Max Scharnberg: The Strange Gaps in Psychoanalytic Theory – and How Not to Fill in Them

 

My book “The Non-Authentic Nature of Freud’s Observations” was published in 1993. It could have been published seven years earlier. But because of intrigues by dogmatic believers in psychoanalysis it was delayed.

In 1993 I had minimal knowledge of the critical literature which was already flourishing in many other countries. I seriously thought that my book was unique.

Not all my university teachers talked about psychoanalysis. But among those who did so, only one revealed its flaws. He was also the only one who mentioned alternative treatments such as behaviour therapy.

Some of the others provided me and my fellow students with pejorative lies about behaviour therapy. They also tried to persuade us by means of alleged support from psychological experiments. But all these experiments were so poorly designed that they could be used as support of psychoanalysis, whatever their outcome.

During half a century I had given much thought to questions of methodology. Other researchers may well have found or invented many superior procedures. But in the 1980s I deemed two procedures be to particularly promising, viz. “the trio method” and “textual analysis”.

One feature is common to both. They do not apply special techniques for deriving predictions which can be tested by experiments – but which will turn out to provide equally strong support regardless of the outcome of the experiments.

Instead I have attacked those locations where psychoanalysts themselves postulate that their strongest and most unassailable proofs will be found. The psycho­analyst Kurt Eissler (1965:395) stresses the proof to be Freud’s “five case histories, the pillars on which psycho­analysis as an empirical science rests”.

We could cut out one or more trios from other writings by Freud, or from writings by some of his followers. Each trio should consist of (a) a set of observations; (b) a conclusion (interpretation), and (c) the claim that this conclusion is proved by this set of observation.

We could do the same thing with excerpts from writings by other psychoanalysts.

I did not invent the trio method. I learned it from Wolpe & Rachman’s (1960) re-analysis of Freud’s case of Little Hans. It is widely agreed that Wolpe and Rachman were pioneers of behaviour therapy. But now it turns out that they were at the same time pioneers in applying textual analysis to psychoanalytic writings. Their paper comprises only 14 pages. But despite its brevity it belongs to the most important writings about Freud. It also reveals the total absence of evidential support of Freud’s interpretations.

We shall leave the trio method for a while. During most of the 20th century psychoanalysts have persistently claimed that satisfactory proof of their theory and the interpretations are found in the dialogues in the consultation room. If this is so, psychoanalysts should be given a fair chance to show “their best proofs”.

No doubt Martin Gardner (1957:11) is right that “If someone announces that the moon is made of green cheese, the professional astronomer cannot be expected to climb down from his telescope and write a detailed refutation.”

But probably Gardner would also agree on another aspect. No later than in the 1930s it was apparent that psychoanalysis was not a transient and short-lived phenomenon. Hence, from the 1930s onwards it was the obligation of the academic community to perform fundamental and critical analyses.

The trio method and the method of textual analysis are superior to many (but far from all) different approaches. But I also claim that a handful of academics selected in almost any arbitrary way should, without further training, be able to apply the trio method and the more simple forms of textual analysis.

It is a central question how conclusions may be justified. But even in the absence of any rules, the very fact that some statements are juxtaposed and compared may yield essential information.

Abstract analyses as to what conditions must be satisfied in order to consider a scientific conclusion to be proved, will provide rich opportunity to mix up the issue. This is amply illustrated by numerous writings which have been written and published by the analysts themselves.

If we want to perform a genuinely scientific investigation, we would do well in examining one particular interpretation. I shall choose one which Freud gave to the wife of the psychoanalyst Ernest Jones.

Jones is particularly well-known because of his comprehensive monograph on Freud. His wife Loe Kann was a morphine addict.

 

 

Morphine will relax the muscles and prevent them from contracting. Hence it is natural that Kann also suffered from constipation, and that all attempts to activate the intestine by enema had failed.

But Freud “divined” a very different explanation: Kann wanted to give her father a child. This was the cause of her constipation. Moreover, emptying the bowels by enema was by her perceived as an abortion. And this was the cause why the enema treatment had no effect.

This set of interpretations made Kann feel terrible and desperate, and she immediately increased her dose of morphine.

Here we should recall Freud’s postulation in the case-study of Dora (GW-V:279/VII:116): From the moment a person starts psychoanalytic treatment he or she cannot get any new symptom.

It goes without saying that increasing the dose of morphine must be considered equivalent to developing a new symptom.

We should also take into account another assertion by Freud’: “[…] the adoption of the unconscious is necessary and legitimate, and that we are in the possession of multiple proofs for the existence of the unconscious. It [ = the adoption of the unconscious] is necessary, because there are gaps in the data of consciousness.” (GW-X:264f./­SE-XIV:159f.).

Anyone who has the capacity for reading a text correctly as it stands cannot fail to see that there are no gaps in the conscious data gathered about Loe Kann. Against this background Freud’s interpretation is altogether superfluous, and provides no need for the assumption of an unconscious mind.

It is most important to realise that every psychoanalytic interpretation is based on a conspicuously small a number of facts. Any desired number of examples of this circumstance could be presented. Hence, I must be excused for showing one more example.

“Ego Psychoanalysis” was the first innovative school that emerged within the orthodox Freudian organisation. It was originally and boastingly named “the new ego psychology”.

In 1958 a conference was held in New York. It involved famous psychoanalysts and philosophers who delivered their addresses. A year later the addresses were published in a book.

Heinz Hartmann had a very central position. He was Freud’s most favourite pupil. He was also the father of “ego psychoanalysis”, which was the first innovative school that emerged within the orthodox Freudian organization. When he was offered a very good job in USA, Freud offered him analytic treatment by for free by Freud himself, if he stayed in Vienna. Hartmann accepted. As a patient he cannot have been unaware of the fact that all Freud’s interpretations to him were based on a minimal number of observations.

 

 

In the chapter for which Heinz Hartmann (1959:21) was responsible we shall read:

“One […] tends to forget the very great number of actual observations on which we base, in every individual case, the interpretations pf an aspect of a person’s character, symptoms and so on.”

However, any academician who is capable of reading a text correctly as it stands, will see that Hartmann is wrong.

It may sound plausible that a psychoanalyst who had spent 500 hours with the same patients must have gathered a wealth of facts about that patient. But we have repeatedly encountered cases in which the psychoanalyst after a very long treatment is ignorant of the most informative and invaluable circumstances.

Mr B. was married and had children. He had spent 15 years either in prison or in psychoanalytic treatment. Once in the week he would masturbate in the street in front of a young woman. He told his analysts, the urge came over him suddenly and as a bolt from the blue. – His analysts had taken this information at face value. None of them had checked this claim.

Finable he was caught under aggravating instances: the woman was together with many children. Since he was a third-timer, he would in this American state get a life-time sentence.

Not until this threat emerged did his analyst refer Mr B. to a behaviour therapist, who cured him in two months. Follow-up revealed no relapse or “symptom displacement”.

We can be sure that his psychoanalysts knew all the time that their treatment could not help this patient, while behaviour therapy was suited for him. Hence we should ask whether the psychoanalysts were also guilty of economic criminality.

The behaviour therapeutic team used a very different approach. They gave Mr B. a tape-recorded and arranged a real situation. He was asked to talk aloud about all that happened.

It turned out that Mr B. might often see a young woman alone at a bus stop. He would then start to imagine how pleasurable an act would feel. He would round the house block and eventually come back to the woman. During this time he would have indulged in thoughts about the pleasure of the act. And when he was again visible to the woman the urge had grown in strength and had indeed become irresistible.

After having corrected Mr B.’s erroneous idea about the bolt from the blue, some aspects of the treatment goals immediately suggested themselves. First, Mr B. must be taught to recognise the first and weak urges. Second, he must learn massive techniques of relaxation, and he must learn to disseminate them immediately when needed.

Because of the protracted and intensive hostility and witch-craze against behaviour therapy a further counter argument is to be expected: “We have already tried relaxation therapy on this man, and we have found that it is of no help.”

What I have described is not relaxation therapy. Relaxation therapy may be appropriate for patients whose general condition is too tense. And they might be helped by a small reduction of the general degree of tension. But there is nothing that indicates that Mr B.’s general condition was too tense; and neither anything that would suggest that the patient was helped by a small reduction of his general condition. What he needs (in addition to recognising the first and weak urges), is obviously the ability to produce a massive relaxation plus the further ability to trigger it off immediately when it is needed.

It belongs to the most fundamental features of psychoanalytic method to pay minimal attention to observations. These are primarily or exclusively used to paste interpretations on. And for that goal it does not matter if they are few or many, shallow or deep, etc.

Freud’s “Vorlesungen” (“Introductory Lectures”) is probably the most read of all his works. In this writing he clearly presents his attitude to his patients:

“[…] in his [ = the patient’s] efforts for opposition at any price, he may offer a complete picture of someone who is mentally retarded [affektiv Schwachsinnigen]. But if we succeed in helping him to overcome this new resistance, he recovers his insight and understanding. Thus his critical faculty is not an independent function, to be respected as such, it is the tool of his emotional attitudes and is directed by his resistance. If there is something he does not like, he can put up a shrewd fight against it and appear highly critical; but if something suits his book, he can, on the contrary, show himself most credulous.” (GW-XI:303/­SE-XVI:293)

To spell Freud’s argument completely out, when Ms. Jones objects to his abortion argument, she may imagine that she is producing rational arguments. She might retort that she had a public lecture by Freud himself. And in that lecture Freud had assured the audience that each and every psychoanalytic interpretation is based on innumerably many observations. But Freud’s abortion interpretation is based upon half a dozen observations. Consequently it does not even satisfy Freud’s own criteria for being a legitimate Freudian interpretation.

We shall also find that resistance is not a difficult psychoanalytic concept about pathological emotions. It is no more than a patient’s refusal to believe in Freud’s interpretations, together with Freud’s contempt of their absence of such belief.

In Freud’s case-study no honest person can find any trace that Dora had any erotic feeling for Mr K. Nevertheless Freud incessantly bombards her with interpretations that are supposed to prove this love. We shall see him heaping long series of such interpretations upon her, followed by the contemptuous remark: “Naturally Dora would not follow me in this part of the interpretation.” (GW-V:232/SE-VII:70)

A further example, also from the Dora case: “If this ‘No’, instead of being regarded as the repression of an impartial judgement (of which, indeed, the patient is incapable) […]” (GW-V:219/SE-VII:58f.)

Hartmann claims that every interpretation is based on an enormous amount of observations, is a large and intentional untruth. But his mendacity will turn out to be a much larger if we read the whole page of his account and check his sources. The central point of his argument is concerned with another paper written in 1945 by Marie Bonaparte, princess of Denmark and Greece.

Why did none of the philosophers at the conference detect his untruth? One explanation easily suggests itself. The philosophers were unable to image that one of the most prominent psychoanalysts would emit so brazen a lie. Hartmann knew that he would not risk anything by taking the opportunity.

She was Freud’s patient when she was 42. In another paper in INFC (“Tales From the Vienna Woods”) I have scrutinised her case extensively, so I shall here repeat only the bare minimum. The princess has published her own case, but has protected her identity by pretending that she was the analyst, who gave to some non-identified patient precisely those interpretations which she had got from Freud

We need not doubt Marie’s own information that she at the age of seven had written brief stories in English. One of them had the title “The Mouth-Pen”. Freud tells us nothing about its plot or content, but automatically thinks of fellatio. And his final edifice was that Marie, before she was two years old, had seen her wet-nurse and her father’s illegitimate half-brother practicing fellatio.

Even if we are extraordinarily generous and grant that the title “The Mouth-Pen” really proved that Marie had had thoughts about fellatio, it will remain a fact that general theories do not point out, nor rule out, any special individuals. Marie could have had no more than her own fantasies about fellatio. Or she could at the ages of 2-7 have watched one or more different couples practicing fellatio.

This is one of Freud’s fundamental and most frequent errors: a clear indicator of his ignorance of scientific methodology. General theories (such as the psychoanalytic theory) do not identify what specific individuals were involved. But Freud and his followers almost always imagine that their theory can identify what particular persons did or felt the thing in question.

How did Freud know that the couple performed fellatio in full daylight prior to Marie’s two-year birthday, but only in the dark after that date? Freud applies an argument that has nothing to do with psychoanalysis, but which is part of lay thinking; and which is wrong if used as an empirical generalisation. He takes for granted that Marie precisely at the age of two had learned to speak sufficiently well so that there was a risk that the child could have given the couple away.

Here Freud attributes a higher degree of rationality to human beings than they deserve. When Marie was three or four years old and was having a nap, the couple could well have taken the chance when the saps were rising, and the child could have wakened up without this being noticed by the couple.

From an argument which I shall not repeat Freud proved that the man in the couple was a “horse man”. And the half-brother was indeed the chief of the stables.

Here I cannot help noticing that Marie’s father was the owner of the horses. And most probably he was a good rider. He could easily have taken the chance with the wet nurse.

I think that most of my readers will agree that the pattern of interpretations about the princess are very detailed and has a complex structure. There would be a very small probability that anyone without applying a valid method could arrive at such a postdiction (prediction of a past event). And Hartmann clearly claims that this pattern of interpretations was verified in a fully scientific way.

But Hartmann is too wise to inform the audience about what interpretations Freud created, and how they were verified. In his address there is not a word about the nature of the interpretations.

The half-brother was still alive. He was 82 years old. Marie went to him and hammered on him until he confessed that had indeed done everything which Freud had divined.

All philosophers who participated in the conference were highly critical of psychoanalysis. Nevertheless, none of them detected one lie which was common to all analysts, viz. that each and every psychoanalytic interpretation is based on so large a wealth of observations that non-psychoanalysts cannot even image that any psychiatrist would ever use so many observations for solving one problem.

I do not think that the philosophers were blind. A simpler explanation is that they were unable to imagine the extent of mendacity shown by Freud and his followers.

Marie’s earliest memory was that her wet nurse was brushing her hair, and in some way looked yellow. I wonder whether the nurse was seen in candle light, which is often yellow. But instead Freud notes that horse teeth are yellow. He goes on to state that this colour proves that the man who had practiced fellatio with the wet nurse was also a horseman.

The half-brother was the head of the stable. However, Marie’s father was the owner of the stable. Should we believe that the father owned the horses but never rid them himself? And Marie’s father could just as well as his half-brother have taken the chance when Marie had a nap.

When psychoanalysis came to the U.S. its representatives devote much labour to the task of presenting their theory as scientific. One device was used by Lawrence Kubie (1959, 1960). He repeated the untruth that in the psychoanalytic situation all variables are as constant as possible. Therefore we can know that the patient’s reactions emerge from within himself.

It cannot be disputed that the patients’ impotent rage is produced by the analyst. This is just one example of Kubie’s distortions of the facts. But things are much worse, because Kubie was particularly eager to lock in patients and then giving them the choice between the ice water torture and “voluntary” psychoanalysis.

Frenkel-Brunswik (1970:12) writes as follows: “Freud considered the assumption of unconsciousness as necessary because the data of consciousness are ‘exceedingly defective’.” Here it may be instructive to juxtapose Freud’s original German text and my own English translation:

“ […] die Annahme des Unbewussten notwendig und legitim ist, und dass wir für die Existenz des Unbewussten mehrfache Beweise besitzen. Sie ist notwendig, weil die Daten des Bewusstseins im hohem Grade lückenhaft sind“ (GW-X:264f./­SE-XIV:###).

“ […] the adoption of the unconscious is necessary and legitimate, and that we are in the possession of multiple proofs for the existence of the unconscious. It [the adoption of the unconscious] is necessary, because there are gaps in the data of consciousness.” (GW-X:264f./SE-XIV:###).

The word “gaps” in the conscious data is closer to Freud’s own text. Why did James Streachey produce this mistranslation? It is no longer controversial that the analysts who had escaped from Vienna to the USA were eager to have psychoanalysis recognised as a normal kind of psychology, more or less comparable with gestalt psychology, cognitive dissonance, operant conditioning etc.

A natural objection is that if conscious data gathered by Freud and his followers are “exceedingly defective”, or if there are “gaps” in them, then it is still possible that the gaps or the defective data should be filled out with additional conscious data. Hence, Freud’s and Frenkel-Brunswik’s argument does not providing even a weak reason for assuming any unconscious phenomena.

Dora was by her father forced to undergo psychoanalytic treatment. The father’s aim was that Freud should teach her that she had only imagined the seduction attempt. It is obvious that Dora went to Freud solely because she was not strong enough to oppose her father’s command.

Meeting Freud and getting “therapy” must have been highly humiliating. And she could not have known that Freud did not satisfy the father’s aim. Instead he agreed with Dora about the reality of the seduction event.

Her 18-year birthday happened when she had been treated for 3-4 weeks.

Freud emphasises that Dora was not happy at her birthday despite many expensive gifts. Freud completely overlooks the natural explanation that Dora was in a low mood because of the insulting “therapy”.

Instead Freud fabricates out of thin air that her low mood was caused by the alleged fact that she had not got any present from Mr K. (There is no indication as to whether she got or did not get a present from Mr K. But if she got one, the most probable hypothesis is that it was most unwelcome.)

As for Ms. Jones I find myself unable to believe that Freud was not aware of the close causal connection between morphine intake, constipation, and failure of enema treatment.

Concerning the claim advanced by Freud and Frenkel-Brunswik the most probable state of things is the very opposite, viz. that Dora perceived the presents as a kind of ill-begotten gain. (And, if I may be permitted a guess, I would suggest that she was quite right about that.)

A strong argument could be made for the very opposite statement of that which Freud and Frenkel-Brunswik advance. There was no gap in the observations for Freud to fill in. But in order to obtain room for the Freudian interpretations both Freud himself and Frenkel-Brunswik needed to remove or conceal some facts. Note that the removed facts were flagrantly conscious and clearly perceptible to the conscious mind.

I feel myself unable to imagine that Freud seriously believed that the kind of interpretations he invented could cure morphine addiction, or constipation.

         Gesammelte Werke contains numerous of Freud’s own statements to his patients. They reveal that psychoanalytic treatment never had the aim of lifting repression and making anything conscious. It always proceeds as if the unconscious did not exist. The only long-time goal is to substitute some of the patient’s conscious beliefs with other conscious beliefs.

Actually it is a recurrent pattern that psychoanalysts start with pushing away some facts that are flagrantly conscious and clearly perceptible to the conscious mind.

It is also recurrent pattern that psychoanalysts do not even notice the most crucible facts.

Wilson & O’Leary (1980) describe a male exhibitionist who would masturbate in the street in front of a young woman. He had spent 15 years alternatively in prison or in psychoanalytic treatment. His psychoanalysts knew perfectly well that they could not cure exhibitionism, and that behaviour therapy is highly effective. Not until he faced a life sentence did his analyst refer him to a behaviour therapist who cured him completely in two months.
Brief footnote, title & writer / Wilson & O’Leary (1980)

It is worthwhile to compare certain aspects of the Dora case with analogous aspects in the case of Loe Kann (and with many other cases). In the Dora study Freud claims that when a person starts psychoanalytic treatment (and, I presume, for as long as he continues in the treatment) he is protected against contracting any new symptoms.

But Freud’s interpretations made her feel terrible and desperate. They also made her increase her daily dose of morphine. [Those analysts who defend the view that interpretations are consolation lies, or that they are tools for ordering one’s thoughts, carefully avoid discussing the real interpretations found in psychoanalytic writings.

It would not be honest to try to save Freud by the argument that feeling terrible and desperate, and increasing the daily dose of morphine, are not symptoms.

Psychoanalysts basically stuck to the position that their interpretations are literally true – until they learned that that this position would reduce their reputation.

There was a period when they instead claimed that their interpretations were merely fictions that would help patients to order their thoughts.

During this period psychoanalysts would often pay lip-service to the fiction-theory, and may also use it at debates. But in their daily practice they would always apply the theory that the interpretations are literally true.

Another strategy for saving psychoanalysis is to claim that the interpretations are a specific variety of consolation lies. It should come as no surprise that this strategy was solely intended for external debates, and was never applied in the consultation room.

At first sight this position might seem more rational than the classic position, because it would not be appropriate to request that consolation lies should be true.

I take the very opposite position. From consolation lies we can definitely request that they console.

But take a look at the interpretations which Freud gave to Dora. She could well feel consoled by some of them. But if she felt consoled by most interpretations, she must have been an abnormal person.

We must not overlook the pattern that a psychoanalyst may in public have defended that the interpretations are consolation lies and that they therefore are not in need of empirical support. The same psychoanalyst may in turn go to the consultation room and there press precisely the same “consolation lies” on some patients, despite unambiguous signs that the patients are not in the least consoled by them, but instead distressed and wounded.

At a seminar a psychoanalyst may have defended the view that the interpretations are merely consolation lies, and that it was therefore misplaced to request any evidence that the interpretations were true. The same psychoanalyst may then go to the consultation room and force upon another patient some interpretations which he knew would make this patient strongly depressed. They may have pointed out that it would therefore be misplaced to demand that psychoanalysts should prove that their interpretations are true.

They may go from the debate to the consultation room, and there they may press a number of interpretations (consolation lies?) upon a patient. And they may be fully aware that these interpretations will make the patient more depressed.

Today few psychoanalysts would with full publicity claim that Freud’s interpretations about Loe Kann were not false, although they might have been incomplete? And what part of it would then constitute the true part?

It may be appropriate to unearth a fundamental constituent of psychoanalytic technique of debate. Analysts will almost always focus on some marginal entity which really has no significance. In a review of John Forrester’s (1997) book MS (1997) wrote: “When the Swedish psychoanalyst Ludvig Igra asserts that the psychoanalytic interpretations are not true, but merely provides the intellect with a certain amount of delight, then Forrester does not at all share this concept.” Igra published in turn a rejoinder with the heading “Scharnberg Misrepresent”, and went on to state that he had not said that the interpretations are not true and merely gives delight. Instead he had said that the explanations had this merit.

An honest person would ask whether Freud’s claim about Ms. Jones’s non-reaction on the enema treatment is an interpretation that is not an explanation; or whether it is an explanation that is not an interpretation. – The true fact is that each and every interpretation by Freud is not only an explanation by a causal explanation.

I want to emphasise strongly earlier attitudes to homosexuality. Present-day people have great difficulty in understanding the serious insult it was not very long ago, to attribute homosexuality to a person. Until 1861 male homosexuals who practiced anal sex were hanged. After the end of WWII in 1945 the four winners decided that Jews, Gypsies, and political prisoners who had been murdered, tortured and/or castrated should receive damages. But no homosexual should have any damages. The justification seems obvious: homosexuality was a crime in two of the winning states (Great Britain and Soviet).

Alan Turing, who cracked the German code (and invented the computer) has saved more lives on the entire Western front than any other person. He was homosexual, and after the war he got a two-years prison sentence of. But serving it was postponed on the condition that he underwent a continual treatment that killed all sexual urge. At the age of 41 he took his own life.

As I have proved in min 1993 book (“The Non-Authentic Nature of Freud’s Observations”) Freud carefully includes much information in his Dora study, which are of no psychiatric importance, but which will ensure that Dora will be recognized by numerous acquaintances.

Freud attributed homosexuality to Dora. Terminating the treatment was in Freud’s eyes an act of abysmal evilness. He literally writes that Dora had “scathed” him by dropping out. It seems to me that he made no interpretations about homosexuality before she had terminated. One interesting argument might be that Freud wrote and published the entire case-study in order to revenge himself.

It seems that Freud did not attribute homosexuality to Dora until after she had terminated the treatment. In the present paper I shall cite very few of his arguments. However, literally all his arguments are of the standard variety among gossip mongers. Hence, they reveal no insight or other competence in Freud.

Here is one “clever argument”. Dora shared the bedroom with Ms K, while Mr K lived in a nearby hotel.

However, Freud destroyed his own argument, because he forgot to delete the incompatible facts. They are clearly available to the reader on other pages. For obvious reason this error could not derive from any intentional will to deceive, but only from carelessness.

At late June 1898 Dora and her father went to the K-family’s summer house at an Alp sea. The plan was that her father would stay for a week, while Dora would stay for the whole summer and take care of the two younger K-children. The summer house was too small for seven persons to live comfortable. Mr K. and D. were close friends and had not seen each other for months, and would after the Alpinian week not see each other for months. Both males might have had similar ideas about how to spend the evenings and when to go to sleep. The hotel was also needed for Mr’s D. and Ms K’s sex life. Mr K. would discretely leave the hotel at morning and stay in his own house until noon. – What other arrangement would be more logical?

As a passing remark: I feel myself unable to imagine that Freud was really unaware of the physiological effect of morphine. Neither can I imagine that Freud thought that his variety of treatment could be helpful. We should also note that, despite immense labour, no one has so far found any patient who had been cured or at least improved by Freud.)

         Juxtaposition and comparison of sentences and assertions may sometimes yield new and highly significant information. An example involving Edmund Bergler will be given next.

Bergler had a high position. He was on the staff of the Freud Clinic in Vienna 1927-1937, and during the last four years he was assistant director. 1942-1945 he was a lecturer of the Psychoanalytic Institute in New York. Note carefully that Bergler could not have held these positions if he entertained a view widely at variance with that of his colleagues.

I shall quote a very important excerpt by Bergler.

“At the beginning of analysis our interpretations strike our patients as completely absurd and they constantly counter them with logical arguments. From the exalted pinnacles of logic and common senses they look down upon us compassionately, ironically and sometimes actually in despair of our intelligence. […] The only thing which takes them aback is the consistency with which we defend our point of view. […] It is a fact of experience that in life in general any assertion which is made with inner conviction, however absurd it may be, is disconcerting. The most superficial explanation that opinions, expressed unwaveringly and with inner

 

 

conviction have the effect of challenge to the scepticism of the hearer. Since all patients are consumed with internal ambivalence, the analyst’s consistency eo ipso undermines their doubt. As far as the internal truth op our statements are concerned, they are quite incapable of forming a judgement at the beginning of the treatment.”
Footnote
Bergler, Edmund: Symposion on the theory of the Therapeutic Result of Psychoanalysis, IV. Inter. J. Psa, XVIII, 1937. Pp. 136-126. Here quoted from Fenichel (1941:113f.)

This excerpt is very important. It is not often that a psychoanalyst admits, in so many words, that his behaviour toward his patients consists of the most primitive persuasion treatment. Hammering interpretations into the patients can be done equally well whether the interpretations are true and false.

Some patients may conclude that the analyst would not apply the hammering technique if he had any rational arguments. But many others will really surrender. Note however that a patient who surrenders because of the hammering technique will be equally prone to accept true and false interpretations. And he will never accept an interpretation because of rational insight.

One need not read much psychoanalytic literature in order to detect that Bergler told the very truth about himself and his colleagues, including Freud.

Isaacs goes on to say: “If what we say bears no relation to the truth of what is in the patient’s mind, it leaves him cold.” Now, Freud’s interpretation definitely did not leave Ms. Jones cold. She was upset and felt desperate. She increased her morphine doses and complained bitterly to her husband about this interpretation.

This is a further example of Freud’s low familiarity with human nature. Numerous false interpretations will, because of different reasons, produce strong emotional responses or other reactions. I cannot know what Ms Jones thought, but she may well have realized that Freud’s interpretations were quite besides the mark, and that her ailments could not be improved by this kind of interpretations

Some psychoanalysts claimed that interpretations are not true, but are half a dozen of other things. But at the very same time other analysts stuck to the classic theory. The following quotation by Anna Freud reveals the fanaticism with which someone defends the literal truth of psychoanalysis:

“Psychoanalysis does not permit itself to be ranged with other conceptions. It refuses to be put on an equal basis with them. The universal validity which psychoanalysis postulates for its theories makes impossible its limitation to any special sphere.”
Footnote, Bailey p. 90

Martin G. Bergmann (1976:23) cites or recounts Stephen Marcus’ following view: “Upon completion of the treatment, the patient comes into possession of his true biography”. Note carefully that the true biography of Ms. Jones would include her belief in the abortion interpretation. The same interpretation would be included when he claimed that his theories are proven on the couch.

At the psychoanalytic conference in Stockholm 1963 the analysts told the reporters that you could associate with Freud without sensing that he knew everything about you. – The examples given about Dora and Ms Jones reveal that Freud knew very little about them. But it also reveals his skill in fabricating false interpretations. The fact that his followers dared assert that much about Freud in 1963 only tells how strong the position of psychoanalysis was in at that time.

Psychoanalysts have during most of a century indulged in numerous contradictory positions. And the very same analyst may have defended contradictory positions. They may have asserted that Freud’s writings contain such strong proofs that only pathological emotions can explain why some readers are not convinced. At the same time they may claim, still in public print, that it is a basic feature of psychoanalytic theory that it cannot be presented in print.

One of the most central statements in psychoanalysis is that the aim of the treatment is to lift repressions, so that hitherto unconscious phenomena will become conscious. But now and then psycho­analysts forget themselves and, as a slip of tongue, tell the very different truth.

I shall quote a very important excerpt by Bergler:

“At the beginning of analysis our interpretations strike our patients as completely absurd and they constantly counter them with logical arguments. From the exalted pinnacles of logic and common senses they look down upon us compassionately, ironically and sometimes actually in despair of our intelligence. […] The only thing which takes them aback is the consistency with which we defend our point of view. […] It is a fact of experience that in life in general any assertion which is made with inner conviction, however absurd it may be, is disconcerting. The most superficial explanation that opinions, expressed unwaveringly and with inner conviction have the effect of challenge to the scepticism of the hearer. Since all patients are consumed with internal ambivalence, the analyst’s consistency eo ipso undermines their doubt. As far as the internal truth op our statements are concerned, they are quite incapable of forming a judgement at the beginning of the treatment.”
Footnote   Bergler, Edmund: Symposion on the theory of the Therapeutic Result of Psychoanalysis, IV. Inter. J. Psa, XVIII, 1937. Pp. 136-126. Here quoted from Fenichel (1941:113f.)

 

Just for the sake of the argument, let us try out the hypothesis that Bergler is right in his claim that a patient in the beginning of the treatment is “quite incapable of forming a judgement” abouth the truth of interpretations. Since Bergler’s treatment (according to his own words) consists in hammering his interpretations until the patient surrenders. Then the patient could only learn “his true biography” if Bergler is infallible and only delivers true interpretations. It is easy to disclose that the overwhelming proportion of Bergler’s interpretations is altogether false.
Footnote, Källa Bergler, flera böcker

Spontaneous recovery has been known since the 18th century, and so has some estimations of its size. These facts has not prevented Bergler (1958:70) from denying these facts: “There is no self-cure in neurosis; the hope that a neurotic condition will ‘evaporate’ is as unreal as the assumption that one day the Mississippi will automatically and for all time curb itself to ease the flood-weary river dweller.” A large number of psychoanalytic assertions are not merely intentional lies. They are specific devices that will facilitate the economy of psychoanalysts.

Psychoanalysts agree about many statements that are manifestly false. (a) Patients, who do not have any an aggressive personality, will during analytic treatment recurrent and aggressively attack the analyst. (b) They agree in calling this “negative transference”. (c) They also agree about its aetiology: the patient may for several decades have suffered from some unconscious anger, which was originally directed against one or both of their parents. In the psychoanalytic treatment these feeling are released and directed against “an innocent bystander” (d) Psychoanalysts also agree that the analysts never emit any behaviour or statement that could make any non-pathological person upset.

Bergler, like his colleagues, agree on “the harmless reality of analysis” (1958:287) is one of those many who claim never to be aggressive toward their patients. In actual fact, however, we shall in all Bergler’s books find plenty of coarse insolences toward his patients. Some examples: “You have the mind of a blackmailer.” – “Aren’t you a phony through and through?” – “Stop that nonsense. When you’re not in the company of homosexuals, this conduct just makes you a laughingstock.” – “Here you are, caught in your own dirty little scheme.” – “That girl stuff again.” (Bergler, 1926:226-228).

It would be a matter of routine to find numerous examples of the same kind in books by other analysts. Freud was no exception. Look for instance at his rude and contemptuous scolding of Dora, which reaches its climax in the last session.

Similar approaches can be used to unearth many characteristics other than the analyst’s aggression. Freud and his followers have recurrently made the following postulations. (1) Their writings contain a wealth of observations. (2) These observations are of an entirely new and fine-grained variety which was altogether unknown before Freud. (3) Each and every interpretation is derived from such an immense wealth of observations that non-psychoanalysts cannot even imagine that any psychologist would ever use such a large amount for any purpose. (4) Psychoanalytic observations need a special situation (viz. the psychoanalytic consultation room) for appearing. (5) In order to make psychoanalytic observations appear, a therapist with a highly specific and very protracted training is needed.

In truth, no more is needed than a normal capacity for reading a text correctly as it stands, in order to detect that all these five postulations are false. In the writings by Freud and his followers there are extremely few observations, and all of them are so rough, crude, trivial and wanting in evidential power, that any reporter could have obtained them without any artificial situation and training. Moreover, literally all Freud’s interpretations are based on no more than a handful of observations; often only one, and I am not sure that any interpretation can be found in Gesammelte Werke that is based on more than four observations.

It can directly be seen that psychoanalytic observations need no special situation (such as the psychoanalytic consultation room), nor any special training of the analyst in order to appear and be visible.

We could also ask what procedures psychoanalysts really apply for deriving their interpretations from their observations. This is the theme of “The Seven Corner Stones of Psychoanalytic Methodology” by Max Scharnberg (2008, International Network of Freud Critics). Here we shall only take a look at the most fundamental and omnipresent rule, viz. the principle of similarity. It postulates that the cause is similar to the effect. Consequently, we can find the cause of a symptom or a behaviour by finding or inventing an event, a state, or a situation that is similar to the symptom or behaviour.

This principle was not invented by Freud. We can follow it back during at least 2000 years. In 1621 Robert Burton told of a woman who bore a child with a hare-lip because she had been scared by a hare when she was pregnant. In 1818 Albert Mathis Vering told of a woman who bore a child without arms because she had during pregnancy been scared by a beggar without arms.

Among psychoanalysts none of his colleagues have invented and disseminated so coarse and numerous invectives against homosexuals as Bergler.

Homosexuality provides an appropriate illustration. Until 1861 male anal sex was in Great Britain punished with hanging. At the end of WWII in 1945 the numerous victims of Nazi cruelty (such as castration, torture, murder etc.) would be entitled to damages if they were Jews, Gypsies, or political prisoner. But it was decided to give no damages to homosexuals who had been exposed to the same kinds of cruelties, because in two of the four victorious nations (Great Britain and the Soviet Union) homosexuality was a crime. – Even in a highly democratic country like Sweden homosexuality was a crime until 1944.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant entertained the view that homosexuals should be castrated.

Occasionally, psychoanalysts will refuse to participate into any project involving written out audio-recording of the dialogues. They may object that in such an approach much information will be lost, e.g., the tone of voice, the gestures, the position etc. – This is no permissible argument, because it is obvious from the entire psychoanalytic literature that analysts almost invariably ignore everything except what would be retained in written out dialogues.

The suggestion that psychoanalytic treatment will help patients to know themselves better is dishonest in several aspects. Would Loe Kann or Dora have known themselves better if they had accepted Freud’s interpretations?

Above we have seen the exhibitionist who had spent 15 years either in prison or in psychoanalytic treatment. Would he have accepted psychoanalytic treatment if the analyst had clearly told him that the treatment would not cure his exhibitionism, but would help him know himself better in some non-specified respects?

In the second/next article &&& we shall scrutinise authentic audio-recorded psychoanalytic dialogues. Therefore it would be unfitting to overlook other merits that are often claimed for the results of having undergone a personal psychoanalysis.

It was neither Freud nor any of his followers who invented the idea that all future therapists must undergo a private therapy as a part of their training. This idea was conceived by Carl Gustav Jung for his own organisation, and at the time when he and Freud no longer belonged to the same organisation.

What was the aim of including a personal treatment into the training? One aim was that all ordinary human beings supposedly suffer from some neurotic traits. And the essential cause of all psychic disease is distorted perception or distorted cognition. Such flaws will make them give false interpretations to their patients. The personal analysis will release them from such distortion.

Freud himself provides the example of a female analyst who has not worked through her own penis envy, and who may therefore overlook penis envy in her patients.

Moreover, it is postulated that a personal psychoanalysis will provide the psychoanalyst with “a protective armour”, so that he will not feel hurt when exposed to attacks that would feel hurtful to the majority of people. This personal experience will certify that the psychoanalyst will know both himself and the patient significantly better that the patient will know himself or the analyst.

Jacques Bénesteau (2002) documented the large number of patients of the first generation of psychoanalysts who committed suicide. Two analysts held the record, viz. Anna Freud (Freud’s daughter) and Paul Federn.

We should note the high rate of suicide when analysts assure that their treatment is totally free from dangers.

But however many suicides or other serious injuries may be documented among patients, who had shown no such inclination before they started psychoanalysis, the question would remain whether such outcomes were accident at work, or whether they were deliberately caused. Here we must be careful about what formulations we choose. For most readers it would be difficult to imagine a psychoanalyst sitting behind the patient and constructing plans about how to make this patient take his own life.

Here I am in a really favourable situation, because one analyst has given the answer in public print. Nils Haak was thrice the chairman of the Swedish branch of IPA. He could not have had such positions if he propagated and practiced a variety of treatment that was widely dissimilar from those of his colleagues.

Haak explains that the patient shall not have from the treatment what he or she wants. Haak look contemptuous on such aim as freedom from symptoms and calls this aim “magic help”. Even if this is the only alternative to a life-time sentence (as it were for Mr B., the exhibitionist), this should make no different. Instead the patient shall have something which he in the beginning is not the least interested in. This “non-magical” help is called “psychic health”. In view of the considerable importance of “psychic health” within Haak’s framework it is strange that he is unable to provide any information about what it is. But in contrast to all other psychoanalysts I have some information about, Haak does not try to conceal that the attempts to give the patient psychic health may, as a perfectly normal effect, lead to nervous breakdown or suicide attempts.

“The patient can be driven to more or less dramatic breakdowns in order to influence the analysts to release the magic help; for instance, suicidal attempts or hysterical attacks.” (Haak, 1955:190)

We would not expect Haak to get many patients, if he gave them correct information about what he is going to do. In particular, some genuinely sick patients would turn elsewhere. Hence, it looks as if we might venture the guess that Haak had not understood that it may sometimes be wise not to tell the truth. A second guess might be that Haak thinks that he has the right to deceive his patients.

 

Concerning suicide attempts it is known that there is no correlation between the risk of actually dying, and the will to die. Some person may use suicide attempts for impressing others, but may apply a technique that may make it almost a wonder that they survived.

But a psychoanalyst may know that producing an extraordinary degree of impotent rage will be most harmful to some patients (and, in fact, not helpful to any patient). But he may also have learned from his training that this is the right way to perform psychoanalytic treatment. Indeed, Jerome. D. Frank (1961:125) quotes the words of a young psychiatrist: ”Even if the patient doesn’t get better, you know you’re doing the right thing.”

I do not suggest that rising the degree of impotent rage is the only way in which a psychoanalyst could drive his patients to suicide.

Among critics of Freud and his followers the ego psychoanalysts seem to have been examined less than other schools. This is one reason why I have devoted so much space to it. Nils Haak actually considers himself an ego analyst, although I must confess that I cannot understand on what grounds.

But Haak quotes Edmund Bergler’s words: “When the analyst says that the neurosis must be destroyed, the patient’s third aim is: ‘My neurosis must be improved’.” This attitude could provide an effective alibi for Bergler’s hyper-aggressive behaviour toward his patients. We must hope that Haak is not equally aggressive toward patients.

 

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