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Illusion, Disillusion, And Irony In Psychoanalysis

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly

Published online on


The author draws a parallel between an analyst listening to a patient and a member of an audience watching a play. In both situations, it is important to be able to adopt a dual identity in order to participate in the action through identification and then to withdraw from the identification to adopt the position of an observer. The author discusses two plays, Ibsen's The Wild Duck (1884) and Sophocles's Oedipus the King (5th century BC, a), and concludes that an ironic attitude to these works can help the spectator to adopt these dual identities and to recognize the value of truth, while at the same time appreciating that reality can be harsh and sometimes unbearable. A similar ironic vision in relation to his patients can enable the analyst to retain a respect for truth alongside a sympathetic awareness of the need for illusion.