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Hans Loewald (1906–1993) was a psychoanalyst and theorist, born in Colmar, then Germany. His father, who died shortly after his birth, was a Jewish physician with an interest in dermatology and psychiatry, his mother a gifted musician, who played the piano. He studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger, who enormously influenced him with his theory of language. In the 1940s Loewald came to America where he became fascinated by Freud’s theory, in which he rooted all the features of his own theory. He did not want to create a new psychoanalytic terminology, but, although he used Freud’s terms, he gave them radically new meanings. At first sight Loewald seems to be a traditional Freudian, but for the careful reader a radical re-interpreter is disclosed. Two examples of his radical conservatism will be given.

Language Edit

Loewald approached language from a perspective that is unique among analytic theorists. Unlike Sullivan, Daniel Stern, and Freud, whose understanding of language included a sharp distinction between verbal and preverbal expressions, Loewald states that verbal and preverbal expressions are a form of sensory experience.

He distinguishes between the primary process in which the child experiences only sounds (fantasy), and the secondary process, in which the child gives meaning to these sounds (reality).

Psychopathology is caused by a split between these processes, between fantasy and reality. Mental health entails an open communication and interpenetration between the primary and the secondary process.

Oedipus complex Edit

Loewald made a hierarchical developmental structure by integrating the pre-oedipal and oedipal phases. His debt to the Melanie Klein School of psychoanalysis of London was and is eclipsed by the American bias toward unreserved acceptance of Anna Freud's ideas. Loewald's under-appreciated work on aesthetics and symbolism reflects this Kleinian orientation of bridging the pre-oedipal (paranoid-schizoid) with the oedipal (depressive position) developmental era. In the Oedipus Complex the wish to murder or harm the same-sex parent leads to feelings of guilt. Both Loewald and Freud considered guilt to be one of the driving forces behind the organization of the self. Freud saw guilt as something that should be evaded, Loewald regarded it as something that had to be worked through to complete the individuation process. In Loewald's view the resolution of the Oedipus Complex involved symbolic destruction of the parents as libidinal objects [cite]. Loewald, contrary to Freud, saw the parents as complementary with both advantages and disadvantages of their own. The mother fulfills all the wishes of the child but in doing so she leaves no room for the child’s autonomy. The father presents autonomy to the child and thus protects the child from engulfment by the mother, which could lead to ego loss. The task of ego development is to integrate both parts [cite].


  • Jones, J.W. (2001). Hans Loewald: The psychoanalyst as mystic. The Psychoanalytic Review, 88, 793-809
  • Gayle, L. (1998). From Ghosts to Ancestors: The psychoanalytic vision of Hans Loewald. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 58, 337-338.
  • Stephen A. Mitchell & Margaret J. Black, (1995). Freud and Beyond - A History of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought. Basic Books, New York, ISBN 978-0-465-01405-7, 186-193.
  • Loewald, H.W. (2000). The Waning of the Oedipus Complex: Introduction. Journal of Psychotherapy, Practice and Research, 9.
  • Whitebook, J. (2004). Hans Loewald: a radical conservative. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 85, 97-116.

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