(((Sigmund Freud)))

To contextualise this series about psychiatry, see: here. Below, an abridged translation of a chapter of one of my books that I wrote in the last century:

‘I’ve never done a mean thing’—Freud [1]

 
It must have been noted that insofar I have used interchangeably the terms ‘psychiatrist’ and ‘analyst’. Before reading Jeffrey Masson I thought they were two essentially different things.

How mistaken I was. Now I know that since its beginnings psychoanalysis has been closely related to psychiatry, and that in the United States and Canada almost all analysts are both physicians and psychiatrists. Sigmund Freud himself, who initiated his career as an electrotherapist, flourished thanks to an amalgamation of his system with psychiatric policies. For instance, the first journal of psychoanalysis was published by Eugene Bleuler and Freud in 1909. Again, like Kraepelin and Bleuler, it was difficult for Freud to side his ‘patients’ and easy to side their parents.

The psychiatrist Krafft-Ebing disliked a letter that Nina R., a nineteen-year-old girl, sent him saying she had erotic dreams. He wrote to Freud accusing her of ‘psychic masturbation’. In 1891 Freud wrote: ‘Nina R. has always been overexcited, full of romantic ideas, thinks her parents do not like her. Has the occasional fantasy that her father does not love her’, and in 1893 Freud wrote to Dr. Binswanger about this girl:

The inborn crookedness of her character manifested itself in her forgetting her immediate duties, her adjustment to her milieu, while she strove to gain interests on a more idealistic level and absorb more exalted intellectual stimuli. [2]

Clearly, this was a case of one of those so-called liberated women at the end of the 19th century chased by medical inquisitors that wanted them ‘sick’ to ‘treat’ them. (Note of 2018: Keep in mind that although I want to restore patriarchy, this must be done in the Aryan way by restoring the Jane Austen world in England for example. On the other hand, this business of pseudo-medical labelling as a previous step to assault healthy brains is a non-Aryan way of doing things.)

Freud also used his position to degrade male adolescents. This comes up from his own writings. In Psychopathology of Everyday Life Freud recounts that a mother asked him to examine her son. Freud noticed a spot in his pants and the adolescent said that an egg had fallen upon him. Freud didn’t swallow the story and talked with the mother in private. He diagnosed that the boy was ‘suffering from the troubles arising from masturbation’.[3] The point of the anecdote, which I owe to Tom Szasz, is that the boy did not suffer absolutely of anything: it was the ignorant mother the one who was preoccupied of the emergent sexuality of her son. But since, contra Hollywood, Freud shared the sexual prejudices of his age, he saw as ‘psychopathological’ something so normal as an adolescent ejaculation. Whether masturbation produced the spot or not, just as Catholics take the child to the confessional, the boy’s ejaculation merited a whole medical ceremony that culminated in a formal diagnosis. This was no lapse by Freud. Throughout his life he shared the 19th-century European hysteria about masturbation: he believed it to be noxious and even called it an ‘addiction’. [4]

Freud not only sided the parents in conflicts with youngsters, but the State as well. I had said that Freud started his career as an electrotherapist, but did not explain that this therapy was a medical torture in disguise used by the Austro-Hungarian Empire government. The German psychiatrist Julius Wagner-Jauregg used painful electrical shocks in the First World War against the fearful youngsters that wanted to abandon the military service. After the war some of the soldiers under this ‘treatment’ in the psychiatric ward of the Vienna General Hospital complained. In 1920, a commission was designated to investigate the charges. The commission asked Freud for his opinion. He defended Wagner-Jauregg and not only that: he insisted on calling ‘patients’ these soldiers and to talk of their fear as ‘illness’. The commission decided in favour of Wagner-Jauregg. Freud never repented about the defence he made of this case. [5]

In comparatively healthier times, the fact of being Jewish prevented Freud to do the career of a psychiatrist: a profession closely related to the State, so he elaborated a sophisticated method, ‘psychoanalysis’. I cannot make a detailed examination of analytic theory but can focus on its most important aspects.

Freud abandoned his own ‘seduction theory’, the discovery that some women that consulted him suffered from memories of having been raped by their fathers. In 1896 Freud wrote an article about the subject, ‘The aetiology of hysteria’, but when he realised that his scandalous revelations only estranged him from his colleagues in Vienna, he turned over his ideology and decided it was better to blame the victims. Freud then labelled these women as ‘hysterical’, and defined hysteria as an occult desire to be seduced. Although incest does indeed occur in some families, this revaluation of his original findings was to be the cornerstone on which Freud built his edifice. For psychoanalysis the year 1897 signals both the abandonment of the seduction theory (if you say that your father molested you…) and the ‘discovery’ of the Oedipus complex (… it means you fancied him).

In the year 1900, at the turn of the century, Freud saw for the first time the girl Ida Bauer, called ‘Dora’ in his writings. Mr K., an industrialist and friend of Dora’s father, had tried to seduce Dora several times, the first one when she was fourteen. When Dora spoke out about the situation her father decided to take her to the physician. The girl did not want to go: she only asked to be kept at a distance from Mr K. But finally she yielded. In a session with Freud, Dora recounted her story: since her father did not help her, perhaps the doctor could vindicate her. Freud listened to her during several sessions and, in contrast to his father, he believed her story. But he did something else. Let us listen to Freud:

You will agree that nothing makes you so angry as having it thought that you merely fancied the scene by the lake [the place of the seduction]. I know now—and this is what you do not want to be reminded of—that you did fancy that Mr K.’s proposals were serious, and that he would not leave off until you had married him. [6]

This is one of the sins that analysts commit. In this very moment one of them is ‘interpreting’ the mind of one of his unwary clients in a way as capricious as this seminal case. After Freud’s interpretation, that she was in love of a man so mature that could be her father, Dora said good-bye to the quack doctor never to come back. Freud retaliated contriving the theory that if someone does not agree with the analyst’s interpretation it is simply due to lack of insight: of not wanting to face one’s own psychological reality. Freud baptised this additional interpretation, elevated to doctrine in psychoanalysis, as resistance. To him this word meant that, once the analyst has made a diagnosis the case is closed, the rest is ‘resistance’:

We must not be led astray by initial denials. If we keep firmly to what we have inferred, we shall in the end conquer every resistance by emphasizing the unshakable nature of our convictions. [7]

What Freud really wanted was that his patients fell in a state of folie à deux with him. Freud not only failed to apologise to Dora for the stupidity he had told her, but elevated his stupid interpretation to the level of science with his literary resources: the essay of Freud on Dora is the most extensive clinic story of the Freudian legacy and the most cited about female ‘hysterics’. Because those in the cult of psychoanalysis consider Freud almost infallible, throughout the decades the Freudians have devoted themselves to continue to defile Dora’s image in their writings—without having met her. Famous analysts such as Ernest Jones, Felix Deutch, Jacques Lacan and even feminists like Toril Moi have expressed themselves with contempt for Dora. In other words, the folie à deux between Freud’s ideas and his followers continues. [8]

By the end of the 19th century, in a letter to his intimate friend Wilhelm Fliess, Freud had confessed that because of his essay on seduction ‘the word has been given out to abandon me and I am isolated’.[9] The isolation was caused by his theory of incest. But the Dora case vindicated him. His new theory of hysteria meant a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn over his previous position. Now Freud had no powerful industrialists like Mr K. as a target, but a helpless girl. Freud’s behaviour was already in line with psychiatry: to side parents, the affluent classes and to oppose its victims. From this perspective, it is no exaggeration to say that psychoanalysis was founded on the betrayal of women and children.

The Dora case and the abandonment of his seduction theory are no lapses of the founder of psychoanalysis. They invalidate two pillars of the Freudian edifice: the notion of hysteria and the famed Oedipus complex. After abandoning his ‘seduction theory’, that is, the discovery of some of his female patients had been victims of incest, Freud did not become interested again in the sorrows of the world. In fact, contra popular views his system has nothing to do with psychological trauma. For example, in all of the vast work of Freud and his disciple Carl Jung, there is no single line critical of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. Jung himself learned his craft in the Burghölzli Hospital of Zurich under the supervision of Eugen Bleuler, the same psychiatrist who invented the word schizophrenia. On occasion Freud played the accomplice of Jung’s penitentiary psychiatry. On 16 May 1908 Freud wrote to Jung:

Enclosed the certificate for Otto Gross. Once you have him, don’t let him out before October, when I shall be able to take charge of him.[10]

This is Mafia. Gross himself was a physician who, ironically, had published that year a letter to the editor objecting the involuntary confinement of a girl by her father. Fortunately on 17 June Gross escaped the Burghölzli. Jung retaliated by labelling him ‘schizophrenic’. Freud accepted the slander with enthusiasm. [11]

 
Siding the witch burners

Like his forerunner Charcot, when discussing the subject of women persecuted by the Inquisition Freud wrote about ‘hysterics’. This is one of the facts that shocked me the most while reading a classic by Szasz, The Manufacture of Madness: Freud and his mentor did not talk of the perpetrators of the Inquisition but diagnosed their victims. In his obituary of Charcot, Freud wrote:

By pronouncing possession by a demon to be the cause of hysterical phenomena, the Middle Ages in fact chose this solution; it would only have been a matter of exchanging the religious terminology of that dark and superstitious age for the scientific language of today.[12]

As Szasz has noted this is an extraordinary claim. Freud acknowledges that the psychoanalytic description of hysteria is merely a semantic revision of the demonological one! [13]

In the 4th century the stigmatising labels of the Christian Newspeak were ‘pagan’ and ‘heretic’. A thousand years later there were no pagans, only heretics; but a new group became the target of stigmatisation: some women, also-called ‘witches’. In 1486 the Dominican theologians Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Krämer published the Malleus Maleficarum, literally The Hammer of the Witches: the ideological source of terror for innumerable women that would last centuries. The number of assassinated women by the Inquisition is unknown, but some estimates yield numbers from a hundred thousand to half a million (the last execution for ‘witchcraft’ performed in 1793 in Poland).

Incredible as it may seem, these victims of crazed Christians are not considered such in the writings of psychiatrists. Following Charcot and Freud they talk of neuro-pathologies referring not to the inquisitors, but to their victims. For instance, for psychiatry historians Franz Alexander and Sheldon Selesnick the fact that these women were tortured and burned by the Inquisition is enough to convert them, not the murderers into objects of medical interest. And what do the psychiatrists say of the inquisitors? Gregory Zilboorg, another psychiatry historian called Sprenger and Krämer ‘two honest Dominicans’.[14] Similar words of admiration can be read in the writings of Jules Masserman, another psychiatrist. Of course, these psychiatrists, as haughty as medieval theologians, diagnose ‘psychopathologies’ centuries later, without having examined any of these women.

I call this ‘Wonderland Logic’ making reference to Lewis Carroll’s tale: the surrealism of accusing the victim and not the perpetrators. In the psychiatric Wonderland, almost every psychiatrist believes in these official histories of psychiatry. Fortunately, for historians who are not psychiatrists like Hugh Trevor-Roper the witch-hunt was by all means a paranoiac enterprise of the Church; after the Enlightenment there is no excuse to see in other way this chapter of history.

Freud’s semantic ‘hysterical’ revision over the demonological speaks of his virtual lack of morals and compassion. It is no surprise that a fellow who labels as ‘hysterical’ a victim of religious fanatics had treated patients the way he did.

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[1] Ernest Jones quoting Sigmund Freud in Thomas Szasz, The myth of mental illness (Harper & Row, 1974), p. 153.

[2] Quoted in Against therapy (op. cit.), p. 82.

[3] The manufacture of madness, p. 195.

[4] Ibid., pp. 194-196.

[5] The myth of psychotherapy (op. cit.) has a chapter about electrotherapy and Freud.

[6] Against therapy, p. 95.

[7] Quoted in Paul Gray, ‘The assault on Freud’ (Time, 29 November 1993), p. 33.

[8] Against therapy, pp. 108-113. In his book, Masson devotes a whole chapter to the story of Dora.

[9] Ibid., p. 104.

[10] Anti-Freud, pp. 135f (footnote).

[11] Ibid., p. 136.

[xii] The manufacture of madness, p. 73.

[13] Ibid.

[14] The position of Charcot, Freud, Zilboorg and the other psychiatrists on the Inquisition appears in The manufacture of madness, pp. 73-81 esp., and in Szasz’s The myth of mental illness (Harper and Row, 1974), chapter 8.

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One Comment

  1. Incredible as it may seem, these victims of crazed Christians are not considered such in the writings of psychiatrists. maybe someday microbiology will identify the source of religious beliefs as brain viruses.


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