Karl Abraham

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Karl Abraham (3 May 1877 - 25 December 1925) was an early German psychoanalyst, and a correspondent of Sigmund Freud. He founded the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, and was the president of the International Psychoanalytical Association.


Karl Abraham added to Freud's stages of early libidinal development (oral, anal, phallic, genital) more precise subdivisions, based not only on the sexual aims (i.e., actions) of a drive but on its sexual objects. For Abraham, the subject's relation to his sexual objects is marked by corresponding stages of "love" ranging from "auto-erotism" in the earlier oral stage to full "object-love" in the final genital stage. In the genital phase, the subject ideally overcomes all traces of earlier stages, resolves the Oedipus adn castration complexes, and transfers the feeling of affection or hostility which he entertains toward his patients on to the environemnt; he thus is ready for subsequent adaptation to society. It is in the elaboration of these different stages in terms of their relevance for character development that Abraham orchestrates differences between "genital" and "pregenital" characters.[1]

Direction of the Treatment

In the paper cited by Lacan, Abraham writes:

The excessive value [the collector] places on the object he collects corresponds completely to the lover's overestimation of his sexual objct. A passion for collecting is frequently a direct surrogate for a sexual desire; and in that cse a delicate symbolism is often concealed behind the choice of objects collected. A bachelor's keenness for collecting often diminishes after he has married; and it is well known that interest in collecting varies in different periods of life.[2]


  • A considerable number of persons are able to protect themselves against the outbreak of serious neurotic phenomena only through intense work.

Further information about Karl Abraham can be found in the following reference(s):

theory of part-objects p. 188


  1. Muller, John P. and William J. Richardson. Lacan and Language: A Reader's Guide to Ecrits. New York: International Universiites Press, Inc., 1982.
  2. Direction of the Treatment. p. 245b/606. Abraham. 1908. p.67