CITE: Rank, O. The Trauma of Birth. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. 1932

In this book, Otto Rank argues that the human experience of birth shapes our psychological development and affects our behavior throughout our lives.
There are many editions. To read the edition in 1929 click here


  • Rank argues that the experience of birth is the prototype for all subsequent experiences of separation and individuation, and that it creates a fundamental sense of alienation and anxiety.
  • He suggests that the infant’s experience of being pushed out of the womb is traumatic because it represents a loss of the sense of unity with the mother.
  • Rank believes that the experience of being born creates a sense of separation and alienation from the mother, which is the root of all human anxiety and neurosis.
  • He also argues that creativity and artistic expression are ways of compensating for the trauma of birth and reconnecting with the mother.
  • Rank’s ideas about the trauma of birth have been influential in psychoanalytic theory, and have led to the development of various forms of therapy aimed at helping individuals overcome the effects of early trauma.


  • “Birth is the first experience of anxiety, and the last.” (p. 9)
  • “Birth is the trauma that we are all destined to undergo, and it is a trauma that cannot be surmounted.” (p. 13)
  • “The child’s first crisis occurs at birth, when he is forced to leave the security of the womb and confront the outside world.” (p. 21)
  • “The separation from the mother at birth is the first experience of anxiety, and the prototype of the anxiety that is felt later in all situations of separation or loss.” (p. 32)
  • “The trauma of birth is the prototype of all anxiety, and the source of all neuroses.” (p. 37)
  • “The artist is the man who, in emancipating himself from the ties of life, does not reject them but takes them as his material.” (p. 107)
  • The child envies the dead the happiness of return to the mother and so links his real jealousy to the new brother or sister, generally at the period of pregnancy, that is at the time of the abode in the mother. … The later coming child materializes the deepest wish tendency of the already present child to be again in the mother, and, as it were, spoils once for all the chances of ever returning there.” citation: Rank, Otto . The Trauma of Birth. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, Ltd, New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company. (1929)
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