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Theodor Reik

REIK, THEODOR (1888–1970), psychoanalyst. Reik, who was born in Vienna, met *Freud in 1910 and received his training analysis from Karl *Abraham in Berlin. After World War I he worked as an analyst first in Vienna, and then in Berlin until he moved to The Hague in 1934. In 1938 he immigrated to the United States. In 1946 he was elected president of the National Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology.

Reik wrote many psychoanalytic articles on literary and musical figures such as Flaubert and *Mahler, on clinical and anthropological themes, and on psychological theory. Four of his best-known papers of the 1920s were collected in Das Ritual, psychoanalytische Studien (19282; Ritual, Psychoanalytic Studies, 1931). The first paper dealt with "couvade," the primitive custom in which the father of a newborn child lies in bed, the last two papers with *Kol Nidrei and the shofar. A series of papers on problems of crime – including the compulsion to confess, and Freud's view of capital punishment – were developed in Der unbekannte Moerder (1932; The Unknown Murderer, 1936), in which he sets forth as a major concept that unconscious guilt motivates the crime itself and also the criminal's need to be caught and punished. Reik held that an analyst's theoretical assumptions may interfere with treatment and that the therapeutic relationship should be an "unconscious duet" between patient and analyst in which surprises to both parties provide important insights. He wrote about his new technique in Der Ueberraschte Psychologe (1935; Surprise and the Psychoanalyst, 1936), and Listening with the Third Ear (1948). In Aus Leiden Freuden (1940; Masochism in Modern Man, 1941) Reik stated his theory that masochistic suffering is basically a search for pleasure and, as in the case of the Christian martyrs, for final victory. He therefore regarded masochism and the associated death instinct as secondary rather than primary as seen by Freud.

Some of Reik's thought was iconoclastic. In Psychology of Sex Relations (1945) he rejected the classical psychoanalytic theory of the libido and some of the sexual concepts that go with it. Among his more than 50 books are the autobiographical From Thirty Years with Freud (1940), Fragment of a Great Confession (1949), and The Search Within (1956). His biblical tetralogy included The Creation of Woman (1960), and in 1962 he published Jewish Wit. In Pagan Rites in Judaism (1964) he endeavors to show that much of the pagan and prehistoric survives in the rites of Judaism as professed today.


R. Lindner (ed.), Explorations in Psychoanalysis (1953), essays in his honor (incl. bibl.); J.M. Natterson, in: F.G. Alexander, et al. (eds.), Psychoanalytic Pioneers (1966), 249–64, incl. bibl.; D.M. Kaplan, in: American Imago, 25 (Spring 1968) 52–58; A. Grinstein, Index of Psychoanalytic Writings, 3 (1958), 1620–32; 7 (1965), 3940–41 (bibl. of his works).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.