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Otto Rank

Otto Rank

“Life in itself is a mere succession of separations. Beginning with birth, going through several weaning periods and the development of the individual personality, and finally culminating in death – which represents the final separation. At birth, the person experiences the first shock of separation, which throughout his life he strives to overcome.”- Otto Rank

Otto Rank was a renowned Austrian writer, teacher and psychoanalyst.  Born on April 22nd, 1884, in Vienna, he was a very ardent writer on concepts and theories of psychoanalysis. He served as an editor of two of the most significant analytic journals as well as managing director of the publishing house run by Sigmund Freud. Rank was also a creative therapist and theorist.  He was influenced by the likes of Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche,  Henrik Ibsen and Arthur Schopenhauer. He acquired education in the field of psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and University of Vienna. Otto Rank’s association with Sigmund Freud began when he presented a brief manuscript to him on his study entitled as “Artist”. Freud became so impressed with Otto Rank that he invited him to Vienna and offered him work as secretary at the famous Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.  Rank accompanied as Freud’s “right hand man” as well as the first paid associates of the Psychoanalytic movement.

Otto Rank was the first psychoanalyst to view therapy as an experience of learning and unlearning. According to his concept, the relationship formed with a patient during a therapy allows them to learn ways through which they can incorporate creative thinking, making them realize the present.  They also learn to let go of self-destructive thinking and feeling in order to remain in present. Neurosis is a pattern related to self-destruction that denotes thinking in a destructive manner, as opposed to Freud’s assumption related to sexual retreat. Otto Rank’s psychological concepts of creativity have been implemented on action learning to incorporate group problem-solving, leadership development, organizational learning and team building. The aim behind action learning is to inquire fiercely through asking evil and blasphemous questions that will allow patients to let go their negative shells by eradicating their negative beliefs and assumptions. These questions assist the group members in stepping out of their destructive ideologies to see and experience the world in a more positive manner. This process forms new perspectives that allow patients to delve into discovering a different world that no one has ever seen and experienced before. In short action learning is the therapy of learning to unlearn.

Otto Rank played a vital role in creating an impact on the works of different psychologists including Carl Rogers, Rollo May, Jessie Taft, Ernest Becker, Henry Miller, Mathew Fox, Irvin Yalom, Paul Goodman and many others. Otto Rank is regarded as a great pioneer in the fields of existential psychotherapy, transpersonal psychology, gestalt psychology as well as humanistic psychology. He died on 31st October 1939 in New York at the age of 55.

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