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On Doing Fantasy

The Journal of Psychohistory. 13(2). Summer 1985
This paper was presented at the Eighth Annual International Psychohistorical Association Convention. Hunter College, City University of New York. June 12-14, 1985
COMMENT On Doing Fantasy Analysis by: Howard F. Stein

Fantasy analysis is a technique for examining an historical record such as a newspaper article, Congressional committee transcript or Presidential speech and picking out the body language, metaphors, repetitive phrases, similes, strong feelings and symbolic terms and then determining their common themes. The result is an understanding of the shared, un-conscious meaning of the record. The psychohistorian is thus provided with a valuable tool for getting beneath the formality and defensiveness of the manifest content to underlying feelings and fantasies.

The idea of fantasy analysis has enormous appeal for us.[1] Ever since Lloyd deMause invented the concept, we were awed by its scope.[2] The notion that scholars could decipher the dominant fantasy of a group or nation seemed truly extraordinary. It spurred the authors' personal fantasy of sharing in some special knowledge and prompted daydreams of being doctor to the leadership of the nation and or computerizing fantasy analysis data to scientifically determine the inner workings of the nation's psyche.

In 1980 Paul Elovitz and Henry Lawton were founding members, together with Lloyd deMause, Casper Schmidt, and Howard Stein of the first fantasy analysis project which sought to analyze the group fantasies of the nation in the first six months of Reagan's Presidency,[3] After several months, two patterns of behavior in our own research group became clear to us. Firstly, it was difficult and anxiety provoking to do fantasy analysis. Secondly, it became possible to predict the fantasies that workers in the project would find. Though Lloyd deMause was always convincing in his justifications for his analysis, this feeling of predictability bothered us. It raised the issue or how the psychohistorian's values influence his work while seeking to broaden the scope of our knowledge. At times during our meetings, we had the thought that we might we selecting materials to fit deMause's theories rather than the theories growing out of evidence. At other times we found ourselves inspired by deMause's ability to generalize from the evidence.
We began to see that we were not consistently finding the same fantasy material as deMause and Schmidt. Everyone involved was surprised by Hinckley's assassination attempt on Reagan, but we responded to it dif-ferently. DeMause and Schmidt fit it into their theoretical framework, while Elovitz felt that this theory should have predicted the attempt. But it was clear to us all that in the period prior to the attempt there were a tremendous number of violent images in the media. This event proved to be something of a personal watershed for us all. Schmidt and deMause proceeded with renewed vigor and published extensively using fantasy analysis, while Elovitz and Lawton completed the project with some doubt and continued to devote considerable thought to the question of how to improve this methodology.
George Luhrmann later became interested in psychohistory, opened discussions with deMause and Elovitz and Lawton independently, and subsequently published using fantasy analysis.[4]
In their discussions, the authors came to see the need for studying the replicability and validity of fantasy analysis.


The present project is an outgrowth of years of discussion about the replicability of fantasy analysis. Its immediate history is related to David Beisel's invitation to Paul Elovitz to write on this problem for the psychogenic issue of this Journal Since all of us have used fantasy analysis, we readily agreed to work together.
We selected two documents, The Declaration of Independence, and Reagan's Star Wars speech, which we simply labeled "Document # 1 -- Eighteenth Century" and "Document # 2 -- Contemporary". The documents were selected on the basis of brevity, familiarity, and impor-tance. Both documents are clear expressions of group-fantasies because, although written by only a "single" person, they represent and resonate with the feelings of many. These were mailed out with a cover letter, the rules of fantasy analysis, and a questionnaire soliciting information about the scholar's awareness of the technique and feelings about it. We

asked the respondents to underline fantasy words in the documents and to provide interpretations.
We contacted contributing editors of this Journal and a number of ad-ditional scholars. Our criteria for choosing respondents were: familiarity with fantasy analysis, commitment to psychohistory, and the likelihood of completion in a short period of time. Fifty-three questionaires were mailed out, and seventeen were returned. Identities of the respondents were kept secret from the authors until the final phase of writing. We sought to differentiate between levels of experience by having par-ticipants indicate the extent of their familiarity with the technique, by rating whether they were "very familiar" or "familiar" with fantasy analysis, or whether this was their "first endeavor". Paul Elovitz was primarily responsible for writing the introductory comments and describ-ing our methodology. Henry Lawton and Paul Elovitz were mainly responsible for the analysis of Document # 1. George Luhrmann and Paul Elovitz were essentially responsible for Document # 2, George Luhrmann did the questionnaire results, and Henry Lawton did the principles of interpretation. We all wrote the concluding comments. Since we met often and constantly exchanged ideas, ours has been a genuinely collaborative effort.


Twelve respondents gave us a list of the words and phrases they chose in their fantasy analysis of Document # 1, and fifteen gave us a written interpretation of the document's underlying emotional meaning. Eleven of ibis group provided both words and interpretations. We were curious regarding the degree of commonality in the words and phrases selected by our respondents. To find out, we listed all words and phrases. There were three hundred and eighty-two.[5] We then noted how many of our analyzers picked up each word or phrase and came up with the following list:

0 Words or Phrases Picked up by 12 Respondents
0 " 11 "
0 " 10 "
5 " 9 "
1 " 8 "
4 " 7 "
12 " 6 "
9 " 5 "
21 " 4 "
12 " 3 "
32 " 2 "
73 " 2 "
210 " 1 "

Clearly our analyzers were highly individualistic in selecting words and phrases. Three described themselves as very familiar with fantasy analysis, three said they were familiar with it, four said our study was their first time trying it, and two made no response on this point. It is worthy of note that those who claimed less experience with fantasy analysis tended to produce lists Of words and phrases that were not picked up by other analyzers. We then looked further at the three persons very familiar with fantasy analysis and found that they selected forty-eight, seventy-three, and eighty-six words and phrases respectively. This variability in numbers of items selected is reflected by everyone. Some chose mostly phrases, but most chose just words with very few phrases. On the basis of their selections, we would have to conclude that several respondents had no clear concept of how to apply the rules of fantasy analysis. Turning to our three experienced analyzers, we found that experience does not seem to make a difference. Looking at all three (a total of forty-eight items) we found that:

16 Words or Phrases Picked up by 2 Respondents
20 " 3 "

Of the remaining words and phrases common to the two who gave larger numbers of words, there are twenty-one items that both have in common. Perfect congruence of selection between analysts will never happen, nor is it desirable, since human minds are different and will in-evitably see the same material in a somewhat different light.

We now wish to consider the fifteen interpretations of Document #1, the Declaration of Independence. There is a broad similarity among the interpreters: most of them deal with relief of suffering and overcoming perceived threats. However, there is some variation as to how this is done. Some interpretations refer to relieving suffering, while others perceive separation/individuation and the son overcoming the father. One mentions the need to resist invasion and destruction by a powerful other (the oppressive King). Another writes of birth imagery and the need to feel strong again, as well as being delivered from evil. Several other respondents write of children protesting against arbitrary parents and fear of castration.

Is there any indication of greater cohesion of interpretation among the more experienced analyzers? There were three very familiar with fantasy analysis, four who were familiar, six who were trying for the first time, and two who did not respond to this point.[6] Looking at the most ex-perienced analyzers, one writes of the necessity of war to relieve suffering, another speaks of being oppressed by a cruel parent and being able to separate only by revolution, and the last about protecting what is good from cuts of evil and the "desire to replace the head to protect the body." There appears to be no greater degree of congruence here than among the total group of respondents. What this suggests is that we do not interpret directly from the words and phrases. Rather, words and phrases seem to serve as a stimulus to the scholar's unconscious: the in-terpretation comes from the unconscious more than the words. The words and phrases are like bench marks or guides to the interpreting minds, they do not give totally literal answers. Words and phrases interact with the interpreting mind to produce interpretations of documents. Furthermore, the scholar should have some awareness of the context that produced the document under analysis, which was indeed true for the Declaration of independence.

Paul Elovitz felt that Document # 1 clearly illustrates the problems in-volved in determining replicability. He first set up twenty-five categories of themes based upon thirteen replies. Six interpreters dealt with themes referring to children, six noted destruction and death imagery and six picked up on separation/individuation. Twelve of the twenty-five themes had only one item in them. Yet Elovitz felt reluctant to drop such themes as fetal references or references to boundaries of loss, cannibalistic fantasies, incest, being a woman, self mutilation, poison, anger, etc. Clearly replicability is not established in terms of these themes yet, in reading through the sum total of the comments and interpretations, he felt (in-dependently of Lawton) that there was a core of common interpretation. It was his impression that people by and large were able to get the un-conscious meaning of Document # I, but they chose to use different aspect of this unconscious meaning and they chose to use somewhat different terminology. Thus; Elovitz independently replicated Lawton's conclusions.

Document # 2 ANALYSIS

There is a remarkable congruence in the final interpretations of the respondents' evaluations of the Star Wars proposal. There is, however, considerable individuality in the path taken by these respondents to this final goal.

Nine hundred thirty-seven words or phrases indicative of fantasies were selected by thirteen respondents.[5] There was a striking variability in word choice among the respondents, as indicated by the percentage of the total words selected by each:

Four "Vary Familar" Respondents Three "Familar" Respondents
Six "First Endeavor" Respondents

This variability indicates that the respondents nor surprisingly cast nets of varying size.

Time a word mentioned # Words %

The respondents generally ignored deMause's rule to avoid nouns, sub-jects, and objects. Of one hundred seven words or phrases cited by six or more of the thirteen respondents, there were sixty-one nouns (57%), nineteen adjectives (18%), and twenty-seven verbs (25%).

There is a striking similarity among the highly selected words: eg. "cuts," "power," "impotency," "safety," "strengthen." These words are indications of the basic fantasy themes in the document.

If one eliminates all words cited fewer than five times (six hundred ninety-four words or sixty-seven percent), the remainder fall easily into several categories of "high hit words" (see Appendix).

% of Highly Cited

It is clear that the respondents are able to focus on a cluster of concepts, and there is substantial agreement about the centrality of aggression in the words selected. However, and again consistent with clinical experience, the words themselves are relatively sterile.

Now let us move to the respondent's interpretations. Clearly, choosing the interpretation(s) is difficult. in clinical practice, interpreta-tions are based on theory, the gestalt of impressions of the patient, and the analysis of the empathic stirrings within the therapist's feelings. It is more difficult to do this from written documents due to a greater barrier between reader and the relatively unexciting written words of the docu-ment. Also, there is the complex and confusing task of comparing the productions of multiple respondents. Several of our analysts felt that Document 12 was more difficult than the first; that it was more confus-ing, with less fantasy words available.

Sixteen respondents made interpretations. There is a wide variety in the depth, length, and creativity of the respondents' work. We did not study our respondents' backgrounds, but it was obvious that they had a high level of psychoanalytic sophistication. There are no obvious differences between those "very familiar" with fantasy analysis, "familiar" with it, and those malting their "first endeavor."

George Luhrmann read through the interpretations of Document #2 several times and set up categories which seemed to capture the manifest themes. The interpretations were then re-read, to be sure the themes fit. Relatively little interpretation of the respondents' interpretations were made.

The interpretations of Document #2 reflect two main themes. The first is a "weakness-vulnerability" theme. Fifteen of the sixteen respondents explicitly refer to fear, weakness, and vulnerability. Seven note a "cutting" theme, and five refer to castration anxiety. There is a striking congruence in the group that male sexual vulnerability is a core fantasy of the document.

The second theme is that of repair and restitution by aggression. Almost all saw the fantasy that launching an attack will repair weakness. Eight specifically refer to regained sexual potency as the repair, and five clearly see that war is inevitable. In the nuclear age such interpretations are truly frightening.

Document #2 helps identify some of the problems inherent in doing fantasy analysis. The level of psychoanalytic sophistication clearly influenced the interpretations. If, in order to do fantasy analysis, one needs to be a trained psychoanalyst as well as an expert historian in the period and discipline under consideration, few people will be capable of this task. Such in-depth training is not mandatory, but we would hope that the difficulties involved might lead scholars to improve the quality of their training.


We were gratified and stimulated by the openness of our respondents. They were overwhelmingly positive about fantasy analysis though seven expressed some level of resistance: eg, the work takes a great deal of time, was "very hard," was an "imposition," and "cost me more than I thought it would." Communication with individuals who did not participate revealed that the time investment was by far the major reason for not participating.

Fantasy analysis seems to produce intense reactions. Sixteen respondents discussed their "emotional reactions to the use of fantasy analysis." Eight were aware of anxiety. Some of this appeared to be per-formance anxiety over first efforts at doing fantasy analysis. Four were "terrified," "scared," "upset," and aware of the "dangerous implications of the results," relating to modern day nuclear holocaust.

Extracts from eleven respondents revealed:

guarded optimism, enthusiasm, join the big boys
exhilarated, sobbing, intense sexual imagery, terrified
excites imagination, scared pleased, fun
intrigued, interested
challenging, stimulating, rewarding, gratifying
upsetting, annoyed, demanding
impressed, enjoyed immensely
feels right

One respondent commented:

When I do fantasy analysis, I am exhilarated, terrified drained. It feels like falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. It is regression in the service of the ego that I hope will be there to bring me back up the hole into reality! When I ... the American Declaration of Independence, I found myself quietly sobbing when I had finished. I was once more reminded how much of it is me! When I read the Reagan speech, I had the feeling of an old weak man who was trying to have and sustain an erection: as the speech proceeded, I found the pace becoming faster and faster, and by the time the speech ended ... and war just around the corner ... the inescapably sexual excitement was at a peak.

Another said that:

When my wife and I discovered the sexual imagery in Docu-ment #2 we burst out laughing and stopped only on realizing the dangerous implications of the test result.

One found "reading. or listening to speeches very difficult now since l am too alert to this psychohistorical undercurrent." Another quoted a student: "It is like finally finding a mother tongue."

The intensity reflects the stimulation of the political process. Although the intensity was primarily positive, one respondent had a "violent" reaction to "dogmatic" fantasy analysis.

Our respondents saw the value of fantasy analysis, but five expressed considerable skepticism about it (the three authors all registered skepticism and uncertainty independently in their initial questionnaire.) Eleven respondents were essentially positive, while five found it "useful" and one believed it "helpful." One found it "useful in its suggestive capability" to develop "good working hypotheses." Another believed it "mandatory" to use the technique and one person who had never used it before was "astonished to discover how the... method actually can reveal the latent content of public documents... [it is] surprising to see fantasy patterns emerge so unmistakably." Another scholar found it "fascinating but really difficult to apply."

Our respondents noted a number of problems:

1. The major problem is the possibility of not adequately realizing one's projections when trying to interpret the material. It is not yet fully clear how to avoid this problem.

2. "The assertion that this technique is getting at something makes sense, but how do you know what you are getting?" (Lawton). The decision-making technique for deciding on the correct emotional level (oedipal, pre-oedipal, etc) to utilize in our interpretations remains unclear.

3. One respondent observed that "my only reservation with fantasy analysis is that, while it indeed uncovers the care fantasy (ies), we can unwittingly use it in research or, clinically (e.g. group-process interpreta-tion) to avoid taking into consideration the complex instinct/defensive elaboration process that is, after all, how people are experiencing life. What people are really saying, feeling, and acting is the entire condensation, not simply the core fantasy... it is not enough to say, in essence, "this fantasy is what you are really thinking." At its worse, this intellectual arrogance (a way of dealing with our own anticipatory anxiety) becomes sadism; at its most subtle, it fails to acknowledge what another claims to be thinking/feeling, but (intrusively?) tells what they are thinking/feeling..."

4. A number of respondents emphasize the importance of using the technique in conjunction with other tools. And, not all situations are suitable for the technique (Which are useful?).

5. It is difficult for individuals outside American culture to understand meanings inherent in some documents. Translated documents might distort meanings. There can be a problem in interpreting documents from another era. For example, the Declaration of Independence uses words such as "connected," "endowed," "erected," and "eat out" which have sexual implications now that they may not have had then. One respondent suggested the use of fantasy analysis in selected high school courses and considered it a must for all teachers of history.

The respondents were asked to "rank the usefulness of eight rules" and to comment, and sixteen did so. Two "first endeavors" could not rank the rules, and two of the "very familiars" assertively stated that the ranking serves no purpose. One commented that "some of the rules come into play more than others depending on what sort of material you are seeking to analyze." Howard Stein finds all the rules equally indispensable. "What I find tedious in some fantasy analysts' hands is a tendency to use these 'rules' mechanically rather than 'affect-ladenly.' Such a use is in isolating defense against the very purpose of fantasy analysis; ie; to help the reader feel into the text." A historian believes that "all historians are taught to do something similar when analyzing a document ... but I do not think that deMause's rules did anymore than codify rules I had used in analyzing other documents."

Ranking clearly is difficult, and we agree with Dr. Stein's remarks above. If, however, the ranking merits some usefulness, it shows a tendency to select the emotion and the more symbolically elaborated cues to fantasy.

Stein further notes that the method of eliminating all negatives does disclose the negated thought, but at another level may make us overlook the struggle with or ambivalence toward that fantasy. "Thus we must study as well as eliminate the negatives."


We asked deMause how he created fantasy analysis. He said that it was out of necessity, because he had found an important historical problem that needed solving. What he wanted to understand was the group fantasy of war-as-birth which he had identified in his early article on "The Independence of Psychohistory."' He spent a long time making a systematic check of the images in historical documents to see if what he found was something isolated or part of a pattern. In the process of examining so many historical documents, deMause gradually devised the rules for fantasy analysis.

We have asked whether fantasy analysis is a valid and replicable way of knowing. We have concluded that fantasy analysis is a useful tool for getting at the shared, mostly unconscious emotional processes that in-fluence life in groups and nations. We have found that fantasy analysis, unlike psychotherapy, is a nascent field without a vast literature and methodology slowly developed by a large number of workers. The technique is worthy of further vigorous research. In this section we will examine some of the issues raised by our research which we think need further exploration.

Doing fantasy analysis is indeed fraught with anxiety, not only in the doing but also in the real problems of its tendency to provoke censure and punishment from the academic community. We suggest that one reason fantasy analysis may be so provoking for many scholars is because deMause has passed beyond the limits of conventional knowing. New and different ways of knowing can be frightening since such knowing threatens assumptions about the world that we all hold dear.

The most important issue of fantasy analysis is its subjectivity. Fantasy analysis is not an infallible technique with an ironclad theoretical rationale. It offers considerable room for projection of the scholars' own fantasies. By paying attention to the real context of the material we minimize these projections. The more aware one can be of one's own projections the better. Personal psychoanalysis can be helpful to counter such potential problems. However, it is striking how much congruence occurred among our respondents, and this is the most striking finding of the work. Fantasy analysis is replicable.

Reality has a way of undoing non-delusional projection. The data of fantasy analysis does not offer the chance for much reality testing in the way psychotherapy produces feedback. With a patient, one can gauge the correctness of an interpretation by the reaction it generates. The patient and therapist respond to each other, which helps to make sense out of the tangled relationship between the feelings the patent induces in the analyst and the feelings the analyst brings to the situation. This is a "tangled relationship" because an induced feeling in the analyst is still a feeling of the analyst.

The comparable situation in fantasy analysis is the use of the feelings induced by the document itself as opposed to the feelings projected into the document by the scholar. In psychoanalytic training intense, long term clinical supervision, in conjunction with a training analysis, usually enables the analyst to differentiate between his projections and feelings induced by the patient. We simply do not know as clearly about the relationships between the scholar, the document, and the nation.

The closest analogy of the correctness of predictions by fantasy analysis is the public response to these predictions. Scholars must look to themselves and their colleagues, especially when working in teams, to come independently to their conclusions, and to help each other understand their projective tendencies. To gain valid non-pejorative feedback we would need analytically trained fantasy analysts willing to undergo a supervision process akin to the control analysis of psychoanalytic training. Such a process can often be ego bruising but it is the best way to improve the quality of interpretations.

A further barrier of such supervision (and who would be the supervisors?) is the therapeutic fantasy of saving the world from war implicit in the work of some leading psychohistoric scholars. Such fantasies are usually not congruent with willingness to accept supervision. But a supervision process would improve the quality of what we do. Desires to avert war via doing fantasy analysis are comparable to the wish to "save" the patient in therapy. Both represent admirable intentions, but serve as barriers to helping the patient understand himself and the nation's leaders to understand the group fantasies.

What do we mean when we speak of the "therapeutic fantasy of saving the world?" Part of it is the belief that psychohistorical insights could possibly help facilitate the election of more emotionally advanced leaders or improve the decision making of the leadership function, thereby saving the world from destruction by irrational leaders. Some psychohistorians feel a sense of urgency to learn what needs to be known in order to make a difference in man's race for survival. It also pertains to the belief that we approach one subject as therapists, thinking clinically, and hoping that our efforts will have a therapeutic effect on man and his world. David Beisel, for example, is not so sure our world saving aspirations are "a grandiose fantasy. We just might be doing it."

Despite their value and inspirational importance, such beliefs are fantasies because they stem from the imagination more than any real power or influence we actually have. We also see such beliefs as fantasies because it is our view that the basic function of psychohistory is to understand man and his motivations in new and more helpful ways.[8]

Fantasy analysis appears to be at a comparable stage today to psychoanalysis in its early days when Freud thought that he had accomplished his task when he made his interpretation to the patient. He expected the patient to change her life and when she failed to do this he assumed the position of a scolding parent. It was Freud's ability to detach himself from this punitive role and to empathize with the patient which allowed him to continue the work of the development of psychoanalysis. As psychohistorians we cannot expect the nation or its leaders to approach us for help until they perceive that we have something to offer. Fantasy analysis as a vital tool can only become a reality if we maintain some degree of analytic detachment. The primary obstacles to achieving this detachment are the identification with a new and very promising methodology and the frightening reality that our lives are at stake along with everyone elses in the event of a nuclear war.

Proper selection of material for fantasy analysis is a key issue. Legitimate indicators of group-fantasy would be material about the group such as its goals, purposes, member's feelings, internal and external life. It must be:

forged in public discussion. It is not enough for fantasies to be shared for them to be considered historical group-fantasies... they must also be formed over a period of time through public communication... Group-fantasies can be seen to evolve over time, as different people in the group suggest variations, until the precise formulation is reached which best fits the unconscious needs of the largest number at that historical moment.[9]

Utterances of group leaders are vital. Material about group members and why they belong to the group would also be useful. With large groups such items as major national news magazines and newspapers, political cartoons, the images of national TV news, texts of Presidential speeches and news conferences, and government communications on important issues are the key materials that psychohistorians must study closely over long periods of time.[10]

Attempting to use fantasy analysis to study living figures and contemporary groups can have some particular anxieties of its own. Working on living persons, especially one with some amount of power, can arouse fearful fantasies that one might be destroyed. Since there is an element of reality in the unequal power relationship between a powerful political leader and a scholar this fear is sometimes hard to overcome.

Psychohistorian Melvin Goldstein of the University of Hartford raised an interesting point about fantasy analysis which merits mention. He believes that in fantasy analysis, deMause subscribes to what he terms the "accretion" or "use" theory of language. "It is Wittgensteinian and simply holds that the meaning of an expression is determined by its use in a language community. So the meaning of a word is dependent on consensual validation in a language community.

"The word 'hello' can mean 'table' if the language community deems it so. A word doesn't gather additional meaning.. .rather it changes meaning on the basis of use."[11] Goldstein rejects this, believing that "each word in the English language has multiple meanings, and these multiple meanings have, at the inception of the word, been inherent in the word; during certain periods of time a meaning or two of a word may be prominent, and at other times these meanings become submerged and others rise to take their place...but at all times all meanings are there and our unconscious may, if sufficiently free, associate with many of -these meanings simultaneously, includiing those which are not necessarily contemporary. The language of all ages is contemporaneous."'[12]

Since the way one ascribes meanings to words, phrases and expressions can importantly influence the interpretation of data gained from fantasy analysis, we asked deMause how he ascribes meaning to the material he gets when he does fantasy analysis. He does not concern himself with conscious meaning; rather he seeks to determine underlying unconscious -meanings based on both the symbolic and real context of the source under consideration. The symbolic context pertains simply to the fantasy analysis data itself. The real context pertains to the historical events going on when the document under analysis was produced. The concept of meaning that guides deMause when he does fantasy analysis is psychoanalytic dream interpretation. Familiarity with Freud's Interpretation of Dreams is essential here, if one really wants to be able to do fantasy analysis in a proper way.

We look first at the manifest or overt content of the material to see what it is consciously and intentionally saying about "real" events. Then, with a different mindset, we reread the material again for its latent or fantasy content. This involves the meanings gained from the associations of the analyzer to the fantasy analysis words, plus what one can glean from knowing about the historical context of the document.[13]

Since the data obtained from fantasy analysis does not always produce words and phrases that fit together in recognizable ways, the problem of interpretation is very real. Indeed, this was a major reason for our doing the present study: we wanted to find out more about how scholars would interpret such material and understand to what degree scholars will produce interpretations in common. "Although it is true that each person reading the results of a fantasy analysis will differ on the interpretation to be assigned to various feelings and themes, still the existence of these themes should be something most analysts should be able to agree upon. Obviously, how one puts.. them together will vary according to one's theoretical orientation."[14] Our study verifies this judgement.

Does, then, fantasy analysis assume too much or claim too much on the basis or limited evidence? Perhaps, if it were used as the be-all and end-all for interpretation. But is this the case? No. Scholars try to amass as much evidence as possible from all sources to make their interpretations. Fantasy analysis is an additional and useful interpretative tool that the psychohistorian can and should consider using when attempting to understand the motivations of historical groups.


The following points are derived from our analysis of the data, personal communications with Lloyd deMause and examination of the psychohistorical literature.

(1) The sum is greater than the parts. We found that there was a greater commonality in the themes that our analyzers came up with in their interpretations than in the fantasy words and phrases they produced. The words and phrases are not the literal hidden meaning of the docu-ment. Instead they serve as stimulus to the interpreting mind of the scholar. Howard Stein points out that one can discern

themes both by looking at individual items (e.g. words, phrases, music) and at the relationship within a sequence of items... once can measure changes in the overall pattern both in terms of what is included/excluded and how much is included/excluded. In terms of content analysis, the item itself has meaning, and it acquires additional meaning from its context.. one simply cannot know a pattern before hand; one must combine rigor with a discerning eye for the unexpected.[15]

(2) Eliminate nouns whenever possible, as deMause says, and concen-trate on verbs and adjectives." However, we found that the respondents did not zealously follow this rule and this did not seem to undermine their interpretations.

(3) Make up fantasy interpretive sentences. DeMause has begun to follow a rather simple method of interpretation, which is easier said than done. None of the authors has had significant success in applying this technique. On the left hand of a page in his Reagan's America deMause lists fantasy words and phrases; on the right half of the page he interprets the words by writing them into sentence with as few extraneous words as possible. A brief example should suffice to illustrate the idea. This is from an interpretation of Reagan's State of the Nation Address given on February 5, 1981.

mess.. .out of control... runaway... like radioactivity out of voice and breath... freeze.. .freeze. . cuts... cuts.. cuts.. exploded... unleash... out of control... stalled.. judgement day... shattered. We feel like a MESS, OUT OF CONTROL, RUNAWAY, LIKE RADIOACTIVlTY. We are so OUT OF CONTROL that, as in a WAR, we are OUT OF BREATH and FREEZING. We must CUT someone or we'll EXPLODE and UNLEASH our OUT-OF-CONTROL rage, which, if not STALLED now, will produce a final JUDGEMENT DAY which will leave us SHATTERED."

The process here is not simple and can stimulate much anxiety. But Henry Lawton has found that as he practiced this technique feelings of anxiety and uncertainty diminished. Anxiety is a major deterrence to fantasy analysis that lessens with practice. The following is an example of this technique applied to Document #1.

nature.. . nature's . . . God creator... rights... safety happiness.. suffer... evils... NATURE'S GOD is the CREATOR of the RIGHTS of HAPPINESS and SAFETY. HAPPINESS helps SURFER EVILS...
sufferable.. right.. abolishing. . . abusers... absolute despotism.. sufferance... SUFFERING is Right to ABOLISH the ABUSE of ABSOLUTE DESPOTISM.
absolute tyranny.. good.suspended... suspended... right.. right.. tyrants... bodies... uncomfortable... fatiguing.. manly firmness invasions.. rights... annihilation... dangers... invasion.. convulsions... harass.. eat out their substance... SUFFERANCE of ABSOLUTE TYRANNY is GOOD because it SUSPENDS RIGHTS. TYRANTS BODIES are UNCOMFORTABLE which is FATIGUING to MANLY FIRMNESS. INVASIONS are RIGHT. ANNIHILATION of DANGERS creates INVASIONS which CONVULSE and HARRASS. EAT OUT THEIR SUBSTANCE...

Lawton was surprised by the elements of doublethink in the sentences he created. It is difficult to know if the variations in interpretations stem primarily from the difference in the documents or in the interpreters.

(4) Concentrate on meaningful repetitions. Repeated fantasy words and phrases can be an important index or intense feelings.[18] Generally, it is best to leave out words that would ordinarily be fantasy words, if they pertain directly to the subject of the document. This would give a false repetition. Lawton has found an interesting attribute of repetitions. If you look at the repeated words or phrases in descending order of frequency they invariably organize themselves into recognizable sentences or phrases requiring minimal Insertion of other words to enhance the sense."

We offer an example from Lawton's analysis of Document # I, which makes the point. The four most repeated words that he found were: RIGHT(S), 7 times; WAR(FARE), 4 times; SUFFER(ANCE) (ABLE), 3 times; ABOLISH(ING), 3 times. This comes out as:


Certainly this seems a rather obvious message from the Declaration of Independence, but one that was surely felt with considerable emo-tional Intensity.[20].

(5) Check for ambivalence in sources by looking at ale fantasy words and phrases for "pairs, or sets of affective opposites."[21]

(6) Devise categories for the words or phrases. These may be helpful in determining the emotional issues inherent in a large mass of material. To our knowledge there is no set list of categories to use in such an effort.[22]

(7) Relate the fantasies derived from these processes back to the historical situation. To be useful fantasy analysis must ultimately be derived from and related back to reality.

(8) Do this work with a computer. It will save eye strain, time, improve the accuracy of the tabulations and make it easier for collaborative articles to have fully consistent word counts. At the present time we know of no one using a computer for this purpose.


Fantasy analysis is a replicable methodology. Estimating the validity of the interpretation requires comparison with other psychohistorical evidence.

This research project has strengthened our beliefs in and lessened our skepticism of the value of fantasy analysis. It led Paul Eloviti to propose a new course centered on the methodology entitled: The Psychohistory of TV and Other Media. He is also planning to use fantasy analysis to trace fantasies and emotions in an historical dream workshop and to use another experimental dream workshop to test the accuracy of some fantasy analyses. Henry Lawton has not been able totally resolve his skepticism, but will definitely be making more use of this technique in future scholarship. He is interested in the applicability of fantasy analysis to the psychohistorical study of film. George Luhnnann will continue to use fantasy analysis in his study of the dynamics of the Soviet-U.S. arms race.

We hope that by doing this study we have shown there is much worth to fantasy analysis, and, despite the anxieties and questions that remain, it can and should be widely used by psychohistorians.[23]

Henry Lawton, MA., M.L. S., is an independent scholar, Book Review Editor of this Journal, and Associate Director of the Psychohistory Forum. He is currently writing The Psychohistorian's Handbook.

Paul H. Elovitz, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist in private practice in Ridgewood and Teaneck. New Jersey, a faculty member at Ramapo College and Director of the Psychohistory Forum. He is currently editing an experimental and psychohistorical book on dreams.

George Luhrmann, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in Englewood, New Jersey, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University and an active member of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

COMMENT On Doing Fantasy Analysis by: Howard F. Stein

(Refrences and Appendices below)

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Refrences for
On Doing Fantasy Analysis

1. In this section references to "us" in the context of the 1980-8I Fantasy Analysis Project refers to Paul Elovitz and Henry Lawton. They first met George Luhrmann in 1983.

2. Fantasy analysis was first described in Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy, ed. Lloyd deMause and Henry Ebel (NY: Psychohistory Press, 1977.)
See Also: David R. Beisel, "From History to Psychohistory: A Personal Journey," Journal of Psychohistory 6 #l (Summer 1978), 1-65; Lloyd deMause, "Historical Group-Fantasies," Journal of Psychohistory.? 11 (Summer 1979), 1-70: Casper Schmidt: work includes the following: "The Use of the Gallup Poll as a Psychohistorical Tool," Journal of Psychohistory 1052 (Fall 1982). 141-16; "A Differential Poison Index from the Gallup Poll." Journal of Psychohistory 10 #4 (Spring 1983). 323-32: "Two Specific Forms of Trial Actions," Journal of Psychohistory I1 #2 (Fall 1983) 209-24; "The Group-Fantasy Origins of Aids," Journal of Psychohistory 12 #1 (Summer 1984) 37-78; On resistance to fantasy analysis see David R. Beisel "Thoughts Concerning Some Objections to Group-Fantasy Analysis," Journal of Psychohistory 9 #2 (Fall 1982) 237-240.

3. The groups was formed at a November 1980 meeting of the Saturday Workshop of the Institute of Psychohistory. Each member agreed to do fantasy analysis of a newspaper or magazine and report on it at monthly meetings held in New York City. The project culminated in a panel discussion on fantasy analysis at the June 1981 International Psychohistory Association.

4. George Lahrmann, "The KAL 007 Shootdown: A Symbol in the Search for Evil" Journal of Psychohistory 12 #1 (Summer 1984)79-120.

. These are the difference between method of counting repeated words in the analysis of Documents #1 and #2. Repeated instances of an individual word in Document #1
(e.g. "aggression") are treated as one word, whereas each word is counted separately in the analysis of Document #2. There were not clear consequences of doing it either war.

6. One 'very familiar" respondent was not included in the fantasy analysis of Document #1 because the material came in after the analysis was concluded on Document #1 but was included in the analysis of Document #2. Inspection of his productions indicate there would be no effect on the conclusions.

7. Lloyd deMause, "The Independence of Psychohistory" History of Childhood Quarterly 3 #2 (Fall 1975)163-83.

8. For more discussion of these issues see: "Reply by Lloyd deMause." History of Childhood Quarterly, 3 52 (Fall 1975). 200; Francis S. Most, "World Transformstion," Journal of Psychohistory 4 #3 (Winter 1977) 312; David R. Beisel "The Palatactic Psychohistory of Henry Ebel," Journal of Psychohistory 6 #3 (Winter 1979) 426; David R. Beisel, "From History to Psychohistory: A Personal Journey," Journal of Psychohistory 6 #l (Summer 1978); Henry Lawton, " Psychohistory: Today & Tomorrow," Journal of Psychohistory 5 #3 (Winter 1978) 338-39; Howard M. Feinstein, "The Therapeutic Fantasy of a Psychohistory." Psychoanalytic Review 69 52 (Summer 1982) 226; Lloyd deMause. Psychohistory and Psychotherapy," History of Childhood Quarterly 2 #3 (Winter 1975)401-14; Casper Schmidt, "Alchemists, Critics, and Psychohistorinas." Journal of Psychohistory 8 #3 (Winter 1981) 344; Fred Weinstein, "The Transference Model is Psychohistory: A Critique," Psychohistory Review 5 14 (Mar 1977) 14-15, "The Self in History," GUPH Newsletter 3 14 (Mar 1975) 3-10; Henry Lawton, "Group Fantasies of Psychohistory," 413-36 in The Many Faces of Psychohistory, ed. Joseph Dorinson and Jerrold Atlas (N.Y.: IPA and Long Island University 1984); Personal Communication by Henry Lawson with David Beisel and Lloyd deMause.

9. Lloyd deMause, "Historical Group Fantasies," Journal of Psychohistory 711 (Summer 1979)10.

10. Henry Lawson, "Group Fantasies of Psychohistorians" 413-36 in The Many Faces of Psychohistory, ed. J. Dorinson and J. Atlas (N.Y.: (PA, 1984)427-29. Personal communication wtsh Lloyd deMause has also been most helpful in the formulation of the last two paragraphs.

11. Personal communication with Melvin Goldstein, 23 February 1985. All of this deals with psycholinguistic issues too complex to go into here, readers wishing so study further might consult: Psychollnguistics: A Book of Readings, ed. Sol Saporata (NY: Holt. Rinehart & Winston, 1961).

12. Melvin Goldstein, "Identity Crisis In a Midsummer Nightmare: Comedy as Tenor In Disguise," Psychoanalytic Review, 60 52 (Summer 1973)172.

13. Personal communication with Lloyd deMause was helpful in formulating the Ideas in
this paragraph.

14. Lloyd deMause, "Historical Group Fantasies" 26.

15. Howard F. Stein, "Trumpets and Drums: Some Issues of Interpretation and Methodology in the Study of American Group Fantasy" Journal of Psychohistory 9 52 (Fall 1981) 211-12.

16. Personal communication with Lloyd deMause.

17. This example is taken from Lloyd deMause, Reagan's America (New York: Creative Roots, 1984) 4. It includes many more examples and is worthy of close study by the scholar wishing to attempt fantasy analysis.

18. Howard F. Stein, "War and Rumor of War: A Psychohiatorical Study of Medical Culture," Journal of Psychohistory 7 #4 (Spring 1980) 382. Lawton hit on the idea of using repetitions before finding this confirmation in Stein's work.

19. Henry Lawson, "Group Fantasies of Psychohistorians."

20. We spotlighted Lawson's work here because as far as we know, he is the only one who has paid any systematic attention to the importance of repetition.

21. Howard F. Stein, "Trumpets and Drums...," 203.

22. Henry Lawson, "Group Fantasies of Psychohistorians," 424-26.

23. We wish to thank the following people for performing the time consuming task of doing the fantasy analysis. Kenneth Adams, Andrew Brink, Patrick Dunn, Laura Eads, Alice Eichholtz, Aurel Ends, Faris Kirkland, Salvadore Prisco, Robert Rousselle, Carl Ryant, Rochelle Schatzunan, Howard Stein, and Melvin Tucker. We also wish to thank Lloyd deMause, Melvin Goldstein and Arthur Hippler for their personal com-munications regarding this project.

Appendices for
On Doing Fantasy Analysis



Criterion for selection: words cited five or more times by 13 respondents.

Category Separate Words Total Words Including Repeats Total # Citations by 13 Respondents

Individual Words

(Threat 18/111 means that the word repeated eighteen times in the document and is cited one hundred eleven times by all thirteen respondents.) Words are listed in decreasing frequency of appearance.

Aggression -Threat 18/111, arms 12/55, attack 11/559, war 9/48, military 8/26, nuclear 8/25, aggressive 7/45, cutting 6/56, warheads 3/21, forces 5/19, weapons 318, destroy 2/13, adversary 2/8, bomber 2/8, conflict 2/7, launch 2/5, trimmed to the limits of safety 1/9, sacrifice 1/8, strike directly 1/7, loud voices 1/7, undercut 1/7, oppressing 1/6, start fights 1/6, noise 1/6, scapegoat 1/6, intimidate 1/5, struggle 1/5, targeted 1/5, bombarded 1/4.

Defend - defense 23/83, protect 4/19.

Deter/Revenge - deter 16/71, retaliation 4/21, avengee 1/6.

Secure/Safe - peace 16/73, security 9/41, vital 5/223, hops 3/13, stability 3/12, support 3/10, preserve 3/10, save 2/9, freedom 2/8, human 2/6, for our children 1/6, success 1/5.

Strong - strength 16/93, power 9/43, offensivee 5/28, superiority 4/13. build 3/10, massive 2/9. grow 2/9, formidable 2/6, steadily increased 1/5, restore 1/5.

Weak - reduce 8/33, obsolete 2/13, dismantlee 2/9, eliminate 2/8, impotent 1/10. weakness 1/7, setbacks 1/6, unarmed 1/5. lose our ability 1/5, failures 1/5, waste 1/5, blinding 1/5, stop In midstream 1/5.

Anxious/Tense - crises 3/13, risk 3/12, endangering 2/14, danger 2/12, pressure 2/10, tension, 1/8, afraid of decline 1/6, appalled 1/6, spector 1/6, surprised I/5.

Depressed - neglect 5/28, lost 2/10, tragedy 2/8, poor morale 1/7, of lessened will 1/6, apathy 1/5.

Miscellaneous - freeze 4/18, interstate 2/8, age 2/8, none 2/7, future 2/6, space 2/6, very big decision, 1/25, deep 1/8, breakthrough 1/6, sensitive Intelligence sources & methods 1/5.



The Purpose of a Fantasy Analysis is to locate those words in is historical document which communicate the emotional message-a shared group-fantasy-and to eliminate the "con-scious" message which makes the group-fantasy acceptable to the conscious mind. Therefore, the psychohistorian should first read the document through once for oven con-tent, to satisfy she urge so know what rational message is being conveyed, and then a second time to perform the Fantasy Analysis.

It is literally impossible to do both tasks at once - as soon as you allow what the author it "saying" to engage your attention, you will lose the thread of the underlying fantasy message. There are two distinct mind sets (actually both are part of the fetal trance stare, one defensive and one emotional), and since the "conscious" message, which is 99% of the content of the document, is designed to distract and deny the unconscious content, one simply cannot read for both messages at one time.
I have found the following rules useful in finding those words which convey the group-fantasy of any historical document:

1. Record all metaphors and similies. regardless of context. This is not as easy as is may sound-she history of etymology shows all phrases beginning in a meraphoric haze and only becoming specific with long us,,. it is better to include borderline cases than leave them out-for instance, "arms cuts" begins to have fantasy overtones (in a disarmament conference) once connected with other fantasy words which comes to convey the literal meaning of cuts in the (human) arm.

2. Record all body language, feeling tones, and strong emotional states. Obviously the words "kill," "death," "love," "hate" and so on convey important emotional messages-but what is fascinating is how often they occur in contexts that simultaneously deny their importance and defend against their "really" having an emotional meaning. Often a meeting which is deciding on going to war spends much of its time discussing procedural matters in a very dull, emotionless language, but just as everyone is about so fall asleep, slips in terms like "killing the outstanding bill" or "progress on the bill has come to a dead halt," and the psychohistorian must be alert enough to pick up just the words "killing" and "dead."

3. Record all repetitive. unusual, or gratuitous word usage. This requires total concentration, especially when a long document is being examined, since the repetitions are often pages apart and the "unusualness" of a word or phrase depends upon contest. But if, for Instance, a Russian revolutionary document uses "coming out" several tunes (to mean revolution), this should be picked up as an important unusual phrase conveying a particularly potent emotional message.

4. Record any obviously symbolic terms, especially political retina, like flags and such, but also including familial imagery or any other overtly symbolic phrases.

5. Eliminate all negatives. A speaker coming before you and saying "I do not want to streak today about war, revolution, death. fear and destruction" is, of course, conveying the positive message he denies. All negatives and all denials are part of the defensive, not the fantasy, structure: as Freud said long ago, the unconscious does not know the negative.

6. Eliminate all subjects and objects. The basic defensive technique involves projection of subject and/or object, so one cannot depend on the language of she speaker to indicate the real subject/object of the fantasy. So when the document says "The Russians are cracking," only the word "cracking" is copied down: whether it is Russians that are truly cracking or whether it is the speaker (and his group) who feel they are cracking should be left to other evidence.

7. Record all group feelings. laughter, moments of relaxation in meetings, breaks, asides, tense silences, and so on. wherever possible.

8. Note any long periods of no imagery. If. in a meeting. you cannot find a single image for pages and pages of dialogue, make a note of this in brackets in your analysis - it indicates that there is a lack of group development and that group-fantasy is being severely repressed for some reason.

. .

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