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2021 © Derek Dey

Publisher: BoD – Books on Demand GmbH Hellerup, Denmark

Printing: BoD – Books on Demand GmbH Norderstedt, Germany

ISBN: 978-87-4303-785-9

“Life Doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.” - Erik Erikson

Contents:

  1. The Etiology of Hysteria
  2. From Pribor to Vienna
  3. Prelude; the sexual theories
  4. Dream Work
  5. The two Mothers and the roots of the Oedipal world
  6. The two fathers
  7. Of the psychosexual stages
  8. The topographical model
  9. Templates of Denial Displacement and Sublimation
  10. Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his Childhood
  11. Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics
  12. Moses and Monotheism
  13. The Discontents - the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society
  14. Afterthoughts

Introduction: My interest in Freud lingered in the wings of skepticism for quite some time. I had thought about writing a work on the psychology of the creative self but soon realized Freud could not simply be bypassed as he is one of the founders of modern psychology. There are others like CG Jung who worked simultaneously on psychological theory and for a time in co-relation to Freud. Nevertheless the Freudians, tied to the Wednesday Psychological Society, who met early in Freud’s apartment in Vienna, cannot be ignored either. Indeed, many went on to offer both developmental and substantially different ideas but might not otherwise have done much when we consider these early friendships, discontents, and dynamics, predicated to Freud’s work. The Psychoanalytic Society (the Wednesday group) kept psychoanalysis vital as a discipline and opened to further avenues explored beyond Freud’s work; a diaspora of developmental psychological thought.

Nevertheless, Freud’s Oedipal theory emerged from an early and introspective period through 1897 whereby his seminal, 'Interpretation of Dreams’ also surfaced soon afterward in 1900. ‘Dreams,’ introduced the notion of the unconscious to the public. The Oedipal theory offered Freud's idea of a ‘family romance,’ libido, instinctual drives, and his psychosexual theories along with attendant pathologies. Much of all this came to define Freudian thought but The Oedipal theory developed further by 1910, offered a radical change from his original hypothesis, ‘The Aetiology of Hysteria-1896.’ This root of hysteria in this first account held to actual abuse by a parent or caretaker. Hence from this pathological background emerged various crises of the self. His second postulate, his Oedipal Theory, said childhood wish, and fantasy became a root cause for mental illness and arguably released the parent or caretaker from the major causative role of abuse. The Oedipal world, even from its mythic origins, proffered a hatred of the father and a wish for an unnatural and intimate relationship to the mother by the sibling. This sudden turnaround from Freud's early theories to his Oedipal Theory, continues contentiously in the minds of some who have explored this material, therefore the book first examines the confluence of events leading to this radical shift in Freud’s thinking and seeks to find a reasonable explanation for this change of course he made mid-life.

With Freud’s personal letters andocuments being made available by 1981, it became clear, that Freud’s pathological family dynamics had much to do with his final analysis of the human condition. His published works, in fact, those which variously encode the Oedipal complex into Freud’s studies, personal, familial, and psychological, and into the establishment of psychoanalysis itself. Moreover, Freud’s identity confusion arising from his family relations which he notes, are also tied to the Oedipal triad and beyond into his extended family, are all explored. Much of this concerns Freud’s doubts about who his father actually was, and how this also played into much of his work to the end. Insofar as Freud struggled lifelong with the idea of two fathers, Jakob and Phillip, he also struggled with two mothers, his Wet-Nurse Rezi with her Catholic influence, and his biological mother Amalie supplying liberal Judaic influences. The two mothers come up, not by accident, in his work on Leonardo da Vinci and the two fathers are well encoded into his final work, ‘Moses and Monotheism. ’ His unnatural bonding with his mother, and the historical epoch, including Fin de siècle Vienna, to which he belonged, also left Freud with a weak record of the feminine which we will also touch on.

The Oedipal template, a triangulated and pathological model then comes to inform much of Freud’s portfolio and his friendships. Yet, beyond Oedipal Theory, Freud obviously offers major psychological insights including, further examination of the unconscious, the psyche composed of his topographical self with Id, Ego, and Superego, defense mechanisms such as displacement, repressed conflict, denial, and Object relations which open eventually to a journey to the Attachment Theories of today, though with some substantial changes made in the process. Citations still embrace the works of Freud and Psychoanalysis, still with some references to Freud, unfolds through other theorists such as Abraham Maslow, Karen Horney, D. W. Winnicott and others of the British school for example. Daniel Stern, in 1980, specifically took his infant studies beyond Oedipal theory to the Motherhood Constellation which posits a healthy matrix of familial empathies still examined today leaving the Oedipal theory as a lesser pathology. The rich affects (psychological) found evident in the family triad and the primary influences and regulation of the mother now embrace the emergence of the self in theoretical models, where an early sense of socialization, an ethical stance, and a clear and early sense of identity can emerge. Freud differed here, stugling with an identity crises through life.

In presenting a theory of psychosexual stages, Freud’s Metaphsychology, which stirred up many controversies, still leaves Freud as the first to develop a stadial system of human development, limited though it was in his time-frame. It nevertheless, set the stage for others who moved beyond libido to important personal, social, and transpersonal factors lying beyond psychosexual proposals and woven in to continuing developmental theories. Such theories of the growth stages are illustrated early by Erickson's psychosocial model but others of a transpersonal nature such as Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs followed in his wake and covered the full life-term. Indeed Jungian thought on individuation, developed separately from Freud’s life and work, and might likewise be considered as both archetypal, dynamic and transpersonal by nature, unfolded through life, including elements which were not to Freud’s taste.

Dream Analysis touted as, ‘the royal road to the unconscious, ’ is still a discipline found relevant today and still being applied in therapeutic work. The dream supplies a dorway to the unconscoius often supplying a vibrant web and weft to the unconscious domain. However, the Freudian model remains, mostly subsumed under the shadow of pathologies, 19th Century thinking, and the sciences of these early times which were often considered to be biomechanical by nature. This understanding tended to cross over to some of Freud’s theories. Indeed both Freud and CG Jug made significant references to German Idealists who proceeded them with work, both on the unconscious and a scientific and clinical approach to examining the human psyche; Freud tended to focus on the scientific/ empirical thinkers.

Freud’s work nevertheless, including his early investigations in Aphasia 1891, led him close to the Neuron Doctrine. This takes him to the fore of thinking in that epoch, but he dropped his studies on this thinking that biology might challenge his work in psychoanalysis. The praise for the neuron doctrine therefore passed to Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Nevertheless, subsequent neuroscientific work leads us into modern studies and the theories of Attachments and Affect Regulation, where Freud is still cited. Freud and the Freudians subsequently still present important material for further consideration. The work here examines the Freudian portfolio much of which can be subsumed under the shadow of pathologies, 19th- century thinking, and the science of the times defined as mechanistic. In the last section the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society which gave birth to other Freudians and to a rich field of independent thinkers, which I tagged as the Discontents, were both Freudian by nature and innovative with many going their own way, both creatively and in disagreement. If I tend to concentrate on the analysis of pathological elements detected in Freud’s works it does not negate a certain brilliance in the field of emergent psychology which is sometimes displayed by Freud despite some limitations. Otherwise, we find Freud problematic in some of his theories yet an erudite scholar of his times who brought us insights which cannot simply be ignored.

Derek Dey, Oct, 2020.

1. The Etiology of Hysteria:

In June of 1897, Freud was ensconced with his family in the mountains outside of Vienna, ostensibly on holiday. However, Freud was tussling with his studies in hysteria, its causes, continuing with his practical work on analysis and worrying about his health. Freud was an isolated figure at that time despite his professional background but had published his work, On The Etiology of Hysteria 1875, just a few years before with friend and physician, Joseph Breuer. Studies in Hysteria contained an analysis of a patient, Anna O, whose real name, Bertha Pappenheim, only came out later. As Pappenheim’s symptoms of hysteria had arisen from a period of psychological and physical difficulties, Freud, noting a method of free association in her treatment, used this and concluded the etiology of Anna’s hysteria was rooted in childhood sexual abuse. This case is usually marked up as the origins of Psychoanalytic theory.

Anna O, identified as Bertha and a patient of Breuer, had suffered from symptoms of her illness for two years. As a young and intelligent girl, she had struggled with paralysis and loss of sensation on the right side of her body. Her vision was also periodically restricted, there was a nervous cough, she was unable to drink fluids and struggled to speak in her native language on occasions. Dr. Breuer offered a sympathetic ear when she became his patient and Bertha, in turn, revealed a personality disorder under hypnosis which gave rise to melancholy and phantasies. The hypnosis sessions ended and were replaced by freely talking to Breuer without restraints. Bertha jokingly called this method ‘chimney sweeping’ or ‘the talking cure,’ which in turn gave rise to the notion of free association. It became a method whereby the mind was swept clear, hence the epithet of chimney sweeping, became applicable to analysis. When they talked this way Breuer found her symptoms subsided, at least for a time.

The origins of Bertha’s symptoms were eventually traced to the death of her father in April 1881, whom she was deeply devoted to. Initially causes were hypothesized as being tied to loss and trauma over her father’s illness and death, however, the term hysteria was applied to describe her condition and based on the study, an assertion was made that, "those with hysteria suffer for the most part from their reminiscences."1 In other words, traumatic memories lay at the root of psychological distress yet if processed, some relief could be attained. Freud picked up on the case, focused almost exclusively on sexual material which arose from the process and this became a highly charged issue, which came to lie contentiously between Freud and Breuer. Yet despite this Freud states in his, Lectures on the Introduction to Psychoanalysis, that Breuer’s findings were the foundation for psychoanalytic therapy.

From notes on the case the term ‘repress’ surfaces. Hysteria was then understood as being caused by hidden psychological trauma, events and the subsequent psychodynamics surrounding it which were buried in the subconscious. The energy surrounding this was blocked from surfacing. Trauma and repression were then designated as the hallmarks of hysteria and these events gave Freud insights into the workings of the unconscious. Freud, therefore, thought hysteria was inevitably caused by repressed sexual trauma. These findings were not altogether shocking even for the times. In the light of other explorations of this shadow-side of humanity, Richard von Krafft-Ebing had already examined sexual penversions, publishing his Psychopathia Sexual in 1886, one of the first texts to explore sexual pathology. Another notable researcher of the time was Albert Moll whose work, The Sexual Life of the Child 1862, is thought of as a foundation of modern sexology. He had raised issues concerning sexual stimulation, attraction and libido, well before Freud posited his sexual theory. Still, abuse and repression remained the leitmotif of psychoanalysis.

Bertha Pappenheim’s, talking cure also became the method tied to psychoanalysis which would be described soon in Freud’s, Interpretation of Dreams. It replaced his earlier fascination with hypnosis. Nevertheless, Breuer complained that the complex layers of the neuroses detected in Bertha had been reduced to a single theme of sexuality and abuse in Freud’s analysis, leaving Breuer to object strongly to this narrow definition. Freud, he said, needed more data before jumping the gun to his psychoanalytic and libidinous conclusions. Breuer, in turn, probably held to the conservative mores of the time, which found such talk distasteful and to his empirical method, which he summed up as his position to the psychiatrist Auguste Forel in 1907 when he says, "The plunging into sexuality in theory and practice is not to my taste,”2 The differences lying between Freud and Breuer drove an irreconcilable wedge between them and established a long-standing question tied to Freudian thinking and Freudian methodologies; Freud, right or wrong, was in fact short on data.

Bertha was released from Breuer’s care and in July of 1882 entered the private Bellevue Clinic on Lake Constance. Freud had claimed a cure referring to another term, catharsis, which would also enter the psychoanalytic portfolio. Dating back to the Greeks, this term defined the processes of releasing or providing release from strong or repressed emotion but for Bertha, this was not clearly the case despite the claims. There had been different diagnoses including problems attached to the temporal lobe, epilepsy, tuberculous, meningitis and drug dependency. Whatever the case Bertha struggled with her psychic life for a time but did improve eventually, and went on to be involved in women’s rights, other social concerns and political activities. In addition, At a conference in 1925 CG Jung said the case had been far from the success claimed and in 1932 Freud told Stephan Zweig that Breuer had not brought the case to a successful conclusion either. Bertha in turn vehemently rejected psychoanalysis as the cure. She had gone through morphine addiction, periods of convulsions, depression and suicidal tendencies before entering a creative period in a life marked by her active career, which suggested she was now well. Ellenberger who accessed the case notes later and published both a paper in 1972 and book on his findings, summed up by saying the famed prototype of a cathartic cure had been neither cathartic or a cure.3

In the intervening period, there was marriage for Freud and his first daughter Anna in was born in 1895. There had been an attempt to draft a Scientific Psychology 1895 around that time but from the death of his father, Freud entered a period of self-analysis and change. When Freud came off the mountain in 1897, from a working holiday spent in Bad Aussee, his period of intense self-analysis was already evident. He was reconsidering his life, work, and career during a mid-life crisis. He was somewhat isolated, as mentioned, but had become close friends in the same year with another associate whom Breuer recommended, Wilhelm Fliess (1858-1928), a nose and throat specialist from Berlin. Fliess had developed a unique and curious theory that pathological illnesses are caused by disturbances in the nasal mucous membranes. In 1893 Fliess published, ‘The Nasal Reflex Neurosis’, in which he claimed that health problems, insomnia and ‘anxious dreams,' could all be attributed to nasal pathology. He also claimed that temporary relief of these symptoms was possible with the topical application of cocaine, of which Freud was in support. Freud, in fact, became a cocaine user himself. Moreover, Fliess, holding to his theory, had actually twice operated on Freud's nose for nasal infections.

Fliess became a close confidante. In September of 1897, Freud wrote to him saying he no longer believed in his ‘Neurotica,’ his established theory of the neurosis. It was a surprising statement, which signified a radical shift in thinking to a new etiology of hysteria. By 1899 Freud’s review of his theories was thus well reformulated, shifting trauma away from any real event of abuse, to a world of imagination, fantasy and wish in the part of the child, which became reimagined as The Oedipal Complex. Fliess was shocked by this initial revelation, and the change threw most of Freud’s critics and followers into a state of dismay. Freud’s sexual theories confirmed within the works which followed, raised the ire of many at the time and still remains highly problematic to this day in professional circles. What remains baffling, is the seeming, sudden and inexplicable change Freud made, from the Etiology of Hysteria to The Oedipal Complex in these short months in 1897. To come to terms with this radical transformation towards psychoanalytic theory we now need to look at a number of factors, emerging from Freud’s life and career.

After an academic start in medicine, Freud studied the anatomy of the brain, with Ernst Wilhelm von Brüke at the University of Vienna between 1878 to 1882. Brüke taught him the careful methodology of scientific observation, experimentation and the physical and chemical explanations of biological phenomena. In turn, Freud explored aphasia and neuroanatomy during this formative period.4 Additionally, it is here that Freud published his paper in support of the use of cocaine which was used by prescription to reduce depression.5 By the end of this course of study, Freud had learned that if the depths of the human psyche was to be examined it had to be referred to the laws of science. From the period of German Idealists, a number of studies had surfaced on the nature of the unconscious and the structure and dynamics of the psyche. Some took a transpersonal view but through Fichte, Fechner and others, a more scientific and rational account was supported. Wilhelm Wundt 1832-1920 had already challenged the transcendent philosophical approach to the self by saying there was no strict methodical principle apparent here which could be applied to the transpersonal and set up a formal laboratory for science and psychological research in Leipzig by 1879 in response to this. Wundt is thought of as the earliest father of the science of psychology, though William James 1842-1910, an American psychologist and physician, is also considered in this light but these were early days.

Nevertheless, in the fall of 1885 Freud journeyed to Paris and began studying with Jean Charcot. Many of Charcot’s patients were suffering from hysteria and were typically women. Charcot was tagged by a German neurologist as ’Napoleonkopf’ (Napoleon’s head), quickly gaining him the reputation of the ‘Napoleon of neuroses.’ Charcot was himself a charismatic figure. Yet, because medical tests could not find an organic cause of symptoms of hysteria, Freud’s interest and curiosity in the topic was aroused. Charcot entertained hypnosis as a curative method and through this, some relief was offered for the condition, however, this method was often temporary by nature. Freud struggled with the art of hypnosis but was struck by one point, insofar as hypnosis supplied a forceful demonstration of the power of the mind over the body.

Following this, Freud returned to Vienna and to Joseph Breuer who was also experimenting with hypnotism on his own patients, and introducing a more scientific method to his studies from his medical experiences. It is then with Breuer that Freud participated in their study of Anna O, whom Breuer had begun to treat in 1880.6 As mentioned previously, the two analysts fell out over the focus on a sexual narrative which was lacking in data and otherwise considered as a squeamish and contentious issue within the time-frame and mores of the Victorian age; this despite the fact that Vienna was in the throes of the Fin de siècle movement, which presented a liberal face to the culture of Vienna and other centers in Europe. Both ethical prohibitions and the new liberalism would have a significant impact when psychoanalysis was struggling to gain a scientific foothold as a recognized discipline in its own field. Freud continued nevertheless and became convinced that early traumatic sexual experience (actual abuse) lay at the bottom of hysteria, a problem heightened and disguised by the mechanisms of repression.

Freud came to believe Breuer had failed to understand his point of view and Breuer in turn, thought Freud was lacking in data and mostly out to shock the Bourgeoise. Being a more cautious man by nature Breuer fielded conservatism and his view of what a correct methodology might be. Here the two, failing to find common ground, parted ways. Freud responded to this event by saying of Breuer:

"The development of psycho-analysis afterwards cost me his friendship. It was not easy for me to pay such a price, but I could not escape it."7

Freud was looking for a single cause in his search for the roots of hysteria and his sexual theory, a frightening proposition for many at the time, which set itself predominantly against the cultural norms of the times and prevalent Victorian censorships. Yet within those same times, we have to consider a decline in Christian values and the rise of scientific theories which sought to more accurately define the nature of the world and to redefine sexuality beyond the standard definition of theological sin. The sexual studies of children sought to liberate them from accusations of being unnatural or worse in certain behaviors so in short, times were transitional, ideas were shifting quite rapidly and in to this, we place Freud. Isolated and challenged by a number of factors as he became, his next friendship with Wilhelm Fliess drew him out of the academic and social isolation he had fallen into. Bolstered by this, and approaching his 40th birthday, Freud summoned up the courage to present a lecture on his radical ideas of the origin of hysteria to The Viennese Society for Psychiatry and Neurology. He begins:

"Gentlemen... Imagine that an explorer arrives in a little known region where his interest is aroused by an expanse of ruins... He may content himself with inspecting what lies exposed to view... But he may have brought picks, shovels, and spades, to uncover what is buried... We try, in a similar way, to make the symptoms of hysteria bear witness to the history of the origin of the illness. I... put forward the thesis that at the bottom of every case of hysteria there are one or more occurrences of premature sexual experience, occurrences which belong to the earliest years of childhood... The infantile traumas... must be described without exception as grave sexual injuries; some of them... absolutely appalling."8

Freud had made his case alluding to archeology as a method to explore the depths of the human psyche but faced skepticism, disbelief, contradiction, and outrage. In summarizing, Freud was arguing hysteria was caused by sexual assault on an innocent child by a parent, a primary caregiver, or someone well known to the victim. The presentation of The Etiology of Hysteria was not well received. In turn, Krafft-Ebing another theorist in the psychopathology of sexuality stated, Freud’s presentation sounded like a ‘scientific fairy tale’ and Eisler, former director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, later said, “In any case, the probability of gaining reliable data in these incidents was zero.9 We come back to the problem of missing data but Freud’s, ‘Etiology’ was nevertheless predicated to unconscious memories of actual traumatic experiences of sexual abuse in early childhood and commenting on this root of neuroses, he posits such events recorded as buried memories, were causative of a variety of symptoms:

“The [sexual] scenes must be present as unconscious memories; only so long as, and in so far as, they are unconscious are they able to create and maintain hysterical symptoms.” 10

In placing this psychoanalytic theory before his public Freud suggested these buried traumas and repressed material locked into unconscious memory could be revealed by an archeological exploration of the human psyche, processes which plumbed the depths and layers of the unconscious. The idea of layers and the unconscious was not new. Frederich von Schelling 1775-1854, Eduard von Hartman 1842-1906, and Carl Gustav Carus 1789-186 had all touched on something similar before Freud. Carus, in reviewing his lecture notes, tells us that,

“If someone were to apply the theory of biogenesis to psychology, which has yielded such immensely important information for the sciences, one should trace the development of the soul from its darkest and simplest manifestations to the most complex, highest and purest expressions of life.”11

In fact, Carus had presented a layered structure of the psyche in his, Vorlesungen über Psychologie 1831, where the unconscious and the conscious was further divided into two more layers each. The unconscious, he said, was Un-individuated but the conscious was individuated and the whole thing was set biologically into fundamental functions of life defined by organic growth. Id and Ego, were, therefore, subsequently laid out as interactive agencies formed within the self.

The unconscious was otherwise proposed to be the dark ground, the mysterious, yet innate, origins of an ontological self through this period of German Romanticism. It was birthed along with the biological self from nature but because of its own mysteries it came to be proposed as the irrational alongside any good it may yield; a container of the darkest record of repressed memories, lying at the bottom of the human psyche; and moreover, it was constantly active. This archeology of the self, with its layers, and its dynamic nature, came to lie at the core of the psychoanalytic exploration of such uncharted territory.

The unconscious held material which was both supportive and unacceptable in these models, to the conscious self, hence the mechanism of repression, denial, and displacement, defined some of its defensive walls and mechanisms. There were manifest dimensions to life, which were easily read on the surface and there was buried encoded material, which often never saw the light of day except in areas, which illustrated the traumas and dysfunctions of life. Abuse in particular left memory traces of the event repressed and encoded thus making them inaccessible even to the owner, to the adult patient. Freud opined, the effects of such trauma were measurable in view of their expressions, usually forming as psychosomatic illness, hysteria, and identifiable in neurotically repetitive patterns of certain behaviors. The manifest realm, therefore, pointed to what lay within; it just had to be interpreted properly; the code had to be cracked. The types of abuse recorded, ranged through genital contact, simulated or real intercourse, and oral and anal penetration. What was most disturbing, was the fact that abusers tended to be someone the child knew well and trusted intimately. In this, according to contemporary studies, Freud was not wrong.12

In September 1876, after a long engagement, Sigmund Freud married Martha Bernays. Freud was 26, and his commitment to laboratory science at the time came to a temporary halt. He found himself romantically distracted. He had met the love of his life and between them, they eventually had 6 children but his first passion returned and drew him back to his studies. The marriage suffered because of it. Nevertheless, it was in June of 1897 Freud went on his aforementioned holiday with his family into the mountains and took with him his theory about hysteria, sexual abuse, and his doubts.

It was through this aforementioned period Freud re-evaluated his analytic work on his patients and concluded many, if not most, of his neurotic patients, had not been physically abused. Already immersed in a difficult personal period he fell into despair. Freud came to believe his patients were reporting fantasies. Memories of past events were hard to confirm and analyses of the time had revealed certain anomalies alluding to this in his patients. He concluded, neurotic symptoms were not necessarily related to actual events but to fantasies embodying errant wish. Likewise in self-analysis he considered that he too suffered from neuroses, perhaps finding, in part, certain unavoidable empathies with those he sought to help. In some of this transference and countertransference may have played a role but in any case, in Freud’s letters we read:

"I have never before even imagined anything like this period of intellectual paralysis. I have been through some kind of neurotic experience, curious states... twilight thoughts, veiled doubts... The chief patient I am preoccupied with is myself... my little hysteria... the analysis is more difficult than any other. Something from the deepest depths of my own neurosis sets itself against any advance in understanding neuroses..."13

Gradually working with his material in analysis and self-analysis Freud’s thinking shifted dramatically. By switching from seduction and abuse to fantasies and wish enfolded into a world of self-deception and inner conflict in the child, the birth of psychoanalysis shifted conceptually. He labored over his seduction theory, then on September 21, 1897, he wrote to Fliess:

“And now I want to confide in you immediately the great secret that has been slowly dawning on me in the last few months. I no longer believe in my neurotica [theory of neuroses]"14

This was the letter which shocked Fliess, his professional colleagues, and which continues to trouble us to this day.

By November of the same year, Freud’s ideas had crystallized sufficiently to begin a book on the subject concerning his new thesis. From his analytical work, he drew upon dreams where he saw fantasies, wishes, and fears, expressed in their encoded forms. These could be interpreted. Dreams, he thought, if decoded under analysis, revealed, “The royal road to the unconscious.” If understood properly these manifest contents represented the secretive materials of the subconscious and we could, therefore, see by interpretation, into the interior of the deep layers of the human psyche. It seemed to be the tools he was searching for to use in his archeology of the self. By November 1897 he started writing The Interpretation of Dreams, although not without challenges. His health issues and anxieties about his career and money continued unabated. Still, the book gradually took shape and the final editing took place in August 1899. This project was completed in Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps. Oddly he reported being consumed, ‘like a cancer’ during the process of his book. Indeed cancer would come to him but in the meantime, he writes of his work:

"In the pages that follow I shall bring forward proof that there is a psychological technique which makes it possible to interpret dreams, and that, if that procedure is employed, every dream reveals itself as a psychical structure which has a meaning and which can be inserted at an assignable point in the mental activities of waking life."

In writing his dream theory Freud introduced his methodology of interpreting dreams, a theory of understanding the human psyche, and introduced a topological proposal of the architecture of the human psyche, including the unconscious from which dreams emerged. The topographical architecture of the human psyche was finally formulated later in his paper on the Ego and the Id-1923, a point we shall come to. In the meantime, The Interpretation of Dreams was enough to revolutionize the field of psychology, going on to change much of the thinking of the modern world. In a letter to Fliess dated March 15, 1898, Freud writes:

“It struck me that you might want to read what I have written about dreams but were too discreet to ask.... Here are a few explanations. What I am sending you is intended to be the second chapter. The first, on the literature of the subject, is not yet written. After that there will be;

3. Dream material; 4. Typical dreams; 5. The psychical process in dreaming. 6. Dreams and the neuroses. 2 ... ... The two dreams described will reappear in later chapters, where the partial interpretations will be completed. ... The thing in the dream which will probably strike you most will be explained later (my ambition). Remarks about Oedipus Rex, the Talisman fairy-tale and perhaps Hamlet will also come in. First I must read more about the Oedipus legend-I do not know what yet.”15

The rapid reworking of his seduction theory saw the Oedipus complex developed in its formative stage, and tucked within the book, he included his interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the same Oedipal vein. Hamlet encoded the internal problems and guilt associated with the murder of the father, which had to take place before taking the mother incestuously, as the myth explained. Nevertheless, the Oedipus complex, extrapolated from his work in psychoanalysis and other such sources became a universalized psychological phenomena in Freud’s mind; something innate to all human beings and something, which informed the fields of myth and the arts. The murderous intent towards the father the guilt, and the unnatural longing for the mother, which was woven into the tale, was shared by all and he was quite convinced of this:

“His destiny moves us only because it might have been ours — because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so.”16

The Oedipal Rex play, which he had read and saw in Vienna was mentioned in his letters, leading him to talk of the gripping power of the play, and helped substantiate his views which continued through his life, but something else was afoot.

Freud’s self-analysis at this time was conflicted. His own inner world suggests it is more than possible to assume that some of his personal concerns hidden within his own unconscious were coming to the surface and they were not pleasant. One observer notes, as indeed Freud had, that he was not so much analyzing others, rather trying to cure himself.17 Freud, Eagle, and others, conclude problems which he struggled with also reveal anomalies in the way he conducted his evaluations. They are less than scientific and there is more to this but in the meantime, the Oedipal theory emerges soon after his own father’s death in 1896 and it is to this question of how he perceives this traumatic event, and how it might influence his works which we must now turn to.


1 Studies in Hysteria, Trans., Fischer, p 10

2 Cited in: Frank Sulloway, Freud, Biologist of the mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend, Basic Books 1979, p 80

3 Ellenberger, H. F. (1972), The story of “Anna 0”: A critical review with new data. J. Hist. Behav. Sci., 8: 267-279. doi:10.1002/1520-6696(197207)8:3<267::AID-JHBS2300080302>3.0 CO;2-Ct (Wiley Online Library)

4 Freud, On Aphasia: a Critical Study 1891. (Monograph)

5 Freud, The Cocaine papers, Plume 1975.

6 Anna O, a case study in hysteria appears in, Studies on Hysteria 1895. It can be found in Freud- Breuer: Studies in Hysteria, Section II, Trans. N Luckhurst, Penguin Books, London 2004. Peter Gay also edited the study which appears in The Freud Reader, Norton 1989.

7 Cited in: An Autobiographical study, Sigmund Freud 1925, section II, p 4. pdf, University of Winchester.

8 Cited in: JM Masson, The Assault on Truth, Untreed Reads, 2012. Appendix B: Freud’s 1896 / aetiology

9 Cited in Freud and Sexual Abuse, New York Review of Books, March 21, 2013.

10 Sigmund Freud, “The Aetiology of Hysteria,” Hogarth Press, 1996, Vol. 3, pp 204,211

11 Ekhardt, Bingham and Sprung, Contributions to a History of Developmental Psychology, Mouton Publishers 1985. p 117

12 See: Eroga, Beckett, Sexual Offending Against Children: Assessment and Treatment of Male Abusers, Routledge 1994. NB many other studies also exist and cover these issues in contemporary times.

13 JM Masson (Ed). The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887-1904. Belknap / Harvard University Press, 1985. (Letter: June 22,1897.)

14 ibid, letter: Sept 21 1897.

15 Bonaparte, Anna Freud, Kris. The Origins of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud’s Letters to Wilhelm Fliess. NY basic Books, 1954. Letter #85

16 Freud. The Interpretation of Dreams. Basic Books 2010. pp 279-280

2. From Příbor to Vienna:

Freud was born on May 6th, 1856 in the small town of Příbor, in Moravia as Sigismund Schlomo Freud. He changed his name to the shortened form of Sigmund when he was 22. Marie Balmary, a Freudian historian, observes there are two birth dates for the boy one in May and another recorded as March 6, 1856.18 Speculatively, this may have concealed the fact that Freud’s mother was already pregnant before she married. Thus Marianne Krull and Marie Balmary both see controversy and confusion, starting early

in Freud’s family and in Freud’s mind.19 They postulate a scenario of illegitimacy because of the differing dates, and note Jakob was married to other women where the lineage of both children and parents were not always clear either. This was a family secret which supplied reasonable grounds for questions and proposals of trauma and anxiety encoded into Freud’s life and his unconscious from an early age. There was, they say, confusion left in Freud’s memory, some of which surfaced in his periods of self-analysis. Balmary and others reveal Jakob was married three times, not twice, as early biographies claim. Nevertheless, Jakob was 41 when Sigmund was born and Amalia Nathansohn, Freud’s biological mother, was 19 years of age when she married Jakob.

Previous to this marriage between Jakob and Amalia, Jakob had two grown children named Emmanuel and Philip by Sally Kanner, who is described as his first wife. Jakob Freud married Sally in 1832. Thus he was 16 or 17 years old at the time of his first marriage. Sally, however, died in 1852. Rebekka West appears close on the heels of this event between 1852 and 1855 but it is not clear if she and Jakob were actually married, despite a record in the Register of Jews, October 31, 1852, where Jacob and Rebekka are listed in the same home. Freud never mentions Rebekka except for the time when he wrote to his friend Fliess that he no longer believed the seduction theory. Here he recalls a Yiddish saying, “Rebekka take of your gown, you are a bride no longer.”20 He seems to touch upon the Isaac-Rebekah story in Genesis where Rebekah’s true identity is revealed. Jeffrey Masson touches upon this account whereby, Freud probably meant his first theory, The Etiology of Hysteria, which had been unfrocked, to make way for the Oedipal theory.21 Rebekka, the person, remains a mystery woman who is revealed as the second partner to Jakob through recent archival research.22 She is tragically listed as committing suicide by jumping off a train but there is still uncertainty surrounding her life and death. Schur, the physician to Freud, did considerable research into the matter and from dreams, Freud is also thought to confirm his awareness of her presence.23 Regarding the usage of Rebekka in Freud’s Yiddish joke, Schur asks; “Why just this joke at this time? Why a joke in which Freud identifies himself with a disgraced woman? And a joke, the punch-line of which contains the name of this mysterious second wife of his father?”24 Nevertheless, in 1855 when Rebekka is thought to have died, Amalia appears on the scene, shortly thereafter.

Amalia and Jakob were married when she was considerably younger than her spouse. Sigmund was Amalia’s first child. Freud stated later that he was always considered the favorite of seven more children, which this couple sired together. Freud’s father was described as a wool merchant at the time and the family lived in Freiburg whilst Jakob’s two previous sons from the Kanner marriage, Emmanuel and Phillip, lived across the street. Jakob was called to travel a lot on business trips. Traditional biographies suggest Jakob's business failed. Because of this, the family was forced to move to Leipzig and eventually settled in Vienna, Austria in 1860, where Freud would continue to reside until pressure from the Gestapo forced him to move to London a year before his death in 1939. However, this is where popular biographies and academic research part company.

The Freud family move from Příbor is usually written up as an economic necessity, whilst others say there is considerable evidence to suggest something else was stirring. Recent research suggests there were no economic crises at that time for the Freud’s. As Jakob was frequently away on trips, what is purported to have happened in his absence, is an actual liaison between Amalie and Phillip.25 The records tell us Amalia was only 19 at the time and Philipp, the step-son who lived close-by, was 21. Some details supporting this state of affairs are found in a number of sources.26 It is therefore thought by researchers including Krull, that some form of extramarital scandal might have contributed to the move made by the Freud’s. If Jakob was doing quite well there would be no discernible reason for the family to buckle in the way it did. Philipp left for England at the same time and remained a remote and alienated figure in the family, leaving us with a picture of a family break up more extensive and acrimonious than a financial collapse would imply. From research, Freud seems to be aware of such an affair between Amalia and Philipp and suffered from it. This idea is encoded into his memories, his letters and his work, and seems to have contributed to enduring identity crises through his life, which we will come to. What Jakob was up to on his lengthy trips is also a question.

Freud’s own memories of such events are a mix of dream research, conscious and unconscious material, recovered in the processes of his self-analysis. This period of introspection on the mountain holiday records such confusion and anger emerging into his life at this point. Freud, in fact, recalls asking Philipp to stop giving babies to his mother, hence in Freud’s mind, there appears to have been a record of an affair between Amalia and Philipp left in his memory, leaving confusion as to whom his father actually was, Jakob or his son Philipp.27

There is some certainty here that Freud was aware of his mother’s infidelity, whether by fact or by imagination, and discontent with his parents based on a traumatic record rising as recollections, which disturbed him deeply. Freud wrote about this and records a screen memory, a consciously retrievable memory from childhood, of the loss of his mother which reveals Philipp opening a cupboard, or wardrobe, where the mother is supposedly hidden; but she is nowhere to be found and Freud collapsed in tears until he found her coming through another door looking slim and beautiful. By association, Freud continues linking his mother to his nurse who had vanished before. Philipp appears as a trickster, or hostile figure in the memory. In fact, Freud’s half-brother had taken his father’s place in Freud’s mind and there was a suspicion that he, Philipp, had introduced a recently born baby into his mother’s womb.28 This screen memory located at the early age of three can be tied to John Bowlby’s, Attachment and Loss work, where separation from the mother or mother-figure creates intense anxiety in the child.29 The nanny, Resi, was Freud’s primary caregiver for his first three years of life. When young Freud was transferred back to his mothers care she was still indisposed through grief over a brothers death and further pregnancies, which left the infant Freud lacking in the attention he needed.

Freud records continuing hostility towards his parents, having urinated in his parents’ bed around age 7-8. This act left his father in anger over the incident, who told him he would come to nothing. Awakening in the throes of some unspoken terror in Freud’s dreams, this trauma also went on to haunt him through his life. Jung responding to this event, believing the whole thing constituted a nucleus of a numinosum (a mysterious power), which probably lay at the root of his sexual dogma, ideas which would come up in Freud’s professional life, family dynamics and in his sexual theories. There was a core problem, traumatized energy, lying at the center of this constellation, which functioned as a deterministic drive would. Freud says himself what the nature of this problem is and comments on the confusion of who his parents might actually be, by looking at one of his own Freudian slips:

“Thus the relations between our ages were no hinderance to my phantasies of how different things would have been if I had been born the son of not my father but of my brother These suppressed phantasies falsified the text of my book at the place where I broke off the analysis, by forcing me to put the brother’s name for the father’s.”30

The brother is Philipp and Freud is nothing if not a very troubled child at this point, riven with rage and the confusion of a deepening identity crisis. It suggests Freud had a difficult start to life which fields more challenges. Additionally, Freud remembers his wish for his brother Julius to die, to, ‘go away and not return.’ Julius was born in 1857 during the period when Amalia would have been indisposed to Freud so sibling rivalry is evidenced here; it might have been in any case but here is intensified. But when Julius died (see the Non-Vixit dream-‘he lives not’)31 aged one and a half years, Freud believed he was responsible and was torn with guilt. Much of this intense period of analyzing his dreams in 1897, see Freud confronting his own unconscious memories before giving his thoughts further shape in his, Interpretation of Dreams, where the dream function reveals his own unconscious record and where screen memories must also have made some contribution to his thoughts. What he seemingly finds within is a murderous intent, guilt, and the unbearable confusion of who he really was; it is a question of who his mother and father really were and the pain of identity confusion lying between the two fathers which followed him ambivalently throughout his life.

What of his father Jakob? Freud was given a precious family heirloom, a beautifully designed Philippson Bible, by his father, when he was five. The gift pointed to the families deep faith but Jakob told the boy when aged ten or twelve according to Freud, of a memory when a Christian boy had knocked off his father’s cap and the response shows how tangled Freud’s feelings became over these issues concerning his father and the families religious persuasion.

"When I was a young man," my father said, "I went for a walk one Saturday... I was well dressed, and had a new fur cap on my head. A Christian came up to me and with a single blow knocked off my cap into the mud and shouted: 'Jew!' " And what did you do, I asked. “I went into roadway and picked up my cap” was his quiet reply This struck me as unheroic conduct on the part of the big strong man who was holding the little boy by the hand.”32

The incident indicative of the persecution of Jews, rife in Europe at the time, is another disturbing factor which plays into the Freudian story. Yet, it also records Freud’s deepening and profound personal disillusionment, with his father’s, ‘conduct unbecoming.’ On top of any other disillusionments he might have felt, Freud records his contempt here and it will deepen through his Oedipal Theory.

Regardless, the confusion and anger over the birth-father and the indications of encoded traumatic events, Freud also came to be offered two myths of origin; One from Jakob and one from Phillip. This identity crises of who the father actually was, can be seen as figures encoded as the two patriarchs in his last work, Moses and Monotheism,Interpretation of Dreams,Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality,Little Hansthe danger of being castrated fits the phallic stage."33