Is Emma Freud related to Sigmund

Freudians on their own behalf

On April 21, 1896, the young neurologist Sigmund Freud gave a lecture to the Vienna Association for Psychology and Neurology in which he named sexual abuse in early childhood as the decisive cause of so-called hysteria. The lecture is based on the reports of his patients, almost all of whom report on abuse by the father. Only eighteen months later Freud wrote to his confidante Wilhelm Fließ: “I no longer believe in my neurotica.” The women had only invented rape by their father, it was a wishful fantasy.

In doing so, Freud turns the victims of sexual violence into hindered seducers. Their neuroses are not recognized as the result of early childhood trauma, but pathologized as an expression of unfulfilled incest wishes. This radical reevaluation of female experience affirms the order of values ​​of patriarchal society by keeping one of its best-kept, yet most open, secrets. At the same time, the suppression of abuse and its displacement from the real world of the bourgeois family into the child's imagination is a decisive prerequisite for the development of Freud’s teachings.

Freud's daughter Anna wrote in 1981 to Jeffrey Masson, who, as head of the Freud Archives, came across the lecture of 1896 and the reasons for it: “Adhering to the seduction theory” - that is, to the reality of abuse - “would mean giving up the Oedipus complex” researched for Freud's revision: "I think there would have been no psychoanalysis."

Peter-André Alt, who submitted a thousand-page new biography of Sigmund Freud, puts it more elaborately: “The priority of imaginary over immediate experience formed a building block for all further steps that Freud took on the path to establishing the Oedipus complex and the theory of infantile sexuality. "

Freud was able to sublimate his own instinctual life through work; he was - with Alt - but not unworldly, but knew that abuse by close relatives traumatized many children. It seems absurd that his patients, of all people, who came to him as sufferers and who only became aware of their experiences of abuse during the course of treatment with great resistance, should be simulators.

So why did Freud change his mind? Masson suspected a relationship with the case of Emma Eckstein, whom Freud and Fliess treated and nearly killed for neurotic disorders in 1895. Fliess, an outright charlatan, had an uncanny influence on Freud, who remained prone to secret knowledge throughout his life. Fliess believed to have discovered an intimate relationship between the nose and the sexual organs in women, which is why treatment of hysteria by doctoring the nose was an option. Emma Eckstein, who suffered from profuse vaginal bleeding, was chosen as a test subject. Fließ surgically removed some bone parts from the nose (Emma was permanently disfigured) and accidentally left behind - a Freudian mistake? - a 50 centimeter long piece of gauze that he had used for packing. The malpractice almost killed Emma.

Even after the operation, which Freud declared a success, Emma suffered from profuse vaginal bleeding. A few years later, a benign tumor was discovered on her uterus. After the uterus was removed, she recovered. Freud neither acknowledged his misdiagnosis nor criticized his friend's bungling. Rather, he said in a letter to Fliess that Eckstein had "bled out of love" - ​​out of love for him, the therapist. As with the abused girls, Freud turned the victim - in this case his victim - into a reluctant seductress. Obviously there is a pattern here.

How does Alt deal with this complex? In the case of Emma Eckstein, he writes with characteristic inconvenience: "The price for the growing insight into the power of psychic powers consisted in Freud's clinical indolence." He does not write that others had to pay the price; He does not want to acknowledge that the insight is like an obsession. Alt follows the dogmatic Freudians who have never forgiven Jeffrey Masson for his criticism of the Master.

Unfortunately, the case is symptomatic of this hagiographic diligence. The author can be credited with the fact that, as President of the Free University of Berlin, he did not have the time to think through his subject critically. But there is more to it than that. Alt is a Germanist, and under the influence of the Freudian Jacques Lacan and his disciples, German studies learned to deny the author authority over his work and to give it to Deuter - the academic literary critic - just as Freud took away his own memories from his patients and they did reinterpreted into imaginations. To criticize Freud would be to pull the rug from under your feet to this type of pseudoscience. Needless to say, Freud himself provided the first example of this pseudoscience when he subjected Hamlet to an analysis and came to the conclusion that Shakespeare's hesitant Danish prince could not kill his adulterous and murderous uncle because he did exactly what Hamlet wanted, namely that Kill father and sleep with mother. Tadaah! Enough.

A small volume by the Italian cultural scientist Roberto Zapperi is more enjoyable to read: “Freud and Mussolini”. In 1933 Freud presented the fascist playwright Giovacchino Forzano with a book present for the dictator and wrote as a dedication: "Benito Mussolini with the devoted greeting of an old man who recognizes the cultural hero in the ruler." Alt also mentions this dedication and excuses it with the note, even Winston Churchill had a "sentimental weakness" for Mussolini; “Illusions were the order of the day at that time”. (Not today?) The fact that Freud “had good political judgment” except with Mussolini is demonstrated by Alt's misjudgment of the former American President Woodrow Wilson, whom Freud considered “a charlatan, arrogant egomaniac and ruthless ambitious”.