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Rank, Otto


22.4.1884/Vienna — 31.10.1939/New York
\r\n Otto Rank (Rosenfeld) was born in 1884 in Vienna as the son of a Jewish jewelry \r\n craftsman. His childhood and youth were marked by his alcoholic father’s \r\n violent outbursts, his early affliction with rheumatism and the family’s \r\n poverty, which made an academic career impossible. After completing primary \r\n school, Rank attended a technical school and then began an apprenticeship as \r\n a lathe operator. Thereafter he worked in a machine shop while simultaneously \r\n continuing his intellectual education as an autodidact. His interest centered \r\n on the humanities, and it was in particular the writings of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer \r\n and Ibsen that influenced the later course of his life. Around 1900 he became \r\n active as an author, publishing under the pseudonym Rank, and in 1907 he wrote \r\n a small book entitled The Artist. The Beginnings of a Sexual Psychology \r\n (Der Künstler. Ansätze zu einer Sexual-Psychologie) under the \r\n influence of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. That same \r\n year, Alfred Adler introduced him into the Psychologische Mittwoch-Gesellschaft \r\n (Wednesday Psychological Society). Freud was impressed by the young man \r\n and assisted Rank in obtaining a scholarship that enabled him to study philosophy \r\n at the University of Vienna. Beginning in October 1906, Rank worked as the secretary \r\n of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, which soon admitted him as one of its \r\n first "lay analysts". In 1911 he became a board member of the Society, \r\n and beginning in 1912 he served with Hanns Sachs as coeditor of the journal \r\n Imago. In 1911 he took his doctorate from the University of Vienna with \r\n a dissertation on The Lohengrin Legend. A Contribution to Its Motivation \r\n and Interpretation (Die Lohengrinsage. Ein Beitrag zu ihrer Motivgestaltung \r\n und Deutung), in which he applied the discoveries of psychoanalysis to the \r\n humanities. He then began work as Freud’s "private secretary", \r\n and shortly thereafter he became publisher, together with Sándor Ferenczi \r\n and Ernest Jones, of the Internationalen Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, \r\n of which he was the sole publisher between 1921 and 1924. Beginning in 1919 \r\n he was also responsible for the publications of the International Psychoanalytic \r\n Association and served as coeditor of Freud’s Collected Writings.
\r\n During the First World War, Rank worked in Krakow as the editor of a magazine \r\n published by the Austro-Hungarian army. Following the war’s end he was \r\n a member of Freud’s "Geheimen Komitee" ("Secret Committee"), \r\n and in 1922 he became vice chairman of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. The \r\n following year witnessed the outbreak of the first serious conflicts between \r\n Rank and Ernest Jones on one side and Karl Abraham on the other. \r\n This discord resulted from the loss of power suffered by the Psychoanalytic \r\n Associations of Vienna and Budapest after the First World War and was also fueled \r\n by jealousy toward Rank due to his privileged position as Freud’s \r\n possible successor. Around this time Rank also increasingly began to distance \r\n himself from Freud’s teachings. While psychoanalytic research into \r\n mythology, the incest motif and the significance of psychoanalysis for the humanities \r\n had been the key issues explored in his early writings, the study Rank published \r\n in 1924 entitled The Trauma of Birth (Das Trauma der Geburt) marked \r\n the beginnings of his emancipation from Freud. Rank saw the act of birth \r\n as the fundamental trauma in every human being’s life, which lastingly \r\n influences all further phases of development. Thus he directed his attention \r\n to the pre-Oedipal relationship between mother and child, turning away from \r\n the phallocentrism of early psychoanalytic theory. Rank’s central interest \r\n was no longer the Oedipus theory, but the primary separation of the child from \r\n the mother. In the neurotic disorders of his patients, he recognized an incomplete \r\n separation from the mother and the wish to return to the womb. Birth and rebirth, \r\n the dialectic of attachment and separation, would from this point on stand at \r\n the center of Rank’s further research.
\r\n With his deliberations on The Development of Psycho-Analysis (Entwicklungsziele \r\n der Psychoanalyse), published together with Ferenczi during the same \r\n year, Rank’s critique of Freudian doctrine manifested itself very clearly. \r\n According to the two authors, psychoanalytic treatment should no longer center \r\n exclusively on the exploration of the past, the unconscious and dream interpretation: \r\n it should also involve the patient’s current problems. Because they saw \r\n the relationship between patient and therapist as decisive for the possibility \r\n of effecting a cure, they put transference at the center of their therapeutic \r\n approach.
\r\n In 1924 Rank traveled for the first time to the United States, where both his \r\n lectures and his work as a teaching analyst were received with great enthusiasm. \r\n He was made an honorary member of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. After \r\n his return to Europe, he resigned from his duties as publisher and moved to \r\n Paris, where he met the actress Anais Nin, who initially was his patient and \r\n later became his pupil and his assistant. During the following year he continued \r\n to develop his therapeutic approach and spoke out for an "active psychoanalysis" \r\n and for "short-term therapy". A therapy limited to a maximum of ten \r\n months and focused on the patient’s current problems was intended to reactivate \r\n the "trauma of birth" and work through the experiences of separation, \r\n making a new psychical rebirth possible. In this process, more space was to \r\n be given to affects and their expression. The focus of attention was not put \r\n on drive structure, but upon ego development. In 1928 Rank finally resigned \r\n from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. A year later he presented his conception \r\n of a "psychology of the ego and the will" in Truth and Reality. \r\n A Life History of Human Will (Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit. Entwurf einer \r\n Psychologie des Seelischen). This study centered on Rank’s critique \r\n of the prevalent social structure, which suppresses the will of the individual. \r\n Thus the individual must free himself/herself from the demands of society and \r\n from all external influences in order to establish an independent ego ideal. \r\n The aim of therapy is the development and support of an autonomous ego, which \r\n can only be achieved through the formation of an individual will. The well-adjusted \r\n average person who adapts to society can set up a relatively conflict-free existence \r\n in the world, but only by surrendering his/her autonomy and creativity. Contrastingly, \r\n the neurotic has been able to maintain his/her free will despite all social \r\n repressions, but only by way of to a partial break with reality. As a consequence \r\n he/she is also not capable of achieving an autonomous unfolding of his/her creativity, \r\n and thus his/her protest remains unproductive. Rank compares the neurotic with \r\n an unhappy artist, whose creative energy must be freed and helped to find its \r\n autonomous expression (must be set free and whom has to be helped). He sees \r\n the artist as the realization of his ideal of an autonomous personality, who \r\n has creatively and sensibly solved the conflict between striving toward individuality \r\n while at the same time successfully adapting to the demands of society. Through \r\n the creation of his/her works, the artist can both unfold his/her individuality \r\n and also make a connection to the outer world. Thus Rank’s therapeutic \r\n approach aimed toward the development of an autonomous and productive will, \r\n through which sensible action and individuality become possible. The prerequisite \r\n for this process is the therapist’s ability to develop an understanding \r\n of the patient’s problems. The goal of therapy must be the patient’s \r\n self-knowledge and self-education, allowing him/her to face his/her individual \r\n development and stop seeking an escape in the motherly womb.
\r\n Within the Psychoanalytic Association, Rank’s theory gave rise to heated \r\n debate, which in the end devolved into a defamation campaign against him that \r\n went so far as to slander him as mentally unstable. In 1930 he was barred from \r\n the New York Psychoanalytic Society and thus from the International Psychoanalytic \r\n Association. Beginning in 1933, Rank worked toward establishing his own training \r\n institute and traveled frequently to the USA, where he finally settled in 1935. \r\n There he worked as a free psychoanalyst, founded a school for social work at \r\n the University of Pennsylvania, and taught at the Graduate School of Jewish \r\n Social Work in New York, where he died on 31 October 1939 of complications resulting \r\n from an infection.
\r\n Text: Christiane Rothländer
\r\n Translation: Christopher Barber


\r\nEine Zusammenstellung der Werke von Otto Rank findet sich bei Lieberman (1997), \r\nS. 570-576.
\r\n(1907), Der Künstler. Ansätze zu einer Sexual-Psychologie, Wien.

\r\n(1909), Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden. Versuch einer psychologischen Mythendeutung, \r\nLeipzig/Wien (= Schriften zur angewandten Seelenkunde; 5).

\r\n(1911), Die Lohengrinsage. Ein Beitrag zur ihrer Motivgestaltung und Deutung, \r\nLeipzig/Wien (= Schriften zur angewandten Seelenkunde; 13).

\r\n(1912), Das Inzest-Motiv in Dichtung und Sage. Grundzüge einer Psychologie \r\ndes dichterischen Schaffens, Leipzig/Wien.

\r\n(1913) gem. m. Sachs, Hanns, Die Bedeutung der Psychoanalyse für die Geisteswissenschaften, \r\nWiesbaden.

\r\n(1914), Der Doppelgänger. In: Imago 3, S. 97-164.

\r\n(1919), Psychoanalytische Beiträge zur Mythenforschung, Leipzig/Wien (= Internationale \r\nPsychoanalytische Bibliothek; 4).

\r\n(1924), Das Trauma der Geburt und seine Bedeutung für die Psychoanalyse, \r\nLeipzig (= Internationale Psychoanalytische Bibliothek der Psychoanalyse; 21).

\r\n(1924), gem. m. Ferenczi, Sándor, Entwicklungsziele der Psychoanalyse. \r\nZur Wechselbeziehung von Theorie und Praxis, Leipzig/Wien/Zürich (= Neue \r\nArbeiten zur ärztlichen Psychoanalyse; 1).

\r\n(1924), Eine Neurosenanalyse in Träumen, Leipzig/Wien/Zürich (= Neue \r\nArbeiten zur ärztlichen Psychoanalyse; 3).

\r\n(1926, 1929, 1931), Technik der Psychoanalyse: Bd. 1: Die Analytische Situation, \r\nBd. 2: Die Analytische Reaktion, Bd. 3: Die Analyse des Analytikers, Leipzig/Wien.

\r\n(1927-1929), Gründzüge einer genetischen Psychologie auf Grund der Psychoanalyse \r\nder Ich-Struktur: Bd. 1: Genetische Psychologie, Bd. 2: Gestaltung und Ausdruck \r\nder Persönlichkeit, Bd. 3: Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit. Entwurf einer Philosophie \r\ndes Seelischen, Leipzig/Wien.

\r\n(1930), Seelenglaube und Psychologie. Eine prinzipielle Untersuchung über \r\nUrsprung, Entwicklung und Wesen des Seelischen, Leipzig/Wien.

\r\n(1930), Literary autobiography. In: Journal of the Otto Rank Association 16 (1981), \r\npp. 3-28.

\r\n(1933), Erziehung und Weltanschauung. Eine Kritik der psychologischen Erziehungs-Ideologie, \r\nMünchen.
\r\nAllen, Frederick H. (1940), Otto Rank: an appreciation. In: American Journal of \r\nOrthopsychiatry 10, pp. 186f.

\r\nBarbre, Claude Bunch (2004), Otto Rank´s psychology of will and soul and \r\nits spiritual implications for psychotherapeutic theory and practice, Ann Arbor.

\r\nBaumer, G./Greulich/G. (1980), Otto Rank. In: Rattner, Josef (Hrsg.), Wandlungen \r\nder Psychoanalyse. Wien/München/Zürich, S. 31-52.

\r\nEisenstein, Samuel (1966), Otto Rank. 1884-1939. The Myth of Birth of the Hero. \r\nIn: Alexander, Franz/Eisenstein, Samuel/Grotjahn, Martin (Eds.), Psychoanalytic \r\nPioneers, New York/London, pp. 36-50.

\r\nGrosskurth, Phyllis (1991), The secret ring. Freud’s inner circle and the \r\npolitics of psychoanalysis, London.

\r\nJanus, Ludwig (1998) (Hrsg.), Die Wiederentdeckung Otto Ranks für die Psychoanalyse, \r\nGießen (= Schwerpunktheft „Psychosozial“; 21).

\r\nJones, Ernest (1940), Otto Rank. Obituary. In: International Journal of Psychoanalysis \r\n21, pp. 121f.

\r\nLangstroth, Lovell (1955), Structure of the ego. An anatomic and physiologic interpretation \r\nof the psyche, based on the psychology of Otto Rank, Stanford/Californien.

\r\nLeitner, Marina (1998), Freud, Rank und die Folgen. Ein Schlüsselkonflikt \r\nfür die Psychoanalyse, Wien.

\r\nLieberman, E. James (1997), Otto Rank. Leben und Werk, Gießen.

\r\nMenaker, Esther (1982), Otto Rank. A rediscovered legacy, New York.

\r\nMühlleitner, Elke (1992), Biographisches Lexikon der Psychoanalyse. Die Mitglieder \r\nder Psychologischen Mittwoch-Gesellschaft und der Wiener Psychoanalytischen Vereinigung \r\n1902-1938, Tübingen.

\r\nRattner, Joseph (1995), Klassiker der Psychoanalyse, 2. Aufl., Weinheim.

\r\nTaft, Jessie (1958), Otto Rank. A biographical study based on notebooks, letters, \r\ncollected writings, therapeutic achievements and personal associations, New York.

\r\nZottl, Anton (1982), Otto Rank. Das Lebenswerk eines Dissidenten der Psychoanalyse, \r\nMünchen.
\r\nZusammengestellt von Christiane Rothländer


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