Tales from the Vienna Woods
About Scientific Verification
of Their Interpretations
Preface by Robert Wilcocks
As recently as July 2006 the British literary weekly, The Times Literary Supplement, was running advertisements under the general heading „Courses“ as follows:
- Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research
- Introductory Course: Freud-Lacan
- The Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis —
- Sept 2006 – July 2007
In other words, the INFC has a long way to go before it can demonstrate that it has successfully shown the truth of that „most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the 20th Century“ (dixit Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel Prize for Medicine, 1960). What has allowed the continuation of this hoax on humanity has been a subtle combination of outright lies on behalf of its protagonists and wish-fulfillment fantasies on behalf of its victims. The great Scandinavian scholar, Max Scharnberg, has shown over the years, with intensive attention to detail, how so much of Freudian scholarship is no more than — as he once wrote carefully about the American „scholars“ Fisher & Greenberg — „SWINDLE“ . However, the 1958 conference organized by Sydney Hook at the New York University Institute of Philosophy was the turning point of this duplicity. It is also the beginning of Max Scharnberg’s brilliant and final (one would hope) demonstration that the „ego-psychology“ of the Chicago analysts led by Heinz Hartmann was a continuation of the Freudian method whereby lies are a regular substitute for experience. The philosophers in New York in 1958 were doubtless mesmerized (so to speak) by the contents of Hartmann’s remarks & cases — the very notion that they were being presented with a set of lies did not occur to the philosophers. It has taken Scharnberg several years of careful research to show to the public the sheer degree of deception practised on the public and the medical professions from not merely the Vienna headquarters of Freud’s psychoanalytic organization; but also from the anglophone American version called „ego-psychology“ in Chicago under the direction of Heinz Hartmann. This monograph by Max Scharnberg, the fruit of many years of research, is a magnificent example of the English phrase „The Truth Will Out!“
In 1958 a conference was held at New York University Institute of Philosophy, in which prominent psychoanalysts and philosophers participated. The theme was the kind and degree of rationality of psychoanalytic theory and methodology. The addresses were published in a book, Psychoanalysis, Scientific Method, and Philosophy (1959) by Sidney Hook. The philosophers presented many important objections. Nevertheless, they were handicapped by their belief that the psychoanalysts were in good faith. They did not detect the central and intentional lie offered by Heinz Hartmann. The latter was the father of ego-analysis and hence one of the great theorists within the Freudian organisation.
All analysts agreed with Hartmann that
(a) psychoanalysts gather so many concrete observations about every patient, that non-analysts cannot even imagined such large quantities;
(b) every interpretation is based on an immense wealth of observations;
(c) these observations are obtained by the psychoanalytic method,
(d) psychoanalytic interpretations are, because of their sizable richness of details, superior to anything achieved by other theories;
(e) psychoanalytic predictions are often confirmed by means of procedures which non-psychoanalysts would accept as rational;
(f) psychoanalysts carefully avoid influencing their patients;
(g) because of the absence of such influence it is an unmistakable fact that patient reactions (e.g., belief in the interpretations, outbursts of impotent rage) exclusively derive from the patient’s own mind.
Hartmann offered no concrete support of any of these statements. Instead of empirical evidence he merely advanced two words: the number of his reference and its writer. This reference was clearly the utmost best example of scientific confirmation he had managed to find within 60 years of psychoanalytic writings. But he wisely abstained from providing any information about what interpretations were constructed and how they were verified.
The invoked source is Notes on the Analytic Discovery of a Primal Scene, in which Marie Bonaparte (1945) describes her own treatment by Freud. However, Hartmann concealed the following circumstances:
(1) Literally all observations were made without any specific method. All observations are immediately available to any layman.
(2) Extremely few observations were gathered.
(3) Bonaparte had dreamed of a couple who were lying near each other. And when Bonaparte was seven years old she had written a brief story with the title “The Mouth-Pencil”.
(4) All interpretations are based on extremely few observations: one to four.
(5) The interpretations are rich in details. (This is the only point where Hartmann told the truth.)
(6) The interpretations are completely arbitrary and often absurd.
(7) Freud’s interpretation was that Bonaparte when she was less than two years old had observed coitus and fellatio. The fellatio interpretation is exclusively based on the title of the brief story “The Mouth-Pencil”.
(8) Freud, Hartmann, Bonaparte, Ernest Jones and many others were incapable of distinguishing between interpretations they had derived from psychoanalytic theory, and those they had derived from their private prejudices. Even under the most generous conception, psychoanalytic theory could never identify which persons were involved in fellatio. But Freud and his followers fancied that they had derived from the theory that the couple consisted of Bonaparte’s wet-nurse and her uncle.
(9) Her uncle was 82 years old. Bonaparte went to him and told what she had learned from Freud, and hammered on him for months until he confessed.
(10) This is the procedure of verification that allegedly is altogether rational and scientific, and to which Hartmann was secretly referring .
(11) As regards Hartmann’s assertion that psychoanalysts do not influence their patients, Bonaparte writes explicitly what she strongly rejected Freud’s interpretation. But Freud was unimpressed by her denial. He continued to force the interpretation upon her, until he had conquered her resistance.
Obviously Hartmann understood that, if he had told the truth, the philosophers would have rejected his claim as pseudo-scientific.
Any critic who believes that Freud and his followers were in good faith, is more or less predestined to overlook some of the most serious faults in their writings.
Table of Contents
I The “Flawless” Nature of Ego-Analysis (!?)
II Heinz Hartmann’s Claims About How Psychoanalytic Interpretations are Constructed and Verified
III The Two Tables of Superlatives
IV Marie Bonaparte’s Examples of Construction and Verification of Interpretations
V Are the Bonaparte Interpretations Based on an Immense Quantity of Observations?
VI Freud’s, Bonaparte’s, Jones’s and Hartmann’s Inability to Distinguish Between Interpretations Derived from Psychoanalytic Theory and From Their Own Idiosyncratic Prejudices
VII Sham Verification of the Bonaparte Interpretations
VIII The Bonaparte Interpretations and Their Relation to the Case-Studies of Dora and the Wolf Man
IX The Principle of Similarity
X “The Wealth of Observations” in the Third Seduction Paper
XI Felix Gattel’s Significance
XII The Third Seduction Paper: External Verification of Interpretations – and Some of Freud’s Lying Techniques
XIII “Psychoanalysts Do Not Influence Their Patients”
XIV Freud’s Ethics and the Case-Study of Dora
XV Concluding Remarks
A Brief Survey of the History of Criticism of Psychoanalysis
The “Flawless” Nature of Ego-Analysis (!?)
Since the 1990s there has been a considerable growth of criticisms of Freud and psychoanalysis. It is not my intention to belittle writings published before 1990, and in the epilogue I shall stress the significance of some pre-1990 writings; in particular the central importance of the year 1960. It remains a fact, however, that some of the crucial writings were not widely known prior to the 1990s. And before that year the psychoanalysts themselves basically agreed that their best defense is to ignore criticism.
What is today called “ego-analysis” was in the 1950s and 1960s called the “Neo-Freudian” school or “the new ego-PSYCHOLOGY”. This was the first innovative school within the Freudian organization (IPA). It started in 1946 and its father was Heinz Hartmann. Hartmann, together with David Rapaport and Erik Homburger Erikson, were soon to be considered the theoretical leaders. “The new ego-psychologists” were most eager to have their position acknowledged as an ordinary psychological theory of basically the same kind as behaviorism and the cognitive theories of Piaget and Bruner. They realized that Freud’s repeated talk of faeces and defecation would be embarrassing and annoying to many people. Consequently, out of the anal stage they retained little more than “obstinacy”. And they primarily substituted it with a less repulsive stage in which the child learns “independence”, a trait which will involve a certain amount of obstinacy. Another fundamental feature of their writings was the care with which they concealed the techniques they really applied in the consultation room.
Psychoanalysts of all kinds had always claimed that Freud and his followers had gathered an enormous wealth of clinical observations, of a highly unexpected and interesting nature. They have added the claim that such observations could only be obtained by means of the psychoanalytic method. But the ego-analysts added a further myth: Freud had inductively developed his theories and his interpretations on the basis of his observations. The following account from the early 1960s is typical:
“Trained in the natural sciences, Freud was a confirmed empiricist. He was also a careful, keen observer, and some of his work is a delight to read because of his careful reporting of observations and the generalizations derived from them. It is precisely because of this emphasis on careful observation that he reformulated his propositions several times, trying to find better ways to account for their interrelationships. The data were not in error. The crucial responses did occur in his patients. One need not question his statements that patients told him of childhood seductions and sexual longings for parents. Rather his reformulations were attempts to explain the data better.
The observations were extensive. […] There is little question about the brilliance of Freud’s observational skills. He developed his theories out of this mass of observational data. The extensive case studies he presents reveal this. He started with data, and INDUCTIVELY DEVELOPED THE THEORY, rather than beginning with theoretical formulations and deducing the observational data which should appear if the theory were correct. […] ” Ford & Urban (1963:148, 174, italics of the original; bold types, underlining and capitals added)
It is extremely easy to show that this account cannot possibly be true. In 1903 the former president of the Supreme Court in Dresden Daniel Paul Schreber (1842-1911) published “Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken”, the Autobiography of his illness (new editions in German 1973, 2003, 2004; English transl. 1955). According to Landis & Mettler (1964:474) he was afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia. Now, it is undeniable that the varieties of facts (observations) described by Schreber are available to any layman and cannot have been obtained by means of the psychoanalytic method. Nevertheless, Freud (GW‑VIII:239‑320) wrote a study of Schreber, and the 80 pages consist almost entirely of psychoanalytic interpretations. Evidently, Freud did not consider himself to be handicapped by the total absence of any observations other than such ones that were well-known before psychoanalysis was invented. Neither did his followers. Many of them counted the Schreber article one of Freud’s six (and only six!) “famous case-studies”.
Nevertheless, this is not what we shall discuss now. Because of the many extensive and deeply penetrating analyses of Freud and his followers, which have been published during the last 15‑20 years, psychoanalysts have finally perceived the necessity of defending themselves.
Unfortunately, one prominent group has by and large escaped criticism, viz. the ego-analysts. This circumstance might furnish the impression that this school is less vulnerable than psychoanalysis as a whole. And if one school – which was even the most prominent one during at least two decades – has such a merit, it would be improbable that other schools would be devoid of any great value.
In the 1950s and 1960s Sigmund Koch published many volumes with the title Psychology: A Study of a Science. In each volume representatives of different schools wrote articles, which had to agree with a predetermined standard (e.g., “the structure of the system”, “the evidence for the system”, “major sources of incompatible data”, “methods”). In vol. III Rapaport wrote an article having the title The Structure of Psychoanalytic Theory.
One of the simplest methods of textual analysis is to juxtapose and compare statements which have a bearing on each other. They are often made on different pages, or even in different writings. Anyway, we shall find the following statements in the same article by Rapaport (1965).
(a) “The accumulated clinical evidence is positive and decisive” (p. 140)
(b) “Psychoanalytic theory […] is adequate for clinical purposes […]. (p. 148)
(c) “As things stand, there is no canon whereby valid interpretations can be distinguished from speculation, though ex post facto the experienced clinician can distinguish them rather well.” (p. 141)
(d) “The extensive clinical evidence, which would seem conclusive in terms of the system’s internal consistency, fails to be conclusive in terms of the usual criteria of science.” (p. 142)
Compare (a) and (c): If valid interpretations cannot be distinguished from invalid interpretations, then the accumulated clinical evidence cannot be positive and decisive.
Compare (b) and (c): If the theory cannot help the clinician to distinguish between true and false interpretations, then the theory cannot be adequate for clinical purposes. Obviously, the primary task of the theory is to enable exactly this distinction.
Compare (c) and (d): If the theory cannot distinguish between true and false interpretations, the clinical evidence cannot even be conclusive in terms of the system’s internal consistency.
It is incredible how many people have read Rapaport’s four statements without noticing the immense contradictions between them.
[A proponent of psychoanalysis might object that I have “disclosed” these contradictions only by distorting the text: Rapaport did not say that psychoanalytic theory cannot distinguish between true and false interpretations, but only that there is no psychoanalytic “canon” by means of which such distinction can be made. Several similar objections might be advanced. They are correct in one specific sense. Rapaport’s text is replete with persuasive evasions. Whenever he has advanced a sentence which almost all readers will perceive as an assertion of some empirical or logical circumstance, Rapaport has built an “emergency exit” into the sentence. If the assertion should backfire, he has prepared for the counter argument that he had asserted nothing at all.]
In the remainder of this article we shall investigate whether any accumulated and extensive clinical evidence exists at all, and whether it is positive and decisive. We shall also look more closely at Freud’s extensive observations and the brilliance of his observational skills, together with his inductive development of his theory. Note that we shall scrutinize the best examples which Heinz Hartmann had been able to find in 60 years of psychoanalytic writings.
Heinz Hartmann’s Claims About How Psychoanalytic Interpretations are Constructed and Verified
In 1958 a conference was held at New York University Institute of Philosophy. It was attended by a number of distinguished psychoanalysts and philosophers, and its aim was to discuss the nature and degree of rationality of psychoanalytic theory and method. Basically, the papers were published in Psychoanalysis, Scientific Method, and Philosophy by Sidney Hook (1959).
The philosophers advanced many sceptical and keen objections. However, they were handicapped by their implicit assumption that the analysts were in good faith. As a result they overlooked some deliberate misinformation in Heinz Hartmann’s address. One excerpt from the latter will constitute the point of departure of my paper, and it will be called “the central quotation”.
“The data gathered in the psychoanalytic situation with [a] the help of the psychoanalytic method are [b] primarily behavioral data; and the aim is clearly the exploration of human behavior. The data are mostly the patient’s verbal behavior, but include other kinds of action. They include his silences, his postures, and his movements in general, more specifically his expressive movements.
As to the data, it is hard to give, outside the analytic process itself an impression of [c] the wealth of observational data collected in even one single ‘case’. One frequently refers to the comparatively small number of cases studied in analysis and tends to forget [d] the very great number of actual observations on which we base, in every individual case, the interpretations of an aspect of a person’s character, symptoms and so on.
[footnote:] Thus every single clinical ‘case’ represents, for research, hundreds of data of observed [e] regularities, and in [f] hundreds of respects.” (Hartmann, 1959:21, my layout)
“By keeping certain variables in the analytic situation, if not constant, [g] as close to constancy as the situation allows, it becomes easier to evaluate [h] the significance of other variables that enter the picture. The best-studied example of this is what is called [i] the ‘passivity’ of the analyst, […] This is not to claim that psychoanalysis is an experimental discipline. However, there are situations where it [j] comes close to it [=being an experimental discipline].” (Hartmann, 1959:21, my layout)
“There is sufficient evidence for the statement that our observations in the psychoanalytic situation, set in the context of psychoanalytic experience and hypotheses, [k] make predictions possible – predictions of various degrees of precision or reliability, but [l] as a rule superior to any others that have been attempted in the psychology of personality. Due to the emphasis on the genetic viewpoint, many predictions are what has been called ‘predictions of the past’, that is, reconstructions of the past [m] which can often be confirmed in astonishing detail (Bonaparte, 6)”.] (Hartmann, 1959:21f., my layout)
Numerous psychoanalysts have produced texts of a closely analogous content. A highly representative example is the quotation by Ford & Urban (1963) in chapter I.
Despite what has already been said about Heinz Hartmann in the first chapter, it is important to make his unique position entirely clear. When Freud died in 1939, the unchallenged theoretical leader of the Freudian organisation (IPA) was Otto Fenichel, and he remained so until 1946 when the first innovative school within the Freudian organisation emerged. Hartmann was the father of this school.
We have seen that the school was for decades called “the new ego PSYCHOLOGY”. But not merely concerning the name, but also concerning the content, there is an immense difference between those descriptions that are produced today (e.g., Andkjär Olsen & Köppe, 1996), and the descriptions during its heydays. Ford & Urban (1963) were considered authoritative, and they considered neo-Freudianism superior to all other approaches (including behavior therapy). However, the reason for the superiority was solely that it had supplemented Freud’s theory of the development of the pathological mind with a theory of the development of the normal mind. In neo-Freudian writings Ford & Urban had found no innovations as regards what happened in the consultation room. They concluded that the neo-Freudians applied the classical Freudian methods.
In actual fact, neo-Freudians were conspicuously innovative in the consultation room. But no trace of their innovations can be found in their published writings. They highly admired Freud’s case-studies. Plagiarising the case of the wolf man, they very often explained psychic symptom, whatever their nature, as the result of one single kind of event. Around the age of one year the patient had woken up and watched his or her parents performing coitus. This is what Freud called “the primal scene”. A psychoanalyst belonging to a later school provides the following characteristics of ego-analysis, which another later psychoanalyst, Patrick Mahony (1984:53), has found worthy of being quoted:
“Mania, depression, paranoia, hebephrenia, phobia, hysteria, compulsive neurosis, character disorder, learning disturbance, asthma, headache, delinquency – all have been explained as reactions to single or multiple exposures to the primal scene. One is moved to wonder whether we are here confronted by one of those situations in which a theory, by explaining everything, succeeds in explaining nothing.” (Esman, 1973:64f.)
The neo-Freudians were also highly brutal toward their patients. One technique for driving a patient mad was to simulate stupidity, to feign to be a fool, and to give answers without rhyme and reason. The following constructed fragment is an apt illustration. Suppose the patient has become very upset by a certain highly pejorative interpretation and says the first line of the following dialogue. Suppose further that the analyst in a friendly tone of voice asks the subsequent but quite inappropriate question.
Patient: You could assert hell knows what. I mean, you could assert that tomorrow the sun and the moon will collide.
Analyst: But you mean that the sun and the moon will not collide tomorrow?
One such answer may be mildly unpleasant. But if answers of this variety are continually fired against the patient, he or she may well explode in rage – in particular if the patient is seriously ill and in need of adequate (i.e., real medical) help.
The ego-analysts were also strongly inclined to explain psychic symptoms as a stratagem for impressing others.
The Two Tables of Superlatives
Many psychoanalysts have vouched for the absolute truth and unassailable proof of their theory. Such postulations were not abandoned until the results of the modern Freud research, which started in the 1990s, became too well-known. But even today no clear-cut or permanent abandoning has been found. The present psychoanalytic policy is rather to oscillate between asserting or implying or denying the truths & proofs of their theory, depending on the strategic advantages of the momentary situation.
TABLE 1: CONCRETE EXAMPLES OF PROPAGANDISTIC SUPERLATIVES:
“We possess the truth.” (Sigmund Freud in a letter to Ferenczi, quoted in Bailey, 1965:89)
“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. (Anna Freud, quoted in Bailey, 1965:90)
“So far, no other scientific psychology has been evolved that can match the consistency and rigor with which Freud pursued the investigation of man’s personality as a system.” (Eissler, 1965:57)
“We cannot overlook the multiplicity and pregnancy of supporting instances.” (Westerlundh, 1976:1)
[In response to Janet’s criticism that psychoanalytic interpretations are merely arbitrary and capricious:]
“The statements are quite worthless, for he simply does not know that the interpretations are the very reverse of this, being based on objective principles that have no reference to individual opinion, but only to the evidence of the facts themselves.” (Jones, 1914:406)
“Crystalline clarity” is the formulation with which D. Miller (1973:500) praises Freud’s writings.
“Dora, yearning for this ideal [= search for the truth] must have appreciated Freud’s remarkable integrity and his single-minded search for truth in his work.” (Glenn, 1980:34)
Our first task will be to extract, explicate and juxtapose a number of the postulations (HH‑) made by Hartmann in the central quotation.
It should be carefully noted that all excerpts are almost found on the very same page in Hartmann’s paper.
TABLE 2: HEINZ HARTMANN’S CENTRAL ASSERTIONS
HH‑1 Every psychoanalytic interpretation is based on such an enormous wealth of observational data, that non-psychoanalysts can hardly imagine that any scientist would base any interpretation on so many data.
HH‑2 Psychoanalysts gather an enormous wealth of observations about each of their patients [possibly with some trivial exceptions, such as patients who very soon drop out of treatment].
HH‑3 Psychoanalytic interpretations can be confirmed in astonishing details, by means of methods which non-psychoanalytic scientists would accept as rational and satisfactory.
HH‑4 Most of the data gathered by psychoanalysts are behavioural data.
HH‑5 The data gathered by psychoanalysts in the psychoanalytic situation are obtained with the help of the psychoanalytic method.
HH‑6 About every single patient the psychoanalyst has observed “regularities”, and each of these regularities is based on hundreds of data. [Hartmann provides no information about the number of such regularities. Are they closer to “6” than to “600”?]
HH‑7 About every patient psychoanalysts have observed “hundreds of respects”. [It is not clear whether the “respects” are supposed to have some relation to the “regularities”.]
HH‑8 Psychoanalysts do their best to keep the variables of the psychoanalytic situation constant, and they succeed to a very large extent.
HH‑9 The psychoanalyst is passive, foremost in the sense that he to a very high degree succeeds in not influencing the patient.
HH‑10 Because of the constancy of the variables in the psychoanalytic situation, psychoanalysis sometimes comes close to being an experimental science.
HH‑11 Because of the constancy of the influence from the psychoanalytic situation including from the psychoanalyst, it can be established that certain other phenomena do not derive from any of these two sources. [MS: it is rather obvious that Hartmann foremost have two phenomena in mind. (a) Patients undergoing treatment will eventually come to believe in the psychoanalytic interpretations; (b) Patients will sometimes have violent outbursts of impotent rage.]
Marie Bonaparte’s Examples of Construction and Verification of Interpretations
It is easy to overlook one tiny little fact in Hartmann’s paper. He refers to a brief article (Notes on the Analytic Discovery of a Primal Scene) by Marie Bonaparte (1945), and claims that verification can be found there.
If psychoanalytic theory and practice really had the merits postulated by Hartmann, it would have an indisputable scientific value. And then we might be more tolerant of its errors in other respects. Hence, there is strong reason to take a close look at Bonaparte’s paper, and also at the assessment of this paper by other prominent psychoanalysts.
Marie Bonaparte (1882-1962) was a princess of Greece and Denmark. Her great-granduncle was Emperor Napoléon. No one else whom Freud trained to become a psychoanalyst had in advance as much prestige and bestowed it on the Freudian organisation. She was probably the only person who in 1938 could obtain Gestapo’s permission for Freud to leave Austria. She is also the person who saved Freud’s letters to Wilhelm Fliess, when Freud wanted to destroy them. She had neither any positive nor negative interest of theoretical innovations. But she had always a good relation to the ego-analysts.
She started psychoanalytic treatment by Freud in 1926 at the age of 42. She had previously undergone two surgical operations of her sex organ in the hope that they might cure her frigidity.
In his Freud biography Ernest Jones gives the following account:
“The main reason why Freud had at first been reluctant to accept his doctor’s advice [that he should leave Vienna] was that he wished to continue his work so long as Marie Bonaparte could stay in Vienna. Incidentally, it was on her return to Paris that she induced her old groom to admit that he used to have intercourse with her nurse in her presence when she was just under a year old. Freud had to her great astonishment divined this episode from analytic material, and they were both excited at the confirmation. He wrote: ‘Now you understand how contradiction and recognition can be completely indifferent when one knows oneself to possess a real certainty. That was my case, and it was why I have held out against scorn and disbelief without even getting bitter’.” (Jones, 1957:129)
Bonaparte’s paper was published in the first volume of the yearbook The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. The editors of this volume were Anna Freud, Ernst Kris and Heinz Hartmann. It is not controversial that Marie Bonaparte described her own analysis with Freud, and that the editors knew this.
The next seven quotations are presented almost on the same page (119 and 120), and the first four immediately follow each other:
“A forty-two-year-old woman is undergoing analysis. In the fourth week of her analysis the patient one night dreams that she is in a small cot on the grassy slopes of a park, near a lake, looking intently at a married couple whom she knows lying quite near in their bed.” (Bonaparte, 1945:119)
This is the total set of observations from which Freud deduced his interpretation:
“The analyst asserts that she must have seen sexual scenes in her childhood, that the dream must derive from an unconscious reminiscence of what she saw. She must not only have heard those scene in the dark, as is so often the case with children, but she must have seen them in full daylight.” (Bonaparte, 1945:119)
We learn something about the patient’s reaction to the interpretation, and the analyst’s response to this reaction:
“The patient did not at first accept this interpretation of her dream, she even reacted violently against it, but the analyst persisted in his assertion.” (Bonaparte, 1945:119)
And then the interpretation is elaborated a little further:
“The patient’s mother had died when the little girl was born but she had a wet nurse, and the analyst suggested that she must have observed scenes between that nurse and some sexual partner.” (Bonaparte, 1945:119)
Her mother (Princess Marie Flix Blanc Bonaparte) died four weeks after having given the birth on July, 2nd.
The following is the earliest recollection she ever told during the treatment:
“She is sitting very low, on a small chair or a small box, in her nurse’s room. The nurse is standing in front of the looking-glass of the chimney, in which the fire burns; the child is looking at her intently. The nurse is smearing her own black hair with pomade. The pomade, in a little white pot, is on the marble of the chimney; that pomade is black. The child finds that disgusting. The nurse has a long yellowish face and looks like a horse.” (Bonaparte, 1945:119)
Another set of observations:
“Rumours had been going in the household, rumours which the patient had heard, that her nurse had had a lover, the master of her father’s horses.” [As stated elsewhere this master was Marie’s father’s illegitimate half-brother.] (Bonaparte, 1945:119)
This nurse left the household when Marie was three years old. But a photo reveals that the nurse did not have a horse-like face. Her face was sound and pleasant. Hence, “the horsy look of the woman must have expressed some real function of hers”, viz. that “she had been ridden as a horse by some horseman”. Moreover, “the yellow tinge of the face itself must have been some reminder of the yellowness of horse’s teeth” (Bonaparte, 1945:119f.).
“The fire expresses the fire of sexual love”. – The chimney is a symbol of “the cloaca”. – The black pomade is a symbol of faeces. – And:
“No doubt the hair itself of the nurse is displaced from the lower to the higher part of the body. Here occurs a condensation of pubic hair and hair on the head.” (Bonaparte, 1945:120)
When Marie was about seven years old, she wrote a number of brief stories. The title of one of them was “The mouth pencil”. Nothing is said about its content. Instead the title is interpreted in isolation: the nurse and the uncle had practiced fellatio.
Whatever sexual acts the couple supposedly practiced, they did so in daylight only until Marie was two years old. After that date they did it only in the dark. The justification for this conclusion is that all children learn to speak exactly at the age of two. Hence, after that age, but not before, Marie could have given the couple away.
How were these interpretations verified?
Bonaparte’s uncle was still alive. He was 82 years old. She went to him and recounted everything she had learned from her psychoanalysis. He denied everything. But Bonaparte continued to hammer on him for months, and he finally confessed.
He even confessed that he had practiced coitus and fellatio in full daylight only until the child was two years old, but subsequently only in the dark.
Bonaparte and Hartmann think that this is a scientific way of verifying interpretations. “Several factors had to work together in order to achieve this result”, and among them Bonaparte lists “the scientific, almost compulsively enterprising spirit of investigation of the patient” (Bonaparte, 1945:125).
Are the Bonaparte Interpretations Based on an Immense Quantity of Observations?
Our next task will be concerned with the eleven postulations of the Table above. To what extent are they born out by the case at hand? The originator of these postulations is Hartmann. He claimed both that they are typical of all psychoanalytic activity, and that they are particularly well born out by the case of Bonaparte. Evidently, he selected the latter as the utmost best example he could find in more than 60 years of psychoanalytic writings.
It is not a trifle that Hartmann states that such subsequent verifications “often” take place. If they do, why has Hartmann never published any example from his own practice? It will be a tough and probably an impossible task to try to find a second example of verification in psychoanalytic literature.
Moreover, if the psychoanalysts were in the possession of such eminent evidence in 1958, how must we explain that numerous psychoanalysts some decades later adopted the view that interpretations have no real truth but merely “narrative truths” (an incomprehensible concept)?
A minority even took a further step. According to W. Loch (“Some Comments on the Subject of Psychoanalysis and Truth”, 1977), the interpretations are little more than a specific variety of consolation lies. And according to the Swedish analyst Ludvig Igra (Objektrelationer och psykoterapi, 1997) the interpretations do not give the patient truth but merely “relief” and “intellectual pleasure”.
Anyone who has read Freud’s case-study of Dora may wonder how the mind works of a psychoanalyst who fancies that such interpretations gave Dora relief and intellectual pleasure.
Until the very last decades psychoanalysts would oscillate between two contradictory views:
(a) The published writings contain efficacious clinical proof of the truth of their theory.
(b) Psychoanalytic observations are so esoteric, that it is impossible to render them in print.
But if the observations primarily consist of behavioural data (cf. HH‑4 in Table 2), then it must be easy to render them in print. Moreover, it is not difficult to describe them.
Nearly all observations in psychoanalytic writings are concerned with what patients have stated in words. Reference to tone of voice, mimics, gestures and postures are not entirely absent, but they are very infrequent.
It must be noted, however, that what psychoanalysts call “observations” include the patients’ narratives, their narration of dreams, and the dreams themselves.
By postulating HH‑5 in Table 2, and by selecting Bonaparte’s writing as support, Hartmann implies that at least some of the data presented in this writing were obtained by the psychoanalytic method, and that they could not have been obtained without this method.
Hartmann seems to imply that the overwhelming majority of those data about Bonaparte which were used as basis for interpretations, were obtained by means of the psychoanalytic method.
But as soon as the problem is clearly formulated, it becomes flagrant that Hartmann is not telling the truth. Any layman could have gathered these facts. There do not exist such things as “psychoanalytic observations”. Nowhere in psychoanalytic writings can we find a non-trivial observation, or a non-trivial pattern of observations. Instead, psychoanalysts seem to pick up a few shallow observations, on the grounds that they can be used or misused to prove or sham-prove prejudiced interpretations.
In the first quotation by Bonaparte only the dream itself is used as basis of the interpretation, and the dream comprises 31 words. It could be argued that the dream is one single observation. But no sensible person would divide it into more than eight observations: “[a] she is in a small cot [b] on the grassy slopes [c] of a park, [d] near a lake, [e] looking intently at [f] a married couple whom she knows [g] lying quite near [h] in their bed.” Note that only the last four items are used to support the interpretation.
Before the age of two the human brain is not sufficiently developed for the preserving of long-term memories. Besides, children may develop sham-memories on the basis of what they have later been told.
Note that Bonaparte’s text gives no hint as to what feature made the nurse look like a horse. She did not say that she had a “horse face”. If she had long hair, and if she sometimes during the smearing process had both her hands under the hair, the hair could easily remind of a horsetail. And then a photo of her face would lose any evidential power.
Because the nurse did not have a horse face, the analyst deduced that she had been “ridden like a horse”.
Colours belong to the least trustworthy constituents of recollections. Besides, the nurse’s face might have been yellowish because it was seen in candlelight.
How many observations were used for proving that the nurse had been ridden like a horse by a horseman? Three: (a) the yellow colour of her face; (b) some indeterminate horse resemblance; and (c) the photo revealing that she did not have a horse face.
The interpretation about the daylight is based on three facts. (A) All children learn to speak exactly when they are two years old. (B) Marie could have given the couple away when she could speak. (C) The couple never took any risk.
Each of the following five interpretations is based on one single observation: (a) The fire expresses the fire of sexual love. (b) The chimney is a symbol of the anus. (c) The black pomade symbolises faeces. (d) The nurse’s hair on her head really means her pubic hair. (e) The title “The mouth pencil” proves that her nurse and her uncle had practiced fellatio.
Summing up, the actual number of observations upon which the interpretations are based, are at most: 4–3–3–1–1–1–1–1.
In other words, Hartmann’s postulation (HH‑1) that psychoanalytic interpretations are invariably based on an enormous amount of observations, is false. And its falsity is so extreme that Hartmann could not have been in good faith.
Freud’s, Bonaparte’s, Jones’s and Hartmann’s Inability to Distinguish between Interpretations Derived from Psychoanalytic Theory and From Their Own Idiosyncratic Prejudices
The heading of the present chapter expresses a feature that is flagrant in all psychoanalytic writings (with one trivial exception: writings that do not contain any observation at all).
Couldn’t the nurse have been “ridden as a horse”, but by a man who was not a horseman?
If the answer is “no”, what kind of evidence would prove that a patient had been “ridden as a horse”, while giving no indication of the male partner’s profession?
Marie’s father was the owner of the horses. Then: wasn’t he a horseman too? And whether or not the nurse and the uncle had a love relation, what evidence would rule out that this couple had never made sex in the presence of Marie, while the nurse and Marie’s father had indeed had it?
It is nonsense that all children learn to talk exactly at the age of two, and that Marie after that age could have given the couple away.
But the greatest surprise is the degree of rationality which Freud, Bonaparte, Hartmann and Jones attributed to some human beings. Is it impossible that the nurse and the uncle (or some other couple) sometimes, even when Marie was three years old, took the chance when the saps were rising and the child was having a nap?
Psychoanalytic theory might reveal from “the mouth pencil” that Marie had ideas about fellatio. Even if we should generously grant that she had witnessed fellatio, this variant could have been performed (a) at any age until seven when the story was written, (b) by any couple, and (c) in the dark as well as in daylight. Freud, Bonaparte, Hartmann and Jones overlooked that there is not even speculative evidence to support their idea that fellatio was performed in full daylight. In other words, Freud had definitely not “divined” (Jones’s expression) his interpretations from analytic material. Even if psychoanalytic theory had been absolutely true, Freud had applied it in an amateurish way, and his interpretations could only by a miraculous coincidence be true.
The four just mentioned psychoanalysts (as well as numerous others) have also missed a further consequence of their interpretations, viz. that no one could have a memory of fire and of a chimney, unless these phenomena were symbols of sexual love and the anus, respectively. To save this strange postulate, these Freudians would need a non-Freudian “defence mechanism” that would automatically delete all recollections that contain items (e.g. fire and a chimney) which, for whatever reason, ought not to be interpreted as Freudian symbols.
Summing up: psychoanalytic theory could at most reveal that Marie had had thoughts about coitus and fellatio. Even if we would generously accept as a derivation from this theory, that she had watched such behaviour, the same theory could provide no indication as to what couple was involved, and this applies both to the nurse and the uncle. Likewise, psychoanalysis gives no indication of Marie’s age when she [allegedly] saw these things.
An adequate investigation should not only examine what statements can truly be derived from a theory, but also with what statements a number of psychoanalysts imagine that they have derived from the same theory. It is an important fact that Freud, Bonaparte, Jones and Hartmann imagined that psychoanalytic theory revealed the identity of the sexual couple.
Sham Verification of the Bonaparte Interpretations
It is obvious that the verification procedure described by Hartmann does not satisfy any scientific standard. And it cannot be doubted that psychoanalysts were fully aware of the fact that legal history is crowded with false confessions extracted by hammering a certain message. It is a most illuminating fact that Freud, Jones, Bonaparte and Hartmann need the hammering procedure for obtaining even one instance of “verification”.
But we can be sure that Hartmann would never have dared to tell the philosophers at the 1958 conference what is really stated in Bonaparte’s paper, and the real procedure by means of which the interpretations were substantiated.
For how long time would a stable master and illegitimate uncle dare to tell a princess of Greece and Denmark that her ideas are wrong? And some 82-year-old people are weak and incapable of resisting the hammering techniques. In addition, Marie Bonaparte had a few years previously been mentally ill. Her uncle might have thought that her new ideas were just another expression of her illness; therefore it would be unwise to contradict her.
As regards the claim that many people can be made to admit many false things by means of the hammering technique, I am in the fortunate situation of being able to invoke the authority of a famous psychoanalyst:
“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 sense, they look down upon us compassionately, ironically and sometimes actually in despair of our intelligence. […] The only thing which takes them back 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.” (Bergler, 1937:152)
In this quotation Bergler explicitly admits that it is equally easy to persuade patients to believe in true and false interpretations.
What position did Edmund Bergler have? According to the text on the backside of his book Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life? (1971) he belonged to the staff of the Freud Clinic in Vienna since 1927, and was assistant director 1933-1937. From 1942 to 1945 he was a lecturer at the Psychoanalytic Institute in New York. He could not have held these positions, if the just presented quotation expressed a view widely at variance with that of Freud and other prominent psychoanalysts.
In the dialogues published in writings by Freud or Bergler we find very coarse persuasive techniques. Evidently, the treatment goal of both is to substitute the patient’s conscious beliefs with other conscious beliefs. However much Freud and Bergler talk about the unconscious, their actual performance in the consultation room proceeds as if the unconscious did not exist – or at the very least that it can safely be ignored in actual therapy.
Nowhere in the case-study of Dora can be found any hint that Freud tried to influence anything else than her conscious beliefs. And in his letter 1897-01-03 he recounts his brute conduct when a female patient did not accept his interpretation that her father had performed fellatio on her when she was lying in the cradle, and that that was the cause of her eczema.
“She is suffering from eczema around her mouth and from lesions that do not heal in the corners of her mouth. During the night her saliva periodically accumulates, after which the lesions appear. (Once before I traced back entirely analogous observations to sucking on the penis.) […]
Habemus papam! [= There we have the father!]
When I thrust the explanation at her, she was at first won over, then she committed the folly of questioning the old man himself, who at the very intimation exclaimed indignantly, ‘Are you implying that I was the one?’ and swore a holy oath to his innocence.
She is now in the throes of the most vehement resistance, claims to believe him, […] I have threatened to send her away [evidently if she refuses to believe in this interpretation].” (Masson, 1985:220f.)
This account reveals the close agreement between Freud’s technique and the above description given by Bergler.
Scharnberg (1996, vol. I, chap. 57-68) analysed excerpts from an audio-recorded psychoanalytic treatment, where the analyst is given the pseudonym “Lambdason”. This is one of the extrremely few cases of a word-by-word registered treatment, in which the published excerpts were not selected by a psychoanalyst. From these excerpts we can see that neither Lambdason has any other non-transient goal than to substitute conscious beliefs with other conscious beliefs.
It was stated above that the ego-analysts were particularly fond of Freud’s explanation of the wolf man’s symptoms as the result of an experience he had had at the age of 18 months. They were also in the habit of explaining most symptoms of most patients as the effect of having witnessed coitus around the age of one. [MS: I repeat that before the age of two the human brain is not sufficiently developed for retaining long-term memories.] Hence, it is unsurprising that Hartmann at the conference chose an event involving an infant who allegedly had witnessed coitus and fellatio.
The Bonaparte Interpretations and Their Relation to the Case-Studies of Dora and the Wolf Man
I cannot help comparing Bonaparte’s information that Marie is “looking intently” at the couple in the bed, with Freud’s description of the wolf man. At the age of four, the latter patient had a nightmare, in which a number of wolves were sitting on the branches of the tree just outside the child’s window. The dream is described in literally the same words in the case-study (GW‑XII:54/SE‑XVII:29), and in the brief article The occurrence in dreams of material from fairy tales (GW‑X:5/SE‑XII:283f.). But nowhere in this double account of the dream, is it stated that the wolves were staring intently at the child.
Nevertheless, it is a recurrent feature of Freud’s methodology to misquote his own text, when he wants to prove an interpretation. Thus he says that the intensive staring of the wolves in the dream must be a symbol of such intensive staring by the wolf child. Hence, the dream refers to the event when the child at the age of 18 months witnessed three coital acts of his parents. “The attentive looking […] should rather be shifted on to him.” (GW‑XII:61/SE‑XVII:35)
The wolf man lived so long that a non-analyst and journalist Karin Obholzer succeeded in identifying him. In 1980 she published her book Gespräche mit dem Wolfsmann (transl. 1982, “The Wolf-man Sixty Years Later”), that primarily consists of interviews with this patient). He told that the animals of his dreams were not wolves but dogs, and that they were not seven but five. And on one page in Freud’s own case-study (GW‑XII:55/SE‑XVII:30) a drawing by the wolf-man is shown: five animals are sitting on the branches of a tree.
It is easily seen that Freud was very eager to prove his own interpretation that the tale of the wolf and the seven little goats was concealed behind the manifest dream.
Moreover, the wolf man did not say that the wolves were immobile. In the dream he felt anxiety because they might at any moment attack and eat him. But Freud (GW‑XII:61/SE‑XVII:35.) fabricated the following constituent: “immobility (the wolves sat there motionless; they looked at him, but did not move)”. And then he changed this into the opposite thing: “the most violent motion”, which means Coitus.
Marie talked about the hair of the head of the nurse. But above we learned that what Bonaparte was really interested in, was the pubic hair of the nurse. But by means of some defence mechanism the interesting hair was “displaced from the lower to the higher part of the body”. For this interpretation Freud does not even provide pseudo-evidence.
It might be easy to find out the specific details of the upbringing of the Princess of Greece and Denmark. During preschool age she might not have known that adults had pubic hair!
Note that an analogous instance of displacement is postulated in Freud’s case-study of Dora. “Mr. K.” was the husband of Dora’s father’s mistress. When Dora was 13 years old (not 14, as Freud states), Mr. K., who was thrice her age, kissed her by violent force, while she struggled to make herself free and finally succeeded. For some time after this event Dora felt a pressure sensation in her chest (GW‑V:187f./SE‑VII:29).
At least for one year prior to the kiss attack Dora had suffered from cough attacks whose duration was 3‑6 weeks. Both her parents suffered from hereditary lung diseases, and her mother died from it 12 years later. Nevertheless, Freud completely overlooks the possibility that Dora’s cough attacks and the pressure sensation could have any admixture of a hereditary or somatogenic aetiology. Freud only pays attention to the facts that coughing is rhythmical like coitus, and that it is related to the mouth. From these circumstances he deduces that the cause of Dora’s coughing was her unconscious wish to suck Mr. K.’s penis.
Freud also overlooks another fact that should be obvious to anyone. Mr. K. must have exercised strong pressure on Dora’s sick lungs to prevent her from escaping. His physical pressure may well have been causally responsible for what Freud (and the ego-analysts) calls “a hallucinatory pressure”.
Instead, Freud explains the pattern of events in the following way. The kiss attack led Dora to fall in love with Mr. K. And during the kiss she felt Mr. K.’s erection. But she did not dare to accept her feelings, because she feared that her vagina would be repulsive to Mr. K., as a consequence of her (postulated but not established) masturbation at the age of 8. One of the consequences was that the pressure of Mr. K.’s penis against her private parts was “displaced from the lower to the higher part of the body”, viz. her chest (GW‑V:188/SE‑VII:29).
The Principle of Similarity
Clearly, the statements of Freud and his followers as to how they construct their interpretations are deliberately false. However, is it possible to find other rules which they really use, and give them an explicit formulation? Yes. And I have extracted seven fundamental rules and included them in The Non-Authentic Nature of Freud’s Observations, 1993, vol. II, chapter 36.
Only the first will be presented here. The principle of similarity postulates that the cause and the effect are similar to each other. If you want to find the cause of a symptom (or of any phenomenon), you must find or invent an event that resembles the symptom (or the phenomenon).
This principle is no psychoanalytic innovation. Freud borrowed it from mythological thinking and traditional superstition. From the last two thousand years it is a matter of routine to find any desired number of examples. The three that I have selected are found in writings which, when they were written, were considered scientific.
In the 12th century Hildegard von Bingen wrote in „Naturkunde“ (1959, S. 125) that deafness can be cured by laying the ear of a lion against the deaf ear of the patient. But it is necessary that the lion’s ear is still warm.
In 1621 Robert Burton stated in Anatomy of Melancholy (1927, S. 187), that the cause of a hare-lip is that the mother during pregnancy had been scared by a hare.
When „Psychische Heilkunde“ (I‑II, 1817‑1818) was published it was a highly appreciated, both as a textbook and as a book for experts. In the chapter About the Influence of the Mother’s Fantasy on the Development of the Foetus Albert Matthias Vering (vol. I, p. 42) told of a woman who bore a child without arms. He asserted the explanation that the pregnant mother had been scared by a beggar without arms. Vering tells of “the wealth of observations included in the writings of very many great and trustworthy men in older and recent time”.
Around 1890 the principle of similarity had been pushed into the background. But then it was resumed by Freud and made into the fundament and corner-stone of psychoanalysis. Hence, it became once more of `scientific’ respect.
Every psychoanalytic interpretation is in agreement with this principle. Cough attacks, eczema around the mouth, and a little story bearing the heading “The Mouth Pencil” – all of them are caused by real or imagined fellatio.
Obviously, such interpretations could only be true by a miraculous coincidence. – It should also be noted that the principle of similarity and the procedure of interpreting every detail in isolation and without bothering about its relation to other details and other interpretations, agree excellently with each other.
Here I expect the inappropriate objection that psychoanalysts have become much more rational since the time of these interpretations. But this dishonest strategy has been applied almost for a whole century. For every new decade the same flaws have been repeated, but the new writings have mendaciously been postulated to be free of them. Let us take a look at some recent examples. In actual fact, Freud himself could have constructed most of them.
“That ‘the ejection of fluid from the mouth [= spitting] [may represent] an ejaculation or urination’ […] is an old observation. […] It is important not to lose sight of the continuing validity of old observations. It is not that these observations have been superseded, but we now hope to integrate them within a more complex schema” (Gomberg, 1981:90).
“When analyst and patient meet outside the consultation room. The encounter can stimulate secret wishes which create anxiety in both parties: voyeuristic and exhibitionist fantasies, primal scene conflicts, oedipal and homosexual desires, sadistic and masochistic urges, and oral incorporate yearnings” (Strean, 1981:257).
“Serious surgical procedure can impose real physical injury, and at the same time invoke castration fantasies” (Renik, 1981:182)
[The patient’s words which reveal the clear sign of their origin:] “I had fantasies of sucking in each and every word. […] then eating up your tongue. […] I remember at that point in your lecture feeling like your penis was like a big breast covering me smugly” (Strean, 1981:250)
[Over months and in no particular order a 36-year-old female patient recounted much information, among other things that when she was six her parents took a trip to Europe, although she at that time suffered from measles and constipation.]
The psychoanalyst interprets the constipation as “the question of earlier struggles with ownership and loss”. He also talks of “the series of symbolic transformations: Breast=feces=penis=stay=come.” (Harold Boris, 1986).
“The Wealth of Observations” in the Third Seduction Paper
There are several reasons to select this paper for examination. First, it is quoted unabbreviated as an appendix in Jeffrey Masson’s The Assault on Truth (1984), which has been translated into numerous languages and has been a best seller in most countries. There must be few psychoanalytic writings that have been read by so many people.
Second, Masson (1984) and Alice Miller (1981) were extensively and intensively debated for almost ten years in both academic and lay circles.
Third, Otto Fenichel was the indisputable theoretical leader of the Freudian organisation after Freud’s death in 1939. And no other book has been used as much as a textbook for future psychoanalysts all over the world as his The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neuroses (1945). In the same book we also find the most detailed description of the [alleged] psychoanalytic method. Fenichel explicitly claimed that this is the method applied by all analysts:
“Freud once compared psychoanalysis to a jigsaw puzzle, in which the aim is to construct a complete picture out of its fragments. There is but one correct solution. So long as this is not discovered, one can perhaps recognize isolated bits, but there is no coherent whole. If the correct solution is found, there can be no doubt as to its validity, for each fragment fits into the general whole. A final solution reveals a unified coherence in which every hitherto incomprehensible detail has found its place.” (Fenichel, 1945:32, bold face added)
Fenichel had plagiarised a formulation from Freud’s third seduction paper of 1896:
“[…] another and stronger proof of this is furnished by the relationship of the infantile scenes to the content of the whole of the rest of the case history. It is exactly like putting together a child’s picture-puzzle: after many attempts, we become absolutely certain in the end which piece belongs in the empty gap; for only that one piece fills out the picture and at the same time allows its irregular edges to be fitted into the edges of the other pieces in such a manner as to leave no free space and to entail no overlapping.” (Freud, GW‑I:441f./SE‑III:205, bold face added)
Now, Freud has explicitly discussed the nature of psychoanalytic method in a number of other writings; foremost in “Constructions in Analysis” (GW‑XVI:43‑56/SE‑XXIII:255‑270), written in 1937, and in some passing remarks in the case-study of Dora (GW‑V:217f., 230f./SE‑VII:57, 69). However, in none of these texts did Freud claim to apply the jigsaw puzzle.
Fenichel’s book comprises 700 pages, and consists primarily of interpretations; perhaps more than 7000 interpretations. But each and every interpretation is based on some 1‑4 observations. Hence we cannot escape the conclusion that Fenichel was deliberately lying:
“A hysterical ‘I cannot see’ means ‘I do not want to see’. It indicates a repressed impulse to look (and to exhibit). From a punitive standpoint it says: ‘Because you wish to see something forbidden, you shall not see at all’.” (Fenichel, 1945:226)
Fenichel, Hartmann and all other psychoanalysts agree on the postulation that every interpretation is based on innumerably many observations.
Fourth, in the quotation in chapter I Ford & Urban (1963:148, 174) especially refer to the third seduction paper as “a delight to read” because of “the brilliance of Freud’s observational skills”, which made him “inductively develop the theory”.
It is a skilled propagandistic device to make postulations about the method of the jigsaw puzzle, because few academicians have reflected upon what could legitimately be meant by this expression. (Though Scharnberg, 1993, vol. I, chap. 18 had done so.)
As long as psychoanalysts have not stipulated a definition of their own, it is their obligation to use the expression in a sense that is closely related to the layman’s conception. To mention only one condition that is flagrantly not satisfied: The conclusions must be based on many observations, which are heterogeneous in nature.
Although, during the 1980s, I encountered several hundreds of debaters of Masson, Miller and Freud’s seduction theory, I did not encounter a single debater who was capable of reading a text correctly as it stands. All debaters agreed that Freud’s early patients had on their own initiative told about sexual assaults. They disagreed only on one point. Some meant that Freud was gullible when he, in the beginning, believed the patients. Others thought that he was a coward when he later rejected the patients’ recounts as fantasies.
But everyone overlooked the fact that Freud (GW‑I:388, 418, 440f./SE‑III:170, 204, 153) in all three seduction papers explicitly states that no patient told him about sexual events. It was Freud himself who invented the interpretation that his patients had had such experiences. In turn he used coarse persuasive technique to force the interpretations upon the patients.
A fifth reason for scrutinising the third seduction papers is that it reveals a number of Freud’s lying techniques.
For instance, how does Freud conceal the almost total absence of clinical observations in the third paper? He pretends to be wavering, as if the outcome would matter little (GW‑I:439/SE‑III:203). Should he first present his number of expected objections? Or vice versa, evidence first, and afterwards discuss? He chooses to start with the objections because, as he says, when they have been disposed of, we may, in a quieter mood, evaluate the evidence. And then he presents a long list of objections. To each objection he gives nothing but illogical pseudo-answers.
However, the main point is another: the entire article comes to its end before Freud arrives at the presentation of any evidence. – This is a lying technique that is on the surface for anyone to see, but which more than a million of readers have overlooked.
All observations of the third seduction paper are shallow and trifling. And they are extremely few. But because they are scattered throughout the entire article, few readers have managed to detect their scarcity, trivial nature and absence of evidential power.
Hence, it is definitely no trivial or superfluous technique to give all the 12 female and 6 male patients individual names and to collect all observations and interpretations into separate biographies. I invented the names in alphabetic order: Alice, Beatrice, Christina, Desirée, Elsa, Florence etc., Michael, Nathan, Otto etc.
The most comprehensive biography belongs to Alice:
Symptoms: Painful sensation in vagina. Violent self-reproach because she had tolerated a boy’s stroking her hand affectionately.
Events antecedent to symptom emergence: While they were sitting at a table, a boy was gently and affectionately touching her hand. At another occasion he had pressed his knee against her dress. His facial expression imparted to her the idea that he was doing something forbidden.
Age at antecedent event: Puberty. Alice was a young lady.
Original causal event: [No information at all.]
[A causal event must have taken place when the patient was two to four years old. Later experiences might trigger off a symptom but cannot cause it.]
Additional comments: It is explicitly stated that the antecedent events “have been discovered with so much trouble and extracted out of all the mnemic material”. Apparently, the following description is likewise intended to bear upon these antecedent events: the patient did not recount these stories “spontaneously”; the latter were obtained “under the most energetic pressure of the analytic procedure, and against an enormous resistance.” The recollection had to be “extracted from [her] piece by piece”.
(GW‑I:436, 437, 418/SE‑II:200f., 217f., 153)
There is no further information about anything related to Alice.
All biographies are presented in Scharnberg (1993, I:137-139). It is immediately seen that there is no information at all about 11 of the 18 patients. Actually, things may be worse, because it cannot be gathered from Freud’s paper in any simple way, whether or not Alice and Beatrice are identical with Desirée and Elsa. If they are, there is no information about 13 patients out of 18.
The most central part of Freud’s theory is the postulate of the causal connection between the symptom at adult age and the [alleged] causal event at the age of two to four. It is therefore highly astonishing that we are provided with information about both the symptoms and the causal events for only two patients, Florence and Michael (events which, as Freud admits, were constructed by him and never recalled by the patient).
Felix Gattel’s Significance
Felix Gattel was a doctor in Berlin. He himself is not important, but Freud’s reaction upon him provides invaluable information on the nature of Freud’s own research. As far as I have found, Gattel was the first professional person whom Freud trained in his new technique. In 1897 Gattel went to Vienna. His primary goal was to learn how to psychoanalyse patients. But he also studied 100 consecutive patients at Krafft-Ebing’s sexual clinic.
Richard von Krafft-Ebing is primarily known because of his pioneering book Psychopathia Sexualis (1886). On the basis of case-studies he described sexual “perversions”, but also such phenomena as clitoris orgasm and female pleasure. No less than 12 editions of this work were published before his death in 1902.
Gattel (1898) published his 100 biographies in 1898 in a book whose title means “On the Sexual Causes of Neurasthenia and Anxiety Neurosis”. All these are extensively analysed in Scharnberg (1993, II, chap. 36-43), who also presents a verbatim translation into English of all biographies of patients given the diagnosis “hysteria”.
In Scharnberg’s book numerous and serious errors in Gattel’s research are pointed out. Some of them will be repeated here.
In contrast to Freud, Gattel cannot be suspected of having faked his observations. And they are not altogether as shallow as Freud’s observations. But if a patient had ever masturbated, Gattel concludes that masturbation was the cause of his or her symptoms, even if the symptoms emerged many years before masturbation started, or many years after masturbation had ceased. And then the diagnosis “neurasthenia” is given.
If the patient practises neither coitus nor masturbation, abstinence is supposed to be the cause. And then the diagnosis will be “anxiety neurosis”. If more than one condition is satisfied, the symptoms are conceived as the combined effect of both or all.
Hysteria is considered the outcome of some early sexual experience. But in most cases the only events Gattel presents are that the patient had had erection, sex dreams, nocturnal emissions, or menstruation at something called “an early age”. One single patient had at the age of 3 been seduced by a girl of 15. But Gattel also counts as an aetiological event that a 4-year-old boy had caught hold of the sex organ of a girl who was a little older.
Without even telling the reader, Gattel applies the diagnosis “hysteria” in two additional situations: (a) if the patient has many symptoms; (b) if the patient has suffered a physical accident, but no subsequent physical injury could be detected. The latter is an absurd criterion. Even today, after a century of immense progress of neurology, far from all injuries can be discovered.
Some of Gattel’s (1898) biographies are more shallow than the following, and others are a little less shallow.
Johanna K., a shop-assistant. Age: 20. Duration of illness: 8 years.
Heredity and previous sickness: Fall on her head 8 years ago.
Subjective complaints: Insomnia, headache, general anxiety.
Somatic findings: None.
Sexual behaviour: Her sexual development started at an early age. Menstruation already at 13. Likewise, her breasts and genitals started to develop very early. Sexual dreams occurred at an early age; frequently, sexual excitement at the sight of males. Not possible to disclose whether some sexual influence or other took place during her earliest youth.
Diagnosis: Hy.? An. [= hysteria? anxiety neurosis]
(Gattel, 1898:30f., translation and typographical display by MS)
(Here quoted after Scharnberg, 1993, II, §362.)
The symptoms started at the age of 12, one year before the first menstruation. Nevertheless Gattel concluded that sexual abstinence was the primary cause. The question mark after “Hy” means that Johanna’s fall on her head might have being a physical accident which left no physical effect.
Freud was extraordinarily satisfied with Gattel’s biographies. As a reward he invited Gattel on a holiday in Italy. However, Freud had expected that his name would appear on the book as co-author. When this did not happen, Freud was very angry and accused Gattel of having plagiarised Freud. In his letter to his friend Wilhelm Fliess 1898-01-30 Freud writes: “It is very distressing for me to tell him that even if he had pursued these matters further, he cannot possibly publish them as his own work” (Masson, 1985:297). And Sulloway (1979:515) also quotes the testimony of Fliess that Freud came to consider Gattel as his plagiarist.
If the biography of Johanna K. in Freud’s eyes constituted a plagiarism of Freud’s discovery, then we have got clear-cut information about the extremely trivial nature of Freud’s observations in 1896 and the following years.
There is additional evidence. Six years later (1901-02-15) he wrote to his friend Wilhelm Fliess:
“I have begun collecting my notes of things told me by neurotics in my consulting room for the purpose of demonstrating the connection between sexual life and neurosis revealed even by such necessarily fleeting observations, and of adding my own comments. In other words, I am doing roughly the same thing as Gattl…” (quoted in Sulloway, 1979:515, bold face added; Freud’s misspelling of Gattel’s name retained).
But if Freud told the truth in 1896, he had already at that time finished his collection, and his observations were palpable rather than fleeting. In addition, what he had done was altogether different from Gattel’s work. At that time Freud (GW‑I:441/SE‑III:205) claimed that the patient “seemed to be living through it [=the sexual event] with all those sensations [Empfindungen] that belonged to it”.
The Third Seduction Paper: External Verification of Interpretations – and Some of Freud’s Lying Techniques
There is a close connection between the third seduction paper and Bonaparte’s article. In both writings psychoanalytic interpretations were allegedly verified. And in both writings the verification consisted of the testimony by external persons.
In the seduction paper verification was obtained by external testimony for two patients (GW‑I:442f./SE‑III:206). Please note carefully the number: two patients.
Freud had explicitly claimed that each and every de-repressed causal event had taken place between the ages of 2‑4. And elsewhere (GW‑I:449/SE‑III:212) he had stated that sexual experiences (including sexual assaults) after the age of eight cannot produce any harm.
But now he invokes Christina as an instance of external verification. Her brother had told that he had engaged in sexual play with his sister during her later childhood. The brother also told that such playing had occurred “further back”.
Note the vagueness and irrelevancy of Freud’s temporal information. “Later childhood” must refer to the time after eight years. And “further back” could be relevant only if Christina had been at most four years. – It is a classical lying technique to use vague and indeterminate formulations, because they are rather immune to objections.
But it is an even more illuminating fact that Freud does not claim that in relation to Christina he had lifted the repression of any causal event which involved her brother.
Since the total number of patients for which external confirmation was obtained was two and no other number, and since one of the examples was concerned with Christina, there is only one left for Desirée and Elsa.
According to Freud these two girls, who were both his patients, had together participated in the same sexual event. The third participant is indicated as “die nämliche männliche Person”. This expression is much more awkward in German than in any English translation, because German has no separate words for “male” and “man-ly”. Freud states only that he was a person of man-sex. A probable explanation it is that Freud wanted to conceal whether the “male person” was a child, an early or late teenager, or a grown-up man.
If both patients had described the same event, and if none of then had recalled the event before they started treatment, and if agreement between their accounts proves that their accounts are true, then Elsa has indeed confirmed Desirée’s account.
However, in that case Desirée had reciprocally verified Elsa’s account. Hence, Freud must have obtained verification for three and not for two patients.
But this is what Freud overlooks. It is a recurrent feature of stories by habitual liars to show a deficient familiarity with the “small-print” features of reality: to forget what other circumstances would also have pertained, if the core of the lie had been true.
Freud would never have committed such an error if he had had real patient accounts in mind.
A further topic. Nowhere in the seduction paper can we find the statement that all 18 patients, or that at least one of them, had been cured. Instead Freud advances the following three assertions (A‑):
A‑1 Each and every symptom of each and every patient of his sample of 18 hysterics turned out to have been caused by repression of events of sexual seduction, which took place when the patients were 2-4 years old. (GW‑I:435, 449/SE‑III:199, 212)
A‑2 Each and every hitherto repressed causal event of each and every one of the 18 patients was de-repressed; that is, each and every patient recalled the causal event from preschool age. (GW‑I:448/SE‑III:211f.)
A‑3 When any causal event responsible for a certain symptom is recalled anew, this symptom will disappear. (GW‑I:448/SE‑III:211f.)
These assertions logically entail that all symptoms of all 18 patients disappeared. But Freud avoided saying this in a straightforward way.
Freud states that every hysterical symptom is caused by a repressed event from preschool age. He also states that he dug out all repressed events. Nevertheless, on another page he says:
A‑4 Every hysterical patient has both symptoms that derive from preschool age, and other symptoms that do not derive from preschool age. (GW‑I:449, 451/SE‑III:212, 214)
We are given no information about how these two categories could be distinguished. Neither does Freud tell how to cure symptoms without an infantile root.
The primary situation Freud has in mind in the third seduction paper is not adult abuse, but sexual play of two preschool children. However, we are not told how many patients had only experienced such playing.
On different pages Freud states two empirical generalisations relating to those children who initiated the play. The first generalisation pertains to all children regardless of their sex. The second pertains only to the boys.
A‑5 Each and every child in the sample [hence, boys as well as girls], who had initiated sexual events involving only two young children and no adult, had previously been seduced by adults. (GW‑I:452/SE‑III:215)
A‑6 Some but not all among the boys who had initiated sexual events involving only two young children and no adult, had previously been seduced by adults. (GW‑I:445/SE‑III:208)
To have de facto cured one single patient, would have been much more prestigious, than all the empty assertions of the third seduction paper. And Freud would have been able to show such a patient to some of his most trusted colleagues. He could document the patient’s prior symptoms and the patient’s detailed and completely new recollection, which had emerged during therapy. He could also document the close temporal relation between the return of the memory and the disappearance of the symptom.
I feel myself unable to believe that Freud was not aware of that. I am inclined to think that Freud’s choice of the comprehensive but empty verbal phrase reveals that none of the 18 patients had been cured.
But we need not bother about my inclination, because we are in the possession of extensive testimony in Freud’s own letter to Fliess. (FL = Fliess-letters).
FL‑1 “If both of us [= Freud and Fliess] are still granted a few more years for quiet work, we shall certainly leave behind something that can justify our existence. Knowing this, I feel strong in the face of all daily cares and worries. […] I am convinced that, given certain conditions in regard to the person and the case, I can definitely cure hysteria and obsessional neurosis.” [1896-04-02]
FL‑2 “Give me another ten years, and I shall finish my neuroses and the new psychology.” – In the same letter Freud hopes that by Easter he will have cured the first patient in his life. [1897-01-03]
FL‑3 Freud had not achieved the recovery on which he had counted. And he is convinced that whatever has been repressed will remain repressed forever. [1897-09-21]
(Masson, 1985:180, 219f., 264f., bold types added)
FL‑1 was written 19 days before Freud on 1896-04-21 delivered his address (= the third seduction paper) at Verein für Psychiatrie und Neurologie in Wien. And already on 1896-02-05 he posted the two first seductions papers, in which he claimed to have cured 13 hysteric patients. If his claim about therapeutic success were true, Freud did not need a few more years. He had already left behind something that could justify his existence. By contrast: in the letter he merely entertains a subjective conviction that he would under some circumstances be able to cure hysteria.
FL‑2 and FL‑3 were written 8½ and 17 months after the address, respectively.
The evidence is sufficient that no patient was cured. Hence, Freud had to consider the risk that some patient might later see another doctor, who might recognise them as members of Freud’s sample, and might notice that they were not cured. To prevent being exposed as a liar Freud built a “fire-escape” into his text.
It is a standard technique of lying to include both the true and the false state of things into the same writing. The false message may be repeated and given prominent places. The true message may be found only once. It may also be hidden in a subsidiary grammatical clause, and may be expressed in such an obscure formulation that most reader will miss it.
However, if an occasional reader should detect the untruth of the main message and point out its discrepancy with the authentic state of things, the author can reject this criticism by pointing out that he himself has already said exactly the same thing as the critic.
Freud’s theory is that every hysteric symptom is caused by repression of an event of sexual seduction, which occurred when the patient was 2-4 years old. Freud states that his seduction theory is proved in other ways for all 18 patients, and by the therapeutic proof in those cases in which it could be obtained. (GW‑I:435/SE‑III:199)
This odd formulation reveals the virtuoso liar. Very few readers will detect the concealed message. The therapeutic proof (= therapeutic success) was not obtained for all the patients.
“Psychoanalysts Do Not Influence Their Patients”
So far we have refuted each of the first 7 postulations of Hartmann, which were listed in Table 2.
The last four postulations (HH‑8, HH‑9, HH‑10 and HH‑11) have a common topic. Psychoanalysts are passive, and they ardently try not to influence the patient. Therefore the psychoanalytic situation is fairly constant and rather similar to the experimental situation. The constancy guarantees that every patient reaction is caused by some inner process, and is independent of the behaviour of the psychoanalyst or any other features of the psychoanalytic situation. These postulations are even more prominent in the quotation by Kubie (1960). And until very recently all psychoanalysts postulated the complete or nearly complete absence of any attempt to influence patients to believe in interpretations (or to have violent outbursts of impotent rage). This view derives from Freud himself, who asserted it in almost the same words in 1895, and 1896 and 1937. The last excerpt will be quoted here:
“We learn with astonishment from this that we are not in a position to force anything on the patient about things of which he is ostensibly ignorant or to influence the products of the analysis by arousing an expectation. I have never once succeeded, by foretelling something, in altering or falsifying the reproduction of memories or the connection of events” (GW‑I:300/SE‑II:295)
“It is less easy to refute the idea that the doctor forces reminiscences of this sort on the patient, that he influences him by suggestion to imagine and reproduce them. Nevertheless it appears to me equally untenable. I have never yet succeeded in forcing on a patient a scene I was expecting to find, in such a way that he seemed to be living through it with all the appropriate feelings.” (GW‑I:441/SE‑III:204f.)
Here I have quoted the translation of the standard edition. When the same excerpt was quoted at the end of chapter six I made some modifications, which are in better agreement with the German text.
In the last two quotations many readers may overlook a flagrant contradiction. Freud could definitely not have observed the impossibility of influencing his patient, unless he had attempted such influence. But elsewhere he postulates that he has absolutely never attempted any influence.
“The danger of our leading a patient astray by suggestion, by persuading him to accept things which we ourselves believe but which he ought not to, has certainly been enormously exaggerated. An analyst would have had to behave very incorrectly before such a misfortune could overtake him; above all, he would have to blame himself with not allowing his patients to have their say. I can assert without boasting that such an abuse of ‘suggestion’ has never occurred in my practice.” (GW‑XVI:48f./SE‑XXIII:262)
Lawrence Kubie goes further than Heinz Hartmann in asserting the absence of influence by the psychoanalyst. Kubie participated in the same conference. His contribution is included in Sidney Hook’s book. But one year later, he published what he must have considered to be an improved version. I shall quote an excerpt from the latter:
(1) The framework of the analytic interview maintains to a unique degree a relative constancy of external variables, making it possible to repeat observations and to collect data day after day under relatively unchanged external circumstances. […]
(2) The formality of this framework cannot eliminate the fluctuating state of the observer (to wit, the analyst); but it limits the impact of these fluctuations on the interaction between analyst and analysand and therefore, on the process of observation. Thus the analyst’s ‘incognito’, his formal aloofness, his avoidance of any extra-analytic role or contact, all help to minimize and to render constant the distortions which would otherwise be interposed by the analyst’s unconscious processes […]
(3) A situation results in which the majority of the spontaneous variables which are introduced into the stream of material arise out of the subject of the investigation – the analysand […]” (Kubie, 1960:504, bold face added, italics in the original text)
Today it is known that in this quotation Kubie is not only intentionally lying. He is doing so to a much greater extent than most of us (including me) had imagined. Kubie was the psychoanalyst of the Hollywood producer Leland Hayward. When the latter’s son Bill Hayward was 15 years old he dropped out of school and moved to another town with his girlfriend. His father fetched him – well, not exactly home but to Dr. Kubie’s office. Kubie was always quick to lock in people, and Bill became one of his victims. Bill was locked in at the Menninger Clinic. There he was threatened with the ice-water torture unless he “voluntarily” accepted to be psychoanalysed. He was imprisoned for four years. As a result he hated his father for the rest of his life. He became a lawyer, and specialised on minors who were detained at psychiatric clinics without due reason.
This information is found in Stephen Farber & Marc Green (1993): Hollywood on the Couch.
Almost on the same page (21f.) Heinz Hartmann asserted that every psychoanalytic interpretation is based on innumerable observations – and he invoked as proof Bonaparte’s article in which every interpretation is based on 1-4 observations. Hartmann asserted that psychoanalytic interpretations can often be verified – and he invoked Bonaparte’s article in which a confession was extracted by hammering. Hartmann asserted that psychoanalysts carefully abstain from influencing their patients – and he invoked Bonaparte’s article in which she explicitly described the persuasive techniques imposed against her.
I shall repeat one quotation as regards the interpretation that Marie Bonaparte had witnessed her nurse and her uncle performing coitus and fellatio:
“The patient did [a] not at first accept this interpretation of her dream, she even [b] reacted violently against it, but [c] the analyst persisted in his assertion.” (Bonaparte, 1945:119, my layout)
Clearly, Freud persisted until Bonaparte accepted his interpretation. Hence his technique for obtaining a confession from Bonaparte was not basically different from Bonaparte’s technique for obtaining a confession from her uncle.
Freud’s Ethics and the Case-Study of Dora
I cannot leave this paper without a few and brief comments on Freud’s ethics. Until the last 20 years the highest praise has been bestowed on him because of virtues that are altogether absent from his person, activity and writings. Only because of the strength of the critics that has eventually emerged, have they ceased to praise his skill as a clinical observer, an innovative methodologist, and a creative theorist. As late as 1980 one of the prominent psychoanalysts dared praise his ethics. I shall repeat a quotation from Table 1:
“Dora, yearning for this ideal [= search for the truth] must have appreciated Freud’s remarkable integrity and his single-minded search for truth in his work.” (Glenn, 1980:34)
The numerous documents that have become available during the last 25 years have painted a quite different picture. Freud was not only a crank who made no contribution to theory, methodology and therapy; he exploited and abused his patients in the most unscrupulous and irresponsible way. Nothing deterred him from ruining his patients’ life, if he had some private advantage of doing so.
However, even if the hitherto concealed documents had remained unavailable, a sizable amount of information could have been extracted from Freud’s writings; inter alia from the case-study of Dora which was written in 1901 and published in 1905.
This case-study was highly estimated by the ego-analysts, and it was often used as a textbook for students undergoing training in psychoanalysis. Allegedly, Freud had described a typical hysteria, and the study was invaluable concerning interpretation, therapy and diagnosis.
In actual fact there is little doubt that Dora suffered from several somatogenic illnesses. In addition, it can be doubted that her depression and animosity were pathological at all.
When she was 15 years old [not 16, as Freud writes] a man thrice her age tried to seduce her. He was the husband of her father’s mistress. There is no indication that this event was harmful or even left a protracted emotional after effect. But when Dora told her father [not her mother, as Freud writes], and when the perpetrator denied everything and blamed the highly-strung imagination of a teenager, her father sided with the perpetrator. He feared that he might otherwise lose his mistress. For three years Dora had to stand this insult. Her father even forced her into treatment by Freud, and the aim of the treatment was that Freud should teach her that she had only imagined the seduction attempt. – Though Freud did not comply with this aim.
However, after 11 weeks Dora terminated the treatment. Freud had a violent and protracted outburst of impotent rage. In his view dropping out was an act of abysmal evilness. Freud says that Dora by this act had “scathed” him. And his followers agree that he showed generosity when two years later, he “forgave” her this foul act.
Freud published the case-study in order to revenge himself. He carefully included much information that was completely devoid of any psychiatric significance, but which would certify that Dora would be widely recognised.
In turn he fabricated the intentional lie that Dora was homosexual. People of the 21st century can hardly grasp what an excessive insult this attribution was in 1901.
One of Freud’s pseudo-proofs will be examined. Mrs. K. is Dora’s father’s mistress: During a certain period Dora and Mrs. K. shared the bedroom, while Mr. K. lived at a nearby hotel.
Already the argument is miserable. But things are even worse, because Freud deliberately conceals many facts. This situation occurred during the Alpine week. For many years Dora had often taken care of the two younger children of the K-family. During summer 1898 it was agreed that she and her father would go to the K-family’s summer residence. Her father would stay for a week, while Dora should stay during the entire summer. It was her task to look after the children. The K-family’s house was too small for a comfortable life of all six persons. The two male friends had not seen each other for a long time and after this week they would not see each other for some time. They may have had similar ideas about how to spend the evenings and when to go to sleep. Both lived at the hotel.
The hotel was also needed for the rendezvous of Dora’s father and Mrs. K.. From morning to noon Mr. K. would go to his own house, and leave his wife and Dora’s father alone.
What alternative arrangement would be more appropriate than Dora sleeping in the same room as Mrs. K.?
In his article “The Unconscious” Freud (GW‑X:265/SEXIV:160) claims that the assumption of the unconscious is necessary, because the observations of the conscious mind show gaps. But what we actually see in Freud’s texts (in the present example as well as everywhere else), is that Freud finds it necessary to create gaps in order to obtain room for his interpretations.
Jules Glenn’s words about how Dora must have perceived Freud, shows scant regard or concern for this poor patient, who was persecuted by psychoanalytic writings until her death.
If a single person or a group have not in the least produced any observations, theories, methods, ideas, arguments or therapeutic results, but nevertheless want to gain great prestige, then it may be an efficacious propagandistic technique to boast of having produced a wealth of highly original observations, theories, methods etc.
In actual fact, such a thing as a psychoanalytic method of observation does not exist. No observations (including accounts of dreams) can be found in psychoanalytic writings, except such ones as are immediately available to any layman. The procedure of all psychoanalysts is to pick up a few trivial facts, on the criterion that they can be used or abused as support for interpretations, which had been constructed in advance.
At the time or the ego-analysts (that is in the 1950s to the 1970s) psychoanalysis would probably have the greatest prospect of winning prestige, if its proponents claimed that it had the same character as other psychological theories whose scientific nature was generally accepted. The ego-analysts were not the first who claimed that Freud was a brilliant clinical observer. But they were the first ones who fabricated that Freud had inductively developed his theories on the basis of his empirical observations.
Two fundamental objections are often overlooked, and were also overlooked at the conference in 1958. Those interpretations which were allegedly verified were not at all derived from psychoanalytic theory.
When Bonaparte was seven years old she wrote a brief story with the title “The Mouth-Pencil”. From this fact Freud did not only derive that Bonaparte had had fantasies about fellatio, but also that she had watched this sexual variant being performed. However strange these interpretations may seem (and in particular the second), they have at least an understandable relation to the theory.
It is not a deficiency of a theory that it cannot identify the specific persons involved. But it is a serious methodological fault that Freud, Bonaparte, Jones and Hartmann imagined that the identification of the couple as the nurse and the uncle was derived from psychoanalytic theory.
Most critical participants at the conference, and most subsequent readers of addresses included in Sidney Hook’s (1959) book have not checked Hartmann’s postulations that psychoanalysis can make better predictions than other psychological theories, and that these predictions can be verified according to normal standards. The main reason why they did not scrutinise these claims can only be that they did not suspect any lies of such a size and coarseness, as those actually advanced by the psychoanalysts.
A Brief Survey of the History of Criticism of Psychoanalysis
This survey is not intended to be exhaustive. It may not even do justice to all researchers. However, almost from the beginning, Freud and his followers have presented themselves as the target of hostile attacks, which primarily derived from emotional prejudices. The true fact is that Freud and his followers during many decades met astonishingly little criticism. Nevertheless, more serious critical objections eventually emerged, and two years are noteworthy: 1960 and 1990.
In 1960 Hans Jürgen Eysenck published Behaviour Therapy and the Neuroses. This book had a very large impact. Eysenck had not invented the name “behaviour therapy”. But he was the first to use the term as a common name for all therapeutic approaches based on learning theory. In addition, both his term and his definition were very soon accepted over the entire Western world. Previous names, such as “psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition”, were neither comprehensive nor well-formed.
In this single volume Eysenck had collected a large number of articles illustrating the wide spectrum of therapeutic techniques and the wide variety of psychopathological disorder to which they could be successfully applied. He also had a special capacity for presenting facts and their implications in such a way that they were really noticed by the academic community as well as by many others.
In 1917 Freud (GW-XI:467-469/SE-XVI:448-451) had assured that psychoanalysis is free from the defects of all other approaches, viz. that some patients are not cured, and that some patients who have indeed been cured, will later relapse. Instead, psychoanalysis provides a life-time guarantee against relapse. – Actually, it was a very frequent pattern that people underwent psychoanalytic treatment for 10, 20 or 30 years without any improvement. But as long as both the academicians and the laymen thought (correctly or incorrectly) that no better alternative existed, little weight was attached to such failures.
In one stroke Behaviour Therapy and the Neuroses changed things. Now there was an alternative. Besides, it was proven to cure patients in a number of weeks, while psychoanalysts had for decades claimed that four years constituted the minimal duration. The behavior therapists cured their patients without taking “the unconscious”, “repression” and “transference” into account. And neither “relapse” nor “symptom substitution” occurred. In other words, behavior therapists achieved outcomes that were completely impossible according to the universal agreement of psychoanalysts at that time.
Rachman & Wilson (1980:52) notice the declining appetite for psychoanalytic treatment. In 1964 there were 803 applications at the Columbia University Psychoanalytic Clinic. In 1967 the number had dropped to 500, and in 1971 to 162. In 1971 Erich Fromm wrote The Crisis of Psychoanalysis. He had two points of departure: sick patients turn elsewhere to get help; and psychoanalysis is no longer thought to give the answers about a general outlook on life.
It was the doubt about psychoanalytic therapy, as the only, or the best, option that opened the door for doubt concerning psychoanalytic theory.
Prior to 1960 most criticisms were rather soft. I have found only one exception, viz. Edvard Westermarck (1934): Freud’s Theory of the Oedipus Complex in the Light of Sociology (in Swedish). But after 1960 both the severity and the quantity of criticisms grew.
Another topic must be presented first. Likewise in 1960 Joseph Wolpe & Stanley Rachman published an article of 14 pages, Psychoanalytic Evidence: a Critique Based on Freud’s Case of Little Hans. The results obtained by these writers were in one sense very trivial and in another sense extraordinarily original. They had managed what no reader had done previously, and what no reader would do for several subsequent decades, viz. to read Freud’s text exactly as it stands. What observations had Freud gathered? What conclusions had he asserted? What observations were postulated to prove the conclusions? Wolpe & Rachman proved that not a single one of Freud’s interpretations was supported by any of his observations.
Their article was much admired and has been re-printed at least four times. It would be appropriate to say that they were the first to apply the methods of textual analysis to any of Freud’s writings. But for some 25 years their paper did not stimulate anyone to apply the same method to other case-studies. Not even I was an exception, although, in 1993, I explicitly presented The Non-Authentic Nature of Freud’s Observations as an extended application of Wolpe & Rachman’s methodology.
It would be unjust to ignore the existence of many important books and articles published between 1960 and 1990. I may well have overlooked some, but a partial list will be presented now: Frank Cioffi (1970): Freud and the idea of a Pseudo-Science. / Henri F. Ellenberger (1970): The Discovery of the Unconscious, / Hans Jürgen Eysenck & Glen D. Wilson (1973): The Experimental Study of Freudian Theories. / Paul Roazen (1975): Freud and His Followers, / Sebastiano Timpanaro (1976): The Freudian Slip. [Italian original 1974] / Frank Sulloway (1979): Freud: Biologist of the Mind. / David E. Stannard (1980): Shrinking History: On Freud and the Failure of Psychohistory. / Adolf Grünbaum (1984): The Foundation of Psychoanalysis. / Patrick Mahony (1984): Cries of the Wolf Man. / Hans-Jürgen Eysenck (1985): Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. / Peter Swales (1986): Freud, His Teacher, and the Birth of Psychoanalysis. / Stanley Fish (1989): Doing What Comes Naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies.
Prior to the 1990s a student could go through an entire academic study in psychology or psychiatry (or related disciplines such as sociology and the science of education) without learning anything about the existence of fundamental criticism.
[None of my own teachers during the 1970s and 1980s ever mentioned any of the above names. Three professors of psychology (two of them my own former teachers) were in 1986-1992 appointed by the Swedish Council of Research for evaluating my manuscript on Freud. They recommended that it should not be printed because (note their motivation!) it is absolutely impossible to find any error in Freud’s writings, and anyone believing otherwise thereby proves that he is not familiar with scientific methodology.]
Things changed radically during the 1990s. Today many people know about the existence of criticism of Freud and psychoanalysis, although most of them may imagine that the errors could be remedied. Furthermore, it should be emphasized that psychoanalysts and “psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapists” have recently found a new market to exploit. Many of them indoctrinate their patients to “recall” events of sexual abuse. Such therapists will often testify in the courts that the patient “all by herself” and “to the great surprise of the therapist” had recalled these experiences. Judges and jurors will usually believe them and the alleged perpetrators will receive very long prison sentences.
It was noted above that psychodynamic treatment in 1917 provided a life-time guarantee against relapse. Today it is considered perfectly normal that an alleged victim of sexual abuse will need psychotherapy repeatedly during many periods of her life. And no promise is made about any kind of improvement supposed to result from the treatment.
I have never heard of judges or prosecutors who asked themselves how the efficacy of therapy could have deteriorated so seriously during the 20th century. Could Freud have told the truth in 1917? Whether or not he actually did so, could his present-day followers be competent and honest when they vouch for the truth of the alleged victim’s allegation and for her future therapeutic needs?
Such legal topics would need a separate article, and I shall say no more about them. But I shall list some of the recent and most important critical writings (with my apology if I have overlooked other equally important writings). The list clearly reveals a sudden explosion starting in the 1990s.
Jacques Bénesteau (2002): Mensonges freudiens. Histoire d’une désinformation séculaire. / Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen (1996): Remembering Anna O. A Century of Mystification. / Frank Cioffi (1998): Freud and the Question of Pseudoscience. / Frederick Crews (1995): The Memory Wars. Freud’s Legacy in Dispute. / Frederick Crews (ed.) (1998): Unauthorized Freud. Doubters Confronts a Legend. / Frederick Crews (2006): The Follies of the Wise. / Allen Esterson (1993): Seductive Mirage. An Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud. / Adolf Grünbaum (1993): Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis. / Han Israëls (1993): Het geval Freud. Scheppingsverhalen. [The Case of Freud: Sailor’s Yarns. A German translation exists] / Han Israëls (1993): Freud and the vulture. / Han Israëls & Morton Schatzman (1993): The Seduction Theory. / Malcolm Macmillan, (1991) (2nd. ed. 1997): Freud Evaluated: the Completed Arc. / Patrick Mahony (1996): Freud’s Dora. / Max Scharnberg (1993): The Non-Authentic Nature of Freud’s Observations. vol. I: The Seduction Theory. vol. II: Felix Gattel’s Early Freudian Cases, and the Astrological Origin of the Anal Theory. / Richard Webster (1995): Why Freud Was Wrong? / Robert Wilcocks (1994): Maelzel’s Chess Player: Sigmund Freud and the Rhetoric of Deceit. / Robert Wilcocks (2000): Mousetraps and the Moon: The Strange Ride of Sigmund Freud and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis .
Most or all these researchers would probably agree that Malcolm Macmillan and his books are the most excellent ones.
Which book should in the first place be recommended to someone who had so far encountered no critical literature, and who could devote only a limited amount of time to this domain? I would hesitate between two books. In Seductive Mirage Esterson will in a limited space (270 pp.) take the reader through all Freud’s writings and theories and reveal their flaws, and he will do so in a non-technical language that will pose no difficulties.
My alternative suggestion is Unauthorized Freud, a book of about the same size. Crews has collected articles or chapters by some two dozen researchers. Hence his book shows that Freud and psychoanalysis are vulnerable beyond remedy in numerous respects.
A number of books and articles were published too close in time to have influenced each other. Nevertheless, many of their results are overlapping. One telling example is the scrutiny of Freud’s seduction theory by Esterson (1993), Israëls & Schatzman (1993), Macmillan (1991), Scharnberg (1993), Webster (1995) and Wilcocks (1994). In his three seduction papers of 1896 Freud makes it clear that he himself was the one who invented the interpretation that his patients had been sexually abused. The patients denied having had any such experiences. Furthermore, the events postulated by Freud had invariably occurred during pre-school age. According to his clinical observations sexual abuse after the age of eight could never produce any injury. What Freud had primarily in his mind was by no means sexual abuse of a child by an adult, but sexual play by two pre-school children. In addition he explicitly states that he applied brutal persuasive techniques in order to force belief in these interpretations upon his patients.
These facts are particularly important, because the books by Jeffrey Masson and Alice Miller led to a world-wide debate in both academic and lay circles, which endured almost ten years. Many of the debaters had read the third seduction paper. But I have found no one who had detected what is in the most flagrant way stated in this paper. Instead the debaters fancied that Freud’s patients had entirely on their own initiative recounted seduction events. The debaters disagreed only on one point: was Freud gullible when he in the beginning believed in “his patients’ accounts”; or was he a coward when later rejected “his patients’ accounts”.
If there are many overlapping results in the critical books listed, there are also many unique results. The first half of The Memory Wars by Crews is concerned with psychoanalysis, while the second half is about recovered memory therapy (RMT). Here I shall consider only the psychoanalytic part. Crews wrote a comprehensive chronicle of reviews in New York Review of Books. In turn a large number of proponents of psychoanalysis wrote rejoinders. And Crews replied to the latter. The chronicle, the rejoinders and the replies are printed in the same book. Hence, the readers can get a first-hand acquaintance of the kinds of defensive arguments applied by psychoanalysts today. Their primary argument is that people can confidently turn to psychoanalysts for help for two reasons. First, recent psychoanalysts have realized that Freud was wrong and have therefore abandoned his theories. Second, they have realized that he was right and have therefore retained his theories.
Among the researchers listed, Cioffi, Scharnberg and Wilcocks are most explicit in stating that Freud and many of his followers were deliberately lying.
My general aim just now was to comment on some of the books of the 1990s. Nevertheless, I take the liberty of instead considering Grünbaum’s earlier book of 1984. It could be argued that its most important contribution is its effective demonstration that hermeneutic psychoanalysis is impossible. Freud’s postulations about causal relations cannot be saved by re-interpreting them as “meaningful statements”.
Scharnberg and Mahony noted that Freud’s Dora was not 14 and 16, respectively, but 13 and 15, respectively, when a man thrice her age kissed her with much violence, and tried to seduce her, respectively. The correct ages are by no means trivial facts. Against all evidence presented by Freud himself, he obstinately claims that both sexual attacks were most welcome to Dora’s unconscious mind. – But if Dora was even younger than Freud says, his interpretations will be even more outlandish.
Maybe I may be excused for pointing too much to my own contributions. Chapter XI in this article was devoted to the significance of Felix Gattel, the first professional psychiatrist Freud trained to be a psychoanalyst. But in my Freud book eight chapters are devoted to this topic. All Gattel’s 100 biographies are thoroughly analyzed, and all biographies of “hysterics” are translated verbatim. A complete translation is also presented of the case-notes of a psychoanalytic treatment performed in 1897.
It might be apt to finish with one example of the counter attacks by a proponent of psychoanalysis. In Dispatches From the Freud Wars John Forrester (1997) claims that the critics of Freud and psychoanalysis have made two fundamental methodological mistakes. One mistake is to imagine that they could learn anything about the truth and efficacy of psychoanalysis by digging out historical documents and show the discrepancies with the postulations made by Freud and his followers. The second mistake is to imagine that any new knowledge could be obtained by applying textual analysis to published writings, such as it has been done in the present Internet article.
Forrester goes on to say that there is only one rational way of assessing the truth of psychoanalysis, viz. to undergo a personal psychoanalytic treatment. This is the only approach that will lead to any valid result.
I must confess that, until I read Forrester’s book , I believed that this argument had been extinct for many decades.
But I must admire Forrester’s wisdom: he does not say a word about those concrete books in which former patients have described their experiences of this treatment, such as Blumen auf Granit by Dörte von Drigalski (1991), Breakdown by Stuart Sutherland (1977), and If Hopes Were Dupes by Catherine York (1966).
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