First Brief Communication:

The Resilience of Illusion

by Phillip Freeman, MD


Advances in technology inevitably provoke fears that we are getting ahead of ourselves, transgressing, losing our bearings. Even in the realm of play, the super-enhanced toys offered by more exact simulations and virtual worlds can be viewed as the Devil’s playground.

Some turn down the virtual because they fear losing touch with reality. Some turn down the real because they fear a disruption of their own constructed fictions. Some imagine themselves beyond illusion. In this, the first of two brief communications, I consider the ambivalent reception of the virtual as evidenced by fictional narratives in which the protagonists refuse virtual omnipotence and attack the illusionists.

Illusions – from unrecognized assumptions, convictions, and predictions to the more consciously constructed solace of daydream fictions – are ubiquitous. As a psychoanalyst, I have the opportunity to hear about or intuit the role of illusion. Illusions of triumph, love, justice, recognition. Illusions of having once enjoyed a paradise, and of the wait for its return. <…>

International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 9: 78-83, 2012.

Link to Online Publication


Second Brief Communication:

The Resilience of Illusion

by Phillip Freeman, MD


In my first communication I discussed stories in which characters renounce illusion because they fear falling down the rabbit hole. Now I will describe some characters in fiction and from clinical situations in which individuals, living within fantasy constructions of their own making, refuse reality, including real opportunities for gratification, because they suspect they are being deceived by an illusion. As Freud wrote of neurotics in the Dora case, “If what they long for most intensely in their phantasies is presented to them in reality, they nonetheless flee from it; and they abandon themselves to their phantasies the most readily where they need no longer fear to see them realized” (Freud, 1905[1901]/1958a).

Enrico IV, the lead character from a play of the same name written by Pirandello, is participating in a costume drama as a young man when he suffers a head injury and develops a delusional psychosis in which he takes himself to be the character he portrayed in the ball, the 11th century German Emperor, Enrico IV (Pirandello, 1921). In brief, after many years supporting his delusion by maintaining a throne room and vassals, his family conspires with a psychiatrist to shock him out of his madness by replacing the life size puppet of the woman he had loved at the ball with the real figure of the woman’s now grown daughter and then forcing him to face the image of the real woman now aged. They hope the shocking evidence that time has passed will wake him from his illusion. What they do not know is that he had spontaneously recovered years before and now maintained the fiction because he preferred the relative authenticity of a voluntarily assumed character to the self-deception of an unrecognized fiction. The plan backfires and drives him mad instead of sane. It appears that the precipitous realization of his fantasy was so tempting that it overrode his willingness to reject the illusion for reality. To have the illusion made real, to have the woman whose statue he had worshipped and possessed in fantasy for 20 years suddenly come alive, to have the puppet made flesh, the impossible wish realized, in defiance of time, generation and mortality (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1984), was irresistible.<…>

International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 9: 344-349, 2012.

Link to Online Publication


Previous Posts

Paul Ornstein, MD (2012) The Novelist’s Craft: Reflections on The Brothers Karamazov. American Imago, 69/3, p. 295-316.

Stephanie R. Brody, PsyD (2013) Entering Night Country: Reflections on Self-Disclosure and Vulnerability. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 23:1, p. 45-58.

Ellen Pinsky, PsyD (2012). PHYSIC HIMSELF MUST FADE: A View of the Therapeutic Offering through the Lens of Mortality. American Imago, Vol. 69, No. 1, 29-56.

All articles are available in the library.