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"Orpha Reviving": Toward an Honorable Recognition of Elizabeth Severn

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This paper attempts to reassess Elizabeth Severn's place in the history of psychoanalysis. It does so by focusing on her three out of print books, which until now have been overlooked in discussions of the patient Ferenczi called “RN” in the Clinical Diary. Her first two books, written in 1913 and 1917, provide the reader with valuable glimpses into what was the pre-analytic mind and person of Elizabeth Severn before she began what would be a ground breaking eight year analysis with Ferenczi. A key to understanding Elizabeth Severn, her writings, as well as many of our traumatized patients lies in a what Ferenczi and Severn called “Orpha”. The paper suggests that an appreciation of this obscure phenomenon is critical in the treatment of trauma. After investigating her first two books in light of Orpha, the paper will compare and contrast them with her last book, The Discovery of Self, written toward the end of her analysis, and published shortly after Ferenczi's death in 1933. The tone, texture and content of this third book is strikingly different from her first two books, suggesting a depth of healing in Severn not previously reported in the literature.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 1998

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