures. And Psychoanalysis still struggles to accept these clinical basic psychological facts.


The confusion in psychoanalytical theory dealing with  the relationship of death and killing


I now turn to the question of the psychological connection between Death and Aggression, in the most extreme form, Death and Killing.

Death is what we all await. We do not know when and how.

It can strike in the next second, tomorrow or, as we all want to believe, at least when we are not tired out of life or suicidal, in the not too near future.

Aggression on the other hand, is a motivational source, a drive, that aims for the pleasure of attacking and destroying others, in the most extreme form, kill another person.

Because the death of another person is also a drive goal, death and aggression, are psychologically linked. We deny death because its difficulty to be grasped, because of the difficulty to represent it,

and we deny our aggressive wishes, our withes to kill somebody because of their internal consequences, especially guilt and revenge anxiety.

There is yet more to be said: The difficulty to represent death, its unknowability in so far as it concerns our own death, makes it especially difficulty to represent and grasp natural death and finiteness in our psychic inner world.

Freud pointed at these important facts:

We have the tendency to fill up the void, the irrepresentablityof death , this most irritating gap, with our own highly idiosyncratic fantasies derived from the consequences of the aggressive drive and its derivatives.

That is why we have difficultes to accept death just as fact and natural event, and we infiltrate our concept of death by guilt and punishment fantasies.

When my sister died of cancer, I could not accept it as just a terrible natural process,  I immediately started to fantasize in terms of guilt and punishment.

Why she? I thought. She was such a kind person, she did not deserve it, and I added, I would have deserved it much more. My super-ego punished me, because, as I knew from my personal analysis, as the elder brother, jealous having to share the parents love with my younger sister, I had many times in my mind killed my little sister in childhood.

I remember a conversation with my  3-and-a-half year old daughter, when I was driving her to the Kindergarten, and her two-months-old younger brother was sitting in his baby seat in the car. She suddenly said; „Pa, do you mind to lay Noël (the baby brother) onto the street, and drive with the car over him?“  I asked: „Is it hard for you to have him too in our family?“ She thoughtfully said: „Oh yeah, I want him gone, but then…I also love him, he is so sweet….“

This is one of the sources of our death wishes against other persons, frustration, jealousy, revenge, and so on. And this colours of course our relationship to death. We cannot but imagine death as kind of a murder, or punishment. The influence of  the aggressive drive infiltrates our relationship to death, and we have great difficulty to meet death as it mostly is, a natural event, in-built in life.

The idea that someone mustbe guilty when death steps in, is a typical loadening of the void of death with ucs oedipal fantasies.

A good friend of mine, having died of cancer too, some years ago, who, it was revealed after his death,made criminal financial deals, leaving his widow in gigantic financial mess having to pay debts, I could not help thinking he got the punishment he deserved, that his unconsious split-off aggression had caused his cancer, and so on. We project aggressive fantasies into death which is just natural decay.

Another example of projecting psychic ideas stemming from different sources into death happens when death is loaded with ideas about passive wish fulfillment.

In the unconscious death can be imagined as representing some ultimate passive aggressive blow, marvelously pictured in Lars van Triers film Melancholiawhere the crash of the great planet to earth is experienced by the protagonists as some longed (and of course also feared) wish fulfillment, kind of an ultimate intense orgiastic blow. I cannot refer here fully to Judith Le Soldats concept of the Hammer Blow Wish. But it is a well known clinical fact, that Death is imagined as an ApolloFigure giving us the ultimate passive aggressive satisfaction.

So the fantasized loading of death with psychological contents linked with passive and aggressive drive fulfillment or consequences like guilt or revenge anxiety sometimes lead to inner confusions, sometimes repeated in theoretical confusions in psychoanalytical thinking. This passive-aggressive wish fantasy lies at the ground of many bloody and violent suicidal impulses and acts.

I have to restrict my self to give some more example of the confusion of the subject of death with the subject of aggression,

the confusion and infiltration of the natural process of dying with  the unconscious idea of killing himself or being killed.

A patient of mine always complains desperately about her fear of dying. When she has to go to work, she has an an anxiety attack of having a heart attack. When she feels some erotic attraction, she immediately thinks, she is going to die. And so on. But she never ever had any real confrontation with death up to now. So her anxiety attacks fit into Freuds scheme, she punishes herself by imagining death as a punishment for her aggressive and egoistic sexual wishes to take something from life. This is Oedipal Stuff, here Freud is right. It is not about death, it is more about punishment.

But there are other cases when Death really steps in. A patient of mine fell ill during her analysis of a very rare illness, leading to death in about 4 to six years. She started to fantasize that this sickness was an appropriate punishment for her bad character, always being so aggressive and having manipulated and persecuted other people, made their life like hell. She used oedipal fantasy to minimize the real impact of the uncanny confrontation with her real death, to be just around the corner in some years.

Let me come to some conclusions for the future research into the impact of death and aggression in our psychic lifes.


Give death its own primary and independent place in psychoanalytical thinking and theory


Having sorted out a certain still existing lack in psychoanalytic theory to deal with death, we are in the position to formulate some postulates for future thinking and research:

  1. Give death an autonomous and primary place in psychoanalytic thinking and theory, make a clear distinction between primary confrontation with death and secondary one (e.g. when murderous wishes lead to revenge and death anxiety).
  2. Advance psychoanalytical drive theory to a full acknowlodge of active and passive aggressive pleasure, resolve the confusion about so-called destructivity, clearly make a difference between genuine aggression and defence manoeuvers or drive-defense compromise formations (like the Hammer Blow Wish)
  3. Study the connection of aggressive drive and death, eliminate the now existing confusion, study the enormous imaginary loading of death with ucs fantasies! And create an independent theory ofthe impact of death in our inner world!



Meine Rezension von Judith Le Soldat: „Grund zur Homosexualität“ (Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 2015)


erschienen in WERKBLATT – Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und Gesellschaftskritik, 2015, 32, 75, 117-122.


Wie ist das Verhältnis der psychoanalytischen Kliniker zur Theorie, oder präziser: wie ist ihr Verhältnis zu den Theorien, mit denen sie in der täglichen klinischen Praxis arbeiten? Der Standpunkt von Freud (siehe auch Vassalli 2014) ist, dass die psychoanalytische Methode der psychoanalytischen Theorie vorgeordnet ist: Psychoanalyse ist zuerst und vor allem eine Methode zur Erforschung des Unbewussten, bestimmt durch Setting, Haltung und Aktivität des Analytikers und den dadurch in Gang gesetzten innerpsychischen Prozess. Die psychoanalytische Theorie generalisiert im klinischen Einzelfall gewonnene Fakten zu allgemeineren Aussagen über Strukturen, Funktionen und Prozesse in der Psyche, über die psychische Entwicklung, über das Verhältnis von psychischen Prozessen und Behandlungstechnik.

Für die meisten Analytiker ist das Verhältnis zwischen Methode und Theorie ein alltägliches, persönliches. Es gibt den Typus des Analytikers, der eine bestimmte Theorie favorisiert und das Geschehen im Behandlungsraum (die Worte des Analysanden, die Dynamik zwischen Analysand und Analytiker, die Gegenübertragungsgefühle) relativ engmaschig durch die Brille einer bestimmten Theorie verfolgt (z.B. die Kleinianische Objektbeziehungstheorie) und seine Deutungen aus dem bewusst reflektierenden Anwenden der Theorie auf „das Material“ generiert. Andere Analytiker betrachten sich als weniger theoriegesteuert, sie suspendieren theoriegebundenes Denken, bleiben nahe am Material und warten, bis sich ein Verstehen ereignet, im Vertrauen darauf, dass sie genügend Theorie verinnerlicht haben, die ihnen (vorbewusst) bei der Orientierung im Chaos des Materials hilft.

Für beide Typen ist die Theorie ein Instrument, dessen sich der Analytiker bedient, um sich in der Fülle des Materials und in der Dynamik des psychoanalytischen Prozesses zu orientieren. Der einzelne Analytiker misst den persönlichen Wert einer Theorie, die er studiert und verinnerlicht hat und beim Arbeiten verwendet, am Grad der Hilfestellung bei der Orientierung im psychoanalytischen Prozess, die sie ihm bietet, am Ausmass, in dem sie zu seinem Wohlbefinden und guten Funktionieren als Analytiker beiträgt.

Deshalb ist die Wahl der Theorien, die ein Analytiker im Laufe seiner Entwicklung Theorien trifft, eng mit seiner Geschichte, seinen Vorlieben, seinen Problemen und seinen Identifikationen verknüpft. Einerseits rekapuliert der Analytiker in seiner „Ontogenese“ bei der Aneignung und Verwendung der Theorien die psychoanalytische „Phylogenese“ (er wird bei Freuds Theorien anfangen und über Ferenczi, Klein, Bion und vielleicht Lacan zu den neueren intersubjektiven Modellen vorstossen und seine Schwerpunkte setzen), andererseits hängt seine Lerngeschichte mit den persönlichen idiosynkratischen Krisen im Laufe seiner Entwicklung als Analytiker zusammen.

Der Autor dieser Rezension beispielsweise versteht sich heute nach der intensiven Auseinandersetzung mit Freud, Klein, Lacan, Bion und gewissen Verästelungen dieser Hauptzweige primär als Freudianischer Triebtheoretiker. Auf dieser Basis begann ich vor fünfzehn Jahre das Studium der Werke von Judith Le Soldat und kam zur Überzeugung, in ihrer Theorie ein unverzichtbares Instrument für die tägliche klinische Arbeit gefunden zu haben.

Ich begegnete ihrer Theorie erstmals durch die Lektüre des Werks „Trieb, Schuld, Fantasie. Eine Theorie menschlichen Unglücks“ (1994), in der sie Freuds Traum von Irmas Injektion einer akribischen Re-Analyse unterzog und daran die erste Fassung ihrer neuen Theorie des Ödipuskomplexes entwickelte. Fasziniert durch einige ihrer Aussagen studierte ich in den folgenden Jahren auch ihre anderen Schriften (1986, 1989, 1993, 1993a, 2000, 2001, 2007), insbesondere ihre bis anhin noch nicht erschienenen Vorlesungen über Homosexualität, die sie im WS 2006/07 an der Universität Zürich gehalten hatte. Le Soldat starb 2008, sie betraute zuvor eine Stiftung mit der Pflege ihres Erbes. Diese nahm das anspruchsvolle Unternehmen in Angriff, das vollständige Werk in einer Werkausgabe zu edieren und beauftragte Monika Gsell mit der Aufgabe der Herausgeberin. Diesen Frühjahr ist der erste Band der auf fünf Bände angelegten Werkausgabe mit dem Titel „Grund zur Homosexualität“ im renommierten Frommann-Holzboog-Verlag erschienen (2015). Er umfasst die oben erwähnten Vorlesungen.

Die Wahl, diese als ersten Band der Werkausgabe zu veröffentlichen, macht insofern Sinn, als Le Soldat in ihnen eine konzentrierte didaktisch hervorragend aufbereitete Zusammenfassung ihrer Theorie des Ödipuskomplexes und der auf ihr aufbauenden Theorie der Homosexualität darstellt.

Der Band umfasst eine editorische Einleitung von Monika Gsell, zwölf Vorlesungen und einen Anhang mit Anmerkungen aus dem Seminarteil, Farbabbildungen, ein Literatur-, abbildungs- und Werkverzeichnis und ein Begriffsregister. Die ersten vier Vorlesungen führen die Hörer und nun Leser an den Kern des Werks heran, ihre gegenüber der klassischen Theorie erweiterte Konzeption des Ödipuskomplexes, die sie in den Vorlesungen fünf, sechs und sieben erklärt. Sie schreibt: „Es ist aber wichtig, dass wir die Beziehungen von Kräften und Motiven, welche die Homosexualität hervorrufen, gründlich verstehen. Es ist wichtig, nicht nur für unsere Auffassung der Sexualität, sondern des Seelenlebens überhaupt.“ (S. 118)

Le Soldat will ein klinisches Phänomen, das Schwulsein, verstehen. Sie ist unzufrieden mit den bisherigen von ihr klar und sorgfältig dargestellten psychoanalytischen Theorien zur Homosexualität. Sie erkennt, dass die derzeit gültige Theorie der Psychosexualität, die klassische Theorie des Ödipuskomplexes, unvollständig und in einigen Punkten irrig ist. Sie entwickelt diese Theorie weiter und gelangt mit ihrer Erweiterung und Veränderung der klassischen Theorie zu einem neuen Verständnis der Homosexualität und zu einem neuen Verständnis der menschlichen Entwicklung überhaupt. Die Vorlesungen acht bis zwölf befassen sich mit der auf der Theorie des Ödipuskomplexes aufbauenden neuen Theorie der Homosexualität (wobei von Vorlesung zwölf nur noch der Titel und wenige Zeilen überliefert sind).

Es ist in dieser Rezension nicht der Raum, ihre komplexe Theorie auch nur annähernd befriedigend zusammenzufassen. Deshalb beschränke ich mich auf das Herausheben der Kernaussagen. Le Soldat geht von der Freudschen dualen Triebtheorie aus, und zwar von ihrer Fassung vor 1920: Es gibt einen Sexualtrieb und einen Aggressions- bzw. Destruktionstrieb mit je aktivem und passivem Triebziel. In dieser Vierfelder-Triebmatrix (aktiv-libidinös, passiv-libidinös, aktiv-aggressiv, passiv-aggressiv) spielt sich das individuelle Triebgeschehen ab. Le Soldats Triebverständnis unterscheidet sich von der heute „modischen“ Laplanche’schen Lesart, dass der im Kind erst in der Möglichkeitsform schlummernde Trieb durch das „Quellobjekt“ der elterlichen Verführungsbotschaft gezündet wird. Sie ist der Auffassung, dass der Trieb ganz im kindlichen Seelischen wurzelt und der Psyche die Aufgabe auferlegt, Objekte zu seiner Realisierung zu finden, einerseits in den Organen am eigenen Körper, andererseits in äusseren Objekten. Der Beginn des Ödipuskomplexes setzt nach ihr ein, wenn der Trieb mit der Besetzung der genitalen Organe aktive und passive genitale Wünsche erzeugt, und diese zur Ausbreitung im psychischen System und zu ihrer Befriedigung drängen.

Das Hauptproblem ist nach ihr im Widerspruch zur klassischen Theorie nicht die Tatsache des Inzestverbots und die Rivalität mit äusseren Objekten um die sexuelle Befriedigung, sondern die durch die bei beiden Geschlechtern einheitliche Triebstruktur bedingte Imkompatibilität von Triebforderungen und anatomischer Realität. Bei beiden Geschlechtern, Jungen wie Mädchen, fordert der Trieb beim Eintritt in den Ödipuskomplex eine passive und eine aktive genitale Befriedigung, die aufgrund der Triebmischung von libidinösen und aggressiven Strömungen nicht anders sein kann als der Wunsch aktiv zu penetrieren und passiv penetriert zu werden. Das männliche Kind ist von da an mit dem Fehlen eines entsprechenden genitalen Organs für die passive Befriedigung, d.h. einer sexuell erregbaren genitalen Öffnung konfrontiert, das weibliche mit der Tatsache, dass der aktive Penetrationswunsch am eigenen Körper kein erigierbares zu einer aktiven Tiefenpenetration fähiges Organ vorfindet. Da nach ihrer Auffassung das erste genitale Objekt bei beiden Geschlechtern die Mutter ist, ist das Kind mit der Situation konfrontiert, dass es die Mutter weder penetrieren noch von ihr penetriert werden kann, einerseits wegen des Mangels am eigenen Körper (zwei Triebziele, aber nur ein passendes Organ), andererseits wegen des mütterlichen Penismangels, der sie für die Befriedigung des passiven Penetrationswunsches ungeeignet macht.

In dieser Situation führt Le Soldat genuin neue theoretische Konstrukte ein: Weil der Trieb ultimativ das Vorhandenseins eines Organs zu seiner Realisierung braucht, erzwingt er im Psychischen die Bildung imaginärer Organe, wo reale fehlen: Der Junge entwickelt das imaginäre Organ des Kolpos, das Mädchen dasjenige eines eigenen Penis. Die durch den Trieb permanent aufrechterhaltene Forderung, dass sich diese Organe am eigenen Körper endlich auch materialisieren, ist nach ihrer Auffassung eine der Konstanten des menschlichen Seelenlebens. Der weitere Ablauf des Ödipuskomplexes nach ihrer Auffassung: Mit der überwältigend erlebten Frustration der genitalen Triebe kommt es zur Triebentmischung und aggressiven Triebdurchbrüchen, die sich in der aggressiven Besetzung der genitalen Organe äussern. Die Logik des genitalen Triebgeschehens führt zwingend zu aktiven Kastrationstaten. Die Mutter wird „kastriert“, d.h. Ihr Penismangel wird, da sie zuvor als vollständig mit Penis ausgestattet fantasiert wurde, als eigene wütende Kastrationstat imaginiert. Man aberkennt ihr den Penis in Form einer kastrierenden Entwertung und wendet sich nach der Enttäuschung an der Mutter dem Vater zu, in der Hoffnung, er werde die aktiven und passiven genitalen Sehnsüchte erfüllen. Der Vater wird dies auch nicht leisten, er wird in einer tsunami-artigen Wutaufwallung kastriert werden, allerdings in einer anderen seelischen Form. Da er wirklich einen Penis besitzt, wird ihm dieser Penis als Rache für die erlittene Frustration imaginär entrissen und geraubt. Dieser Raub des väterlichen Penis ist nach Le Soldat die Klimax des Ödipuskomplexes bei beiden Geschlechtern. Die Kastrationstat ist der Angelpunkt der psychischen Entwicklung im Ödipalen mit gravierenden Konsequenzen. Der aggressive Triebdurchbruch zerstört das Bild des intakten potenten Vaters im Psychischen unwiederbringlich, und führt zu psychischen Zerfallsprodukten: der Figur eines lächerlichen Kastraten, der Vorstellung des geraubten Penis (der Beute), der Idee eines rächenden Verfolgers, der sich die Beute zurückholen will und letztlich dem Idealbild des unwiederbringlich verlorenen idealisierten potenten Vaters. Schuld und Kastrationsangst dominieren nach der Kastrationstat das psychische Leben, und mannigfache Abwehren werden lebenslänglich gegen die Konfrontation mit der Kastrationstat und ihren innerpsychischen Folgen aufgeboten.

Nach der Kastationstat ist der innerseelische ödipale Ablauf aber noch nicht zu Ende: Das innerlich ausweglos bedrängte Kind versucht sich der Rache des Vaters durch Verrat der Mutter und in letzter Instanz durch Elternmord zu entziehen. Nach dieser in die völlige innere Ausweglosigkeit führenden psychischen Tat bildet sich nach Le Soldat ein neuer genuiner passiv-aggressiver Triebwunsch, der „Apoll-Wunsch“ nach einem ultimativen analen passiven Vergewaltigungsorgasmus, der in der Realität aber kein Objekt finden kann und deshalb verzweifelt ohne die Chance einer Erfüllung inszeniert wird. Das imaginäre Objekt Apoll wird in gleichem Masse gesucht wie in Todesangst gefürchtet. Die genuine Homosexualität, das „Schwulsein“ in der Lesart von Le Soldat , ist eine normale eigenständige Entwicklung , die an diesem Punkt über das hinausgeht, was die „normalen“ Hetero- und Homosexuellen erreichen und eine genuin eigene Lösung des Apollproblems darstellt.

Le Soldat erläutert diese hier nur skizzierte Theorie im nun vorliegenden ersten Band der Werkausgabe in konzentrierter und verständlicher Form. Sie gibt in lebendiger Sprache Einblick in ihr psychoanalytisches Denken. Das Buch ist aus drei Gründen lesenswert: Erstens gibt es dem Le-Soldat-Laien eine erste verständliche Einführung in ihre Theorie. Zweitens schreibt Le Soldat in bester Freudscher Tradition intellektuell brillant und witzig. Die Form der Vorlesungen, analog zu Freuds Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse, schaffen eine kommunikative Situation, die Autorin spricht den Leser direkt an und kommentiert auch die inneren Widerstände gegen die Akzeptanz dieser Theorie. Drittens ermöglicht das Studium dieses Buches die Möglichkeit, die bisher kaum rezipierte Theorie dieser Autorin innerhalb der psychoanalytischen Community zu rezipieren, klinisch anzuwenden und die eigenen Erfahrungen im Kollegenkreis zu diskutieren.

Theorie wird erst lebendig, wenn sie mit der eigenen analytischen Erfahrung, in der eigenen Analyse wie in der Arbeit mit Patienten, verknüpft wird. Die neuen theoretischen Konzepte von Le Soldat können in Supervisionen und Fallbesprechungen mit den entsprechenden Gefühlen und Fantasien verbunden werden.

Dem Verlag und der Herausgeberin Monika Gsell muss ein grosser Kranz gewunden werden. Die Werkausgabe ist äusserst sorgfältig ediert und mit Abbildungen und Originalnotizen bereichert. Die Typographie und Umschlaggestaltung ist gediegen und repliziert in ihrer geradlinigen Schlichtheit die Intention von Le Soldat nach theoretischer Klarheit und Genauigkeit.

Leider war es Le Soldat wegen ihres frühen Todes nicht vergönnt, weiter zu forschen und ihr Werk weiter zu entwickeln. Die ausgearbeitete Theorie liegt jedoch vollständig vor. Es ist eine Herausforderung für die psychoanalytische Community, diesen neuen Beitrag zur Kenntnis zu nehmen, zu studieren, auf die Klinik anzuwenden, zu überprüfen und in den psychoanalytischen Diskurs zu integrieren. Besonders die von ihr vorgeschlagenen theoretischen Neuerungen und das zentrale Konzept der aktiven Kastrationstat müssen rezipiert, „verdaut“, angewendet und diskutiert werden.

Der vorliegende erste Band ihrer Werkausgabe ist eine gute Gelegenheit für junge Analytiker wie für erfahrene Kliniker, in die Auseinandersetzung mit ihrer Theorie einzusteigen. Es ist kein Buch, das man einmal liest und dann verstanden hat. Man muss es immer wieder lesen, die eigenen Gefühle und Gedanken beim Studium beobachten und mit dem Inhalt des Gelesenen verknüpfen. Erst dann beginnt die Theorie in einem zu arbeiten.




Le Soldat, J. (1986). Zum Problem von Sadismus und Masochismus. Psyche, 40, 617-639.


Le Soldat, J. (1989). Freiwillige Knechtschaft. Masochismus und Moral. Frankfurt: Fischer.


Le Soldat, J. (1993). Kekulés Traum. Psyche, 47, 2, 180-201.


Le Soldat, J. (1993a). Revenons à nous moutons! Irrungen im Übertragungskonflikt. IN: Grossmann-Garger, B., Parth, W.: Heilt die Psychoanalyse? Wien: Orac, 63-72.


Le Soldat, J. (1994). Trieb, Schuld, Fantasie. Eine Theorie des menschlichen Unglücks. Frankfurt: Fischer.


Le Soldat, J. (2000). Der Strich des Apelles. Zwei homosexuelle Leidenschaften. Psyche, 54, 8, 742-767.


Le Soldat, J. (2001). Kissing & Killing in Kyoto. Unordentliche Liebschaften im Triebwerk des Sadismus. In: Klöpper, M., Lindner, R.: Destruktivität. Wurzeln und Gesichter. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 109-135.


Le Soldat, J. (2015). Grund zur Homosexualität. Bd. 1 der Werkausgabe. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog.


Vassalli, G. (2014). Zu einem epistemologischen Wandel der Psychoanalyse am Beispiel des Verhältnisses von Technik und Theorie. Zeitschrift für Psychoanalytische Theorie und Praxis, 29 (3), 251-265.