Otto Rank Essay, Research Paper
Otto (Rosenfield) Rank was born in Vienna, Austria on April 27, 1884. Otto changed his name to “Rank” in young adulthood. He felt that this symbolized self – creation, which is his main ideal in life. Otto’s family was not wealthy enough to send him and his brother to college, so Otto became a locksmith while his older brother studied law. He loved music, art, writing poems, reading philosophy and literature. After reading Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Otto used psychoanalytic ideas in his manuscript on the artist. Otto met Sigmund Freud in 1905 through his family doctor, Alfred Adler. This meeting was to prove very important for Otto. He took along with him a manuscript of his now published book Art and Artist, which is an attempt to explain art with psychoanalytic principles. Freud was very impressed with the young Otto and encouraged him to pursue a Doctorate Degree in Literature at the University of Vienna. With the help of Freud, Otto did attend the University of Vienna, and in 1912 received his doctorate in philosophy. He was 28. Rank was one of Freud’s favorite disciples. He used to call him “little Rank” because he was only 5’3” tall. (www.ottorank.com) Although Freud had discouraged Otto from pursuing a medical career, he often addressed him as Dr. Rank and referred patients to him. Rank was the secretary and editor of minutes for the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society until 1924.
In 1924 Rank published the book The Trauma of Birth. This book argued that the transition from the womb to the outside world caused great anxieties in the infant that may persist as anxiety neurosis into adulthood. (www.britannica.com) This book caused great controversy with the fellow Freudians because it challenged Freud’s concepts. This book is what caused his break with Freud and with the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. He then moved to the United States and continued to teach and practice his theories.
Otto developed a concept similar to Freud’s ego, which he called the “Will”. Just as the ego is the mediator in Freud’s theory, the will is along these same ideas. The will acts as a directing power in personality. It is seen as a positive force for controlling and using a person’s instinctive wants. Rank thought this to be a good tool for helping his patients with self-discovery and development. (www.britanica.com) He believed that the stronger a person’s will was, the more adjusted that person would become.
Rank believed that we are born with a will to be ourselves and to be free. He also believed that the outcome of our struggle for this freedom determines what kind of person we will become. He gave three basic personality types that are associated with the type of will we have. The Types are Adapted, Neurotic, and Productive.
The adapted type is what Rank would call the average Joe. They obey the rules of their society, authority and deny most of their sexual impulses. “ These people learn to will what they have been forced to do.”(George Boree) So basically these people are just the average anybody. They are the blue collar, tax paying, hard working, Americans who are just as well adjusted as they need to be, no more, no less.
The neurotic type, as described by Rank, are those who have a stronger will than the average person. “ The neurotic suffers fundamentally from the fact that he cannot or will not accept himself.”(Rank Art and Artist) However, their fight is constantly an internal vs. external battle. “They tend to worry and feel guilty about being so “willful”.” (Boree) They also tend to be higher developed morally. These are the do gooders of our lives. These are the people who try so hard to be well adjusted that they tend to “spaz”. I do understand though that they are better adjusted because they are constantly thinking about it.
The Productive type has also been referred to as the artist, the creative, the genius, and the human being. These types accept themselves for who they are and don’t battle for their own existence. “The artist not only accepts his personality but goes far beyond it.” (Rank Art an Artist) The artist created himself and then goes on to create a new world as well. (Boeree) I am glad that Otto thought so highly of creative people and artists because I agree that without them there would be no new or exciting images for us to enjoy.
Among Otto’s most well known writings are The Myth of the Birth of the Hero 1909, Will Therapy and Truth and Reality 1930, & Art and Artist 1932. These are the works that I will look at briefly.
The Myth of the Birth of the Hero tells the short essay form of many Christian and Pagan heroes. The book contains the myths of Greek Gods such as Hercules and of Christian Saints like Jesus Christ. The book is more of a history of the stories, telling them in a dry, chronological manner. Otto states in his introduction, “These myths will be given in abbreviated form as far as relevant for this investigation, with statements concerning provenance.” He proceeds to give many example stories of heroes. He then gives a standard formula for any given hero story. “The hero is usually a child of distinguished parents: a king or goddess. His origin is preceded by difficulties, such as chastity, or prolonged barrenness, or secret intercourse of the parents, due to external prohibition or obstacles. During the
pregnancy there is usually some kind of dream that is interpreted as a prophecy cautioning against his birth, and usually threatening to the father. He is then generally sent out in the world through the water and is rescued by Shepard people who take him in and raise him as their own. After he is grown, he finds these distinguished parents and takes revenge on the father, he also takes his place as a distinguished man.” (Paraphrased from Rank Myth and Birth of Hero)
Will Therapy and Truth and Reality were published in 1930, 21 years after the hero book. It is a combination of two books put together. It consists of three parts: Will therapy part one; The patient’s reaction to the therapeutic situation, Will therapy part two; The therapist and the neurotic as complimentary types, & Truth and Reality. In part one Rank talks about using the analysis in the present rather than reliving the past, re-establishing ties with the biological mother and the end of treatment as a therapeutic step in the process. (Taft, Translators intro Will Therapy) Part two discusses the relationship between the patient and doctor. He picked up on things like where the doctor sits or what he does while the patient talks and how this effects the therapy. Truth and Reality discusses the individual and his creativeness, his will and what he experiences.
Art and Artist explores the human creativeness and how an artist shares his soul with us through his art. Otto talks about how through art we produce religion, myths and social structure. He also believed that artists were the most well adjusted people because they accept who they are and they set out to show everyone what they could do. They create things in their own image. “The artist has a particularly strong tendency towards glorification of his own will. Unlike the rest of us he feels compelled to remake reality in his own image.” (Art and Artist, Rank)
I had never heard of Otto Rank before I decided to write this paper. I came across his name by accident on a psychology web page. He was a very intriguing man with realistic theories that even I the skeptic can understand. I wish we could have learned about him in class. He took what he could from Freud’s perspective and used it to create his own that made more sense. He lost many friends and colleges by doing this. However his theories about the will, and creativity appealed to people like Carl Rogers and Paul Goodman, and Myself. (Paraphrased Kramer) Otto Rank died at the age of 55 in New York in the year 1939, one month after Freud’s Death in London. (www.ottorank.com)
www.britannica.com keyword: Otto Rank. 1999-2000 Britannica.com Inc.
www.ottorank.com E James Lieberman. Last update 03/18/00
http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/rank.html Dr. C. George Boeree Copyright 1997.
Kramer, Robert. A Psychology of Difference: The American Lectures by Otto Rank. Princeton University Press 1996.
Rank, Otto. Art and Artist. W.W. Norton & Co. New York, 1989.
Rank, Otto. The Myth of the Birth of the Hero. The Journal of the Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Company. New York, 1914.
Rank, Otto. Will Therapy and Truth and Reality. Alfred and Knopf. New York, 1947.