Max Scharnberg, Uppsala
The Seven Corner Stones of Psychoanalytic Methodology
Preface by Allen Esterson, London
There have been numerous articles and book chapters examining Freud’s case histories, ranging from credulous admiration for the Master’s analytic procedures and clinical ‘findings’ to critical readings that expose the intellectual confidence tricks that lie at the very core of those histories. No author, however, has dissected with such surgical precision the fallacies of Freud’s interpretative methodology as Max Scharnberg in his writings on Freud.* Here he spells out the basic elements of that methodology one by one, and subjects each of them to detailed analysis to expose their fallaciousness. Scharnberg goes on to apply his analysis to the “Dora” case history to demonstrate how faulty procedures and a grossly misplaced faith in his capacity for insight into his patients’ psyches led Freud to produce a self-serving and utterly erroneous account of Dora’s predicament, while contriving by various rhetorical devices to convince countless readers of the validity of his ‘findings’.
Readers should not be deterred from reading this article by their having read previous critical examinations of Freud’s clinical procedures and/or discussions of the Dora case history. They will find much that is unique to Scharnberg, and nothing to compare with the depth of his analysis, of a quality and insight rarely to be found elsewhere in the massive literature on Freud.
*Scharnberg, Max (1993): The Non-Authentic Nature of Freud’s Observations. Vols. I and II. Uppsala: Uppsala Studies in Education nos. 47 and 48.
II. A List of the Corner Stone Principles
III. The Illusion of Separation
IV. The Gossip Theory of (Psychic) Disease
V. The Doctrine of Double Causality
VI. The Principle of Prestige
VII. The Principle of Prestige and the Concept of Transference
VIII. The Case-Study of Dora as an Act of Revenge
IX. Further Methodological Principles
X. The Postulate of the Outgroup
XI. Later Psychoanalysts’ Blindness to Freud’s Neurotic Traits and to His Logical and Factual Contradictions
XII. Why Did Dora Terminate the Treatment?
XIII. The Principle of Similarity
XIV. The Central Role of the Case-Study of Dora Among Freud’s Writings
XV. Where to Proceed Next?
There is little reason to define a clear boundary between methods and techniques. The aim of methodological procedures is to collect facts, perhaps also to enable certain facts appear at all, and to draw conclusions. Technical procedures could have the same aims, but also some further ones: to cure symptoms, to increase self-knowledge, to produce belief in interpretations, to gain the patient’s confidence, to enrage or confuse the patient etc.
Many papers on methods or techniques have been written by psychoanalysts throughout the entire 20th century. Although critics have pointed out many flaws in these papers, their most conspicuous feature is the scarce difference between papers which do not claim to be concerned with issues of methods or techniques.
Another aspect must be mentioned. It seems rather clear that writers deliberately conceal the methods and techniques they apply in the consultation room. In the heydays of psychoanalysis, significantly more information on psychoanalytic procedures could be found in textbooks about “psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy” – an approach which was said “to mix the gold of psychoanalysis with the silver of something else”. (This “something else” may be, but need not be, suggestion.)
But I shall primarily unearth a few basic rules for drawing conclusions, which psychoanalysts clearly apply in their writings. Many further rules could be listed, and some readers might feel that some of the latter also deserved the dignity of being called “corner stones”.
II. A List of the Corner Stone Principles.
The principle of similarity: The cause of a psychopathological symptom is similar to that symptom. Hence, the cause of the symptom can be disclosed by finding or inventing an event that is similar to the symptom.
The illusion of separation. In a complex situation numerous causal relations may be intertwined. When we look carelessly at such a situation, the idea may occur to us (by chance or because of a prejudice) that one phenomenon A is the cause of another phenomenon B. There is not yet any logical or factual ground why numerous other known or unknown phenomena might not be the cause. However, the present principle entitle us to consider all other causal relations non-existent and, in turn, to conclude that A is indeed the cause of B.
The psychoanalytic standard operation procedure. It consists of 5 sub-rules:
1. Start with a preconceived interpretation.
2. Pick up a few details here and there in the criterion that they can be used or misused to support the interpretation.
3. Connect them with the interpretation by means of the principle of similarity.
4. Ignore all data which cannot be used as pseudo-support of the interpretation.
5. If data which contradict the interpretation have inadvertently been observed, suppress them and conceal them from the reader.
The doctrine of double causality. Each of two (or more) non-overlapping sets of causal factors S-1 and S-2 may constitute the necessary and sufficient condition of a phenomenon P. P will invariably occur if S-1 is present, and never when S-1 is absent. And this will be so regardless of whether S-2 is present or absent. At the same time P will invariably occur if S-2 is present, and never when S-2 is absent. And this will be so regardless of whether S-1 is present or absent. And regardless of their nature, two causal explanations can never contradict each other.
The postulate of the out-group. The in-group consists of psychoanalysts and successfully psychoanalysed individuals. According to the postulate, psychoanalytic theory is valid solely for, and can solely be used to explain behaviour, reactions and motivation of, persons belonging to the out-group. It can never be applied to members of the in-group.
The gossip theory of (psychic) disease. Sick people have deliberately produced their symptoms for the purpose of impressing or dominating others.
The principle of prestige. Psychoanalytic interpretations should always be so constructed that the prestige of the psychoanalyst will be increased and/or the prestige of the patient will be reduced.
The natural order would be to discuss the principle of similarity first, because this is the most central idea of psychoanalysis, and also because it constitutes the background of some of the other principles. I shall nevertheless postpone it here, because I have during 25 years devoted other papers to this topic, and some of them are available on internet. Thus, “Tales from the Vienna Woods” and “Zur Bestätigung Freud’scher Deutungen” can be found on International Network of Freud Critics.
None of the methodological rules were invented by Freud. He had merely borrowed them from mythical symbolism and vulgar lay thinking. But however interesting their origin and ancestry may be, this topic lies outside the scope of the present essay.
III. The Illusion of Separation
I may be excused for starting with a quotation from B. F. Skinner’s aphoristic Notebooks:
“A psychiatrist friend insists on ‘displacement’. The person who isn’t loved takes to food and grows fat. But how many other causal relations can be pointed out between lack of sexual gratification and overeating? (In the first place, are the facts as stated? The Sultan in his harem is usually pictured as fat. There have been fat wives and mistresses sexually replete, and fat men are familiar to prostitutes.)
Those who allow themselves to get fat are less likely to be loved, in which case cause and effect are reversed. Those who are not loved have more time to eat. Those who ‘give up on being loved’ may escape entire from social control including the negative reinforcement and punishment which restrict eating. The funny behavior of a fat person is socially reinforced: it is easy to be funny. An unhappy person may be especially susceptible to reinforcement by any available reinforcer. Is it displacement when one who is not loved turns to masturbation, prostitutes, or an unattractive lover?” (Skinner, 1980:120f.)
It is easily seen that the friend did not show the virtues psychoanalysts have for almost a century claimed to possess. Instead the most distinguishing feature of the friend’s observations, reasoning and conclusion was oversight of most facts and possible causal relations.
Do we find similar patterns in Freud? And how about his recent followers?
The psychoanalyst Ernest Jones is primarily known because of his comprehensive Freud biography in three volumes. As told by Weissweiler (2006:204f.), his wife was a morphine addict. She also suffered from constipation, and various medical measures for initiating bowel movements had failed. She was treated by Freud in the hope that she would recover.
Now, morphine will relax the muscles that govern the bowels. Hence, constipation in morphine addicts is an unsurprising side effect. However, Freud completely overlooked the physiological explanation – and in fact all other explanations except his psychoanalytic interpretation: Mrs. Jones wanted to give her father a child, and she experienced every attempt to make her empty her bowels as an abortion. And this was the reason why she “resisted” defecation.
(A passing remark: the reader will no doubt recognise the principle of similarity in this interpretation.)
The patient called “Dora” was Freud’s patient for the last 11 weeks of the year 1900, when she was 17-18 years old. We know from the unearthing of the facts by Mahony (1996:19) that Dora was not 14, as Freud writes, but13 when her father’s mistress’s middle-aged husband (Mr. K) kissed Dora by force, while she was struggling to free herself. For some time after the kiss attack she felt a pressure sensation in her breast.
Now, both her parents suffered from TBC, from which her mother would eventually die. Some causal components of this disease are hereditary. Dora likewise had weak lungs and repeatedly suffered from cough attacks that would last 3-6 weeks. If 13-year-old Dora and Mr K were struggling, he must have exercised no little pressure on her lungs.
But Freud does not even notice this natural explanation. Instead he constructs the following pattern. The kiss attack immediately led Dora to feel intensive love of Mr. K. And she felt his erection against her lower body. However, she did not dare to indulge in her real emotions, because she feared that her sex organ would be repulsive to him. And the cause of this fear was that she (according to Freud’s construction which was made of thin air) had masturbated when she was 8 years old. Therefore she did not only repress her love. She also “displaced” the pressure sensation away from the area of her sex organ and upwards to a more chaste body part, viz. her chest. (GW‑V:186ff./SE‑VII:38ff.)
Can comparable examples be found in contemporary psychoanalytic literature – for instance, in papers written during the last two decades? There is one difficulty about this question, and it started already with Freud himself. Freud eventually learned that it is unwise to publish his observations and thus making it possible for others to see how few, shallow and trivial these observations were, and how weak their evidential power in relation to his interpretations. It was even more unwise to list a certain set of observations and to claim that exactly these observations proved a certain interpretation. Realising this, Freud’s writings became increasingly more drained of observations. And the same development has progressed even further throughout the entire 20th century.
Note the title of the following book. Thomas Ogden (1986): The Matrix of Mind. Object Relations and the Psychoanalytic Dialogue. If a large book claims that the psychoanalytic dialogue belongs to the most central topic, then the reader has the right to expect audio-recorded sessions of what happens in the consultation room. But Ogden’s book contains a total of 31 literal patient statements and 2 literal analyst statements. There is no instance of two statements that follow each other 15 of the patient statements have a maximal length of 3 words, while the sum of all patients statements is 202 words. The sum of all psychoanalyst statements is 71 words. Moreover, all the quoted statements are trivial and could without any loss have been skipped. E.g., one patient said: “It’s too hot in this room; I’m getting out of here.”
The 1990s was the decade when the psychoanalysts could no longer dismiss all criticism as ridiculous. Therefore the draining has become more prominent than ever before.
Nevertheless, in a book as recent as Object Relations Therapy of Physical and Sexual Trauma by the couple Scharff we find the following assessment of Freud’s Dora case:
“The Dora case has become a standard text in the training of psychoanalysis. Beautifully written, logically and persuasively argued […]” (Scharff & Scharff, 1994:134)
One of the Scharff couple treated a patient called Freda for 15 years. About her symptoms at the beginning we are only told that she felt pain during intercourse. Before the therapy and during the first two years of treatment Freda thought that the cause of the pain was that she had experienced two Caesarean sections. But Scharff eventually convinced her that the “real” cause was that she had during many years been sexually abused by both her parents. Freda was even made to “recall” these events.
This example may give us a further lesson: the principle of similarity combines well with the illusion of separation.
In 1983 Karen Armstrong published a book about her experiences with psychotherapy. Richard Webster gives a good account of one important aspect:
“In this book the author describes how, after suffering from mysterious fits, she was referred by her doctor to a psychiatrist. During three years of psychotherapy she frequently described her fits in detail without being suggested that she had an EEG. Only when she eventually experienced a grand mal fit and was referred through the casualty department of a hospital to a neurologist were her fits recognised for what they were – classic symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy.” (Webster, 1995:158)
In order to understand some of the later discussions it is important to know certain other facts. When Dora was 15 Mr. K, who was three times her age, tried to seduce her. She slapped his face and left him. She also told her parents what the man had done. But Mr. K denied everything and blamed the highly-strung imagination of a teenager. Fearing that he might otherwise lose his mistress, Dora’s father sided with Mr. K. For three years Dora had to stand the insult that she had just fancied the assault. She was even forced to undergo psychoanalytic treatment, with the purpose that Freud should teach her that the seduction attempt had never taken place. – However, Freud did not satisfy the father’s purpose. Instead he completely accepted the reality of the seduction attempt.
But against all evidence Freud obstinately stuck to another idea, viz. that Dora was really in love with Mr. K and wanted to marry him.
IV. The Gossip Theory of (Psychic) Disease
The reason why the word “psychic” is put in brackets is that neither Freud, nor the relevant group of his followers, nor the relevant group of his lay predecessors, are consequent as to whether this principle should only be applied to psychic diseases, or to somatic illnesses as well.
At Uppsala University you can study “gossip” as an academic subject. But I do not claim that my own application is closely related to the content of this subject. My main interest is limited to two aspects of gossiping: (1) the logic or the set of rules for transforming a trivial or harmless real event into a good story, which is often pejorative for some of the persons involved; (2) a pre-existing arsenal of stories which can easily be attributed to almost anyone, and which are mostly pejorative.
Strictly speaking, the principle comprises a few rules and ideas that are closely related but not altogether identical. One idea is that no such thing exists as deficient skill, but only deficient or misdirected motivation. If a person fails with a task, he intended to fail. Psychopathological symptoms are likewise intended. They are the result of an (unconscious) will act and the selection of the appropriate behaviour for bring about the intended state of things. For instance, a young male who is sexually impotent will no doubt impress his girlfriend.
As I said above, non-trivial information about the psychoanalytic techniques can hardly be obtained from psychoanalytic literature. It is much more openly described in textbooks of “psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy”. Among these Wolberg (1954) may be the most well-known. Another book, in Brammer & Shostrom (1960:230f.) explains the difference between “counselling” and “psychotherapy” in the following way. The point of departure is a patient statement such as: “I can’t seem to be successful as a salesman – I just can’t get along with other people.” Here a counsellor might advice the patient to find another kind of job, or might teach the patient better social techniques.
By contrast, a therapist might say: “Why do you find it necessary to keep people distant from you? And he would continue to give the patient “insight” into the latter’s aim of failing.
But Brammer & Shostrom provides no indication that this patient or any other had any such aim or wish.
Tony Manocchio seems to be primarily known as a psychotherapist. But in the early 1980s he was called to Sweden to teach social workers how to shorten the time during which the clients would need public relief. During a teaching session he conducted an interview with a woman who told about the tyranny of her husband. Without the least evidence or support, Manocchio fired this aggressive attack against her: “Do you go around with a placard with the text ‘I want to be mistreated’”?
Manocchio’s ideas were applied in the suburb A, in which a particularly large proportion of the population are immigrants. The social workers scorned and humiliated the clients. – But when they later had to defend their behaviour, they claimed that their aim was “to increase the clients’ self-confidence” (Svedberg, 2003).
Freud (GW‑V:202/SE‑VII:42) asserted that Dora’s cough attacks were an attempt of blackmailing her father into abandoning his mistress. He was sure that if her father really did this, then Dora would recover at once.
How does Freud prove the blackmailing interpretation? I shall not withhold the proof from the reader, which is completely contained in the following sentence:
“I will pass over the details which showed how entirely correct all of this was.” (GW‑V:202/SE‑VII:42)
Elsewhere Freud (GW‑V:197/SE‑VII:38) claimed that from the moment a patient started psychoanalytic treatment, new symptoms could not emerge. Without bothering about the contradiction he states that Dora in one session complained of a new symptom: “piercing gastric pains”. Freud immediately asked her, “Whom are you copying now?” And then Dora told about two of her cousins. The younger sister had married. Because of this reason her older sister had fallen ill with gastric pains. “Dora thought it was all just envy on the part of the older sister; she always got ill when she wanted something; […]” – Freud adds that Dora “identified herself with the cousin, who, according to her, was a malingerer” (GW‑V:197/SE‑VII:38)
Freud is no trustworthy witness as to what his patients actually said (as many researchers have proved). And it belongs to his standard techniques to put his own interpretations into the mouth of his patients, and likewise to fabricate observations out of his interpretations. But the words attributed to Dora clearly express the gossip theory.
It is by now known that her one year older brother went to school, while Dora only had home schooling (Mahony, 1996:6). Hence, it is not surprising that the brother first got the usual infectious diseases of childhood, and that Dora got them a little later.
But Freud ignores the possibility of contagion (a further illustration of the illusion of separation). Instead he attributes a psychic cause to Dora: she identified herself with her brother, so that when he got any illness she wanted to have the same thing (GW‑V:179/SE‑VII:21f.)
Other dogmatic proponents of the gossip theory are Eric Berne (1976) in Games People Play, Alfred Adler (1927) in Understanding Human Nature and Robert Dreikurs (1961) in The Adlerian Approach to Therapy.
Jay Haley (1963:200) goes farther than any of the others. He even defines symptoms as “ploys no sensible person would use”. But in contrast to the other psychologists his Strategies of Psychotherapy has genuine merits of the greatest importance. No other writer has given such a correct description of what happens in the psychoanalytic consultation room, and an example will be given in chapter XIV.
Great difficulty is connected with the search for illustrative examples of the gossip theory in earlier historical periods. Those writings in which we should look in the first place, are autobiographies and novels. Note carefully that in the present context corporal or any other punishment is not at all at issue. The only relevant circumstance is that it is taken for granted that the cause of “the symptom” is an evil will.
Martin Luther recounts that at one day he was spanked thrice before lunch, because he could not conjugate a certain verb, which no one had taught him how to conjugate. – It is difficult to imagine what would be the sense of spanking him, if his errors derived from a genuine lack of competence. Such a measure could only be rational, if Luther actually was in the possession of the prerequisite knowledge, and if all that was needed for the correct conjugation was to change his motivation.
Charles Dickens’s novel Nicholas Nickleby was published in 1839 (= 17 years before Freud was born). In chapter 8 the schoolmaster takes for granted that warts on the hand of a pupil was the result of an evil will, and that they could therefore be cured by thrashing.
Only two examples from more recent time will be presented. First Bernadette Devlin’s account of her mother’s illness, and then an excerpt from Marcel Proust’s novel.
“[Her mother] kept quiet about her aching foot and, as the days passed, a limp developed.[…] The family’s reaction was that my mother was limping out of sheer awkwardness. […] One afternoon when she was sitting in the kitchen with the doctor working on her foot it got more than my mother could bear. She said it was hurting. The doctor claimed it wasn’t and went on to say that she was getting neurotic about it.” (Devlin, 1969:17)
”One night after the kitchen maid had given birth she was caught by horrible colicky pains. Mother heard her moaning and got up and woke up Francoise. But the latter callously declared that her cries were play-acting, she was putting on an act and giving herself airs.” (Proust, 1964:122)
V. The Doctrine of Double Causality
In some earlier books this rule was called “the doctrine of over-causality”. I think the new name is clearer. It should not be a problem that triple or even more complex patterns will also be included under the new name, just as it was under the older name.
An analogy may best clarify the basic idea.
On one occasion Freud will point to the ruins of a house next to a river and say: “In this way a house will always look when it has been destroyed by a flood, and never if it has not been destroyed by a flood. And it does not matter if there has also been a fire or no fire.”
On another occasion Freud will point to the very same ruins of the very same house and say: “In this way a house will always look when it has been destroyed by a fire, and never if it has not been destroyed by a fire. And it does not matter if there has also been a flood or no flood.”
In other words, we have here two sets of necessary and sufficient causal factors. Logically they contradict each other.
How about Dora’s cough attacks? Cough attacks are rhythmic like sexual intercourse. They are also related to the mouth like fellatio. Hence the cough attacks proved that Dora was deeply in love with Mr. K and wanted to suck his penis (GW‑V:211/SE‑VII:51)
Freud goes on to say that Dora could not indulge into her emotions, because she feared that her sex organ might be repulsive to the man.
But why would it be repulsive? Because she [according to Freud’s completely unfounded speculation] had masturbated when she was 8 years old.
Although Freud’s introductory lectures were published 12 years after the case-study of Dora, he had not meanwhile changed his view. The latter is aptly expressed in the following excerpt:
“Every time we come upon a symptom we can infer that there are certain definite unconscious processes in the patient which contain the sense of the symptom. But it is also necessary for that sense to be unconscious in order that the symptom can come about. Symptoms are never constructed from conscious processes; as soon as the unconscious processes concerned have become conscious, the symptom must disappear.” (GW‑XI:288f./SE‑XVI:279)
It follows that it would be a necessary and sufficient cause of the cure of her cough attacks, that she (through her psychoanalytic treatment by Freud) became consciously aware of her love of Mr. K, her wish to perform fellatio on him, her fear that her sex organ would be repulsive, and her masturbation at the age of 8.
But, as we have seen above, on another page Freud (GW‑V:202/SE‑VII:42) asserted a quite different aetiology, viz. that Dora’s cough attacks constituted an attempt to blackmail her father into abandoning his mistress. Freud was sure that if her father really sacrificed his beloved, then Dora would recover at once.
According to the first interpretation, making Dora’s sexual feelings conscious was clearly the necessary and sufficient cause of a cure of the cough attacks. According to the second interpretation, giving in to her blackmailing was clearly a sufficient cause, although it may not have been a necessary cause.
Note however that the doctrine of double causality is a logical consequence of the principle of similarity. In every situation there will be many phenomena that are similar to other phenomena. If “A is similar to B” implies that “A is causally responsible for B”, then numerous other phenomena will likewise be the cause of B. And then we cannot avoid the pattern of several independent sets of causal factors.
Double causality will be even more prominent, because Freud and many of his followers do not adhere to the normal view that the cause must precede the effect in time. It is a matter of routine to provide numerous examples of effects preceding causes, and many such examples can be found in Scharnberg (1993). Here we shall merely notice that Dora’s cough attack started when she was 12 – while her alleged love of Mr. K started at the kiss attack when she was 13.
VI. The Principle of Prestige
The case-study of Dora can be considered an exhaustive exposé of psychoanalytic theory and practice. Of course, in 1900 Freud had not yet invented many theoretical concepts, for instance “the pleasure principle” and “the superego”. But I cannot find any sign that the new concepts made any change in what happened in the consultation room.
It is the aim of the vast majority of psychoanalytic interpretations to increase the prestige of the analyst, or to decrease the prestige of the patient, or to do both things at the same time. Until the last few decades it was recurrently stated in textbooks of “psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy” that an interpretation which the patient accepts readily, is of no therapeutic use. (The reason why the same suggestion was not found in writings about “pure” psychoanalysis has been explained in chapter I.)
There is one class of interpretations for which the principle of prestige does not hold. At the start of the treatment the first goal of many analysts is to win the patient’s confidence. At this stage they may give pleasant and re-assuring interpretations. However, this class does not pose any real problems for my task, because psychoanalysts themselves agree that such interpretations are shallow and have no therapeutic effect.
As stated above, Dora was forced into psychoanalytic treatment. After 11 weeks she dropped out. When she in the last session announced her decision to quit, Freud felt a severe disappointment and a craving for revenge. These are his words: “Her breaking off so unexpectedly, just when my hopes of a successful termination were at their highest, and her thus bringing those hopes to nothing – this was an unmistakably act of vengeance on her part. Her purpose of self-injury also profited by this action. No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.” (GW‑V:272/SE‑III:109, bold types added). On the last 7 pages of chapter three of the case-study of Dora, there is an almost maniacal iteration of the word “Rache” (vengeance).
Dora’s pathological craving for revenge is proved by three facts. First, she broke off Freud’s treatment. And Freud states in print that he, 15 months later, forgave Dora for having dropped out.
Second proof. Dora told her parents about Mr. K’s seduction attempt. But no normal 15-year-old girl would have told her parents about a seduction attempt.
Third proof. Dora induced Mr. K to admit his attempt after nearly three years.
All proofs can be found in GW‑V:257, 168‑274, 286/SE‑VII:95, 105-111, 121.
From the objective point of view, there is nothing strange about a patient dropping out of psychotherapy. (Moreover, we shall eventually see that exactly in the case of Dora some other circumstances pertained which made her “premature” termination particularly rational.)
By contrast, Freud’s exorbitant reaction to such a trifle is flagrantly pathological. This reaction is noteworthy, because until very recently his followers agreed that the personal psychoanalytic treatment they had undergone had provided them with a protective shelter, so that they will not become upset by experiences which would be painful for most people. And these followers had also agreed that Freud’s self-analysis was as effective as analysis by another person.
It is highly instructive that for the major part of a century all psychoanalysts were blind of Freud’s pathological reaction, while they accepted Freud’s libellous depiction of Dora.
It could hardly be more clear that Freud was the person who felt a severe disappointment and a craving for revenge. Enough has been said above about his disappointment. But evidently he was not aware that he himself was the person who felt this disappointment. Instead he attributed this feeling to Dora.
Here I shall have to preclude a possible misunderstanding. The word “unconscious” has become very vague because of psychoanalysis. Sometimes it is used about circumstances that are not unconscious at all, and sometimes about circumstances that do not even exist. I prefer the distinction between the states which are spontaneously conscious or reflexively conscious, which I learned from Arnold (1960). To avoid long and unnecessary clarification: Human beings and mice have in common spontaneous consciousness of experiences. Reflexive consciousness is the awareness of phenomena that are already conscious – primarily spontaneously conscious, but they could also be reflexively conscious on a lower level.
Freud was overwhelmed and possessed by disappointment and craving for revenge. In so far he had fully conscious experience of these emotions. But Freud had no reflexive consciousness of the fact that he himself was the person who felt these emotions. Instead he attributed them to Dora.
Everywhere else throughout the case-study he claims that Dora was in love with Mr. K. But only on one page, viz. in response to Dora’s announcement to quit, does he assert the reciprocal interpretation that Mr. K was seriously in love with Dora. Mr. K seriously planned to divorce his present wife and to be engaged with Dora for two years and then marry her.
Freud perceives no counter evidence in Mr. K’s scornful blaming of a teenager’s highly-strung imagination, and neither did his followers until recently.
Freud’s total construction is this. Dora had exactly the same feelings and plans as Mr. K. When she told her parents about the seduction attempt, she expected her father to have a talk with Mr. K, and then the latter would tell the father about his plan of marrying Dora, and both males would think this was a good idea.
When Mr. K instead denied everything and scornfully attributed a highly-strung imagination to Dora, then Dora [allegedly] felt a severe disappointment.
It tells much about Freud’s degree of knowledge of human nature, that he considers Mr. K’s scorn (which he upheld for almost three years) is fully compatible with his deep love and marriage plans.
Instead it is rather obvious that the pejorative interpretations which Freud fires at Dora constitute consolation lies for himself. By means of such scornful construction does he try to overcome his pervasive feeling of inferiority in relation to Dora.
VII. The Principle of Prestige and the Concept of Transference
What Freud had written on transference in previous papers, was only embryonic. The full concept emerged for the first time in the case-study of Dora. And however important it would eventually become in the theory, transference was one of the consolation lies by means of which Freud tried to get even in relation to Dora.
Throughout the entire case-study Freud obstinately asserted that Dora was deeply in love with Mr. K, and that she did not dare to indulge her feelings because of her the repulsive vagina. But only on the last 7 pages of the 3rd chapter did he claim that Mr. K was likewise in love with Dora.
Here Freud also states that Dora had transferred her feelings for Mr. K to Freud. She desired a kiss from Freud. But once more did she not dare to indulge in her real feeling. Once more she therefore gave the slapped the beloved man’s face and left him.
Freud always maintained that only the patient should be blamed, if he or she did not recover when given psychoanalytic treatment. And until very recently his followers agreed. In 1909 Freud wrote in letter no. 163 to C. G. Jung:
“In my practice I am chiefly concerned with the problem of repressed sadism in my patients; I regard it as the most frequent cause of the failure of therapy. Revenge against the doctor combined with self-punishment. In general, sadism is becoming more and more important to me.” (quoted from Martin S. Bergmann, 1976:33).
It is rather interesting that Bergmann comments on the same excerpt in the following words:
“[…] Freud was interested in the problem of sadism and the negative therapeutic reaction long before there was any evidence for it in his published writings.” (Bergmann, 1976:33)
Bergmann’s comment is odd, because Freud had used almost the same words in the case-study for Dora, which was published in 1905.
[concerning Dora’s “premature” termination] “Her purpose of self-injury also profited by this action.” (GW‑V:272/SE‑VII:109)
“If cruel impulses and revengeful motives, which have already been used in the patient’s ordinary life for maintaining her symptoms, become transferred on to the physician during treatment, before he has had time to detach them from himself by tracing them back to their sources, then it is not to be wondered at if the patient’s condition is unaffected by his therapeutic efforts. For how could the patient take a more effective revenge than by demonstrating upon her own person the helplessness and incapacity of the physician?” (GW‑V:284/SE‑VII:120)
It is flagrant that Freud’s interpretations increases his own prestige and reduces Dora’s prestige.
In Freud’s words Dora broke off “so unexpectedly”. She did not tell him this until in the very last session. But she allegedly made the decision to quit at the close of the year 1900 exactly two weeks before she actually dropped out.
Freud is no lover of truth. The interval of exactly two weeks is presented only when he needs the argument that Dora treated Freud like a governess, who is given notice a fortnight in advance, and this was a strong insult.
But regardless of the time at which Dora made her decision, she definitely did not give Freud any notice in advance.
However, in the present context it is sufficient if Dora had secretly made the decision some time earlier, while she continued the treatment. – Without noticing the contradiction, Freud had written on another page in the same case-study:
“He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his finger-tips: betrayal oozes out of him at every pore” (GW‑V:240/SE‑VII:77f.)
Many readers may also have noticed Freud’s application of the doctrine of double causality. On the one hand, Dora told her parents about the seduction attempt because she was permeated by pathological craving for revenge. Telling this was intended to harm Mr. K seriously.
On the other hand, she told the same thing to her parents for a quite different reason. She expected that this would start a chain reaction which would end with Mr. K and Dora marrying – an outcome which, according to Freud, would have been most welcome to this man.
More need be said about transference. But at the present time it is enough to notice that psychoanalysis is a persuasion therapy, and also a kind of aversion therapy. Persuasive device are applied in order to make the patient believe in the interpretations. And aversive techniques are used in order to produce outbursts of impotent rage.
Impotent rage is a most painful feeling, and it is hypocrisy when psychoanalysts present themselves as a poor victim of the patient’s aggressions – which in actual facts are ineffective. Hence, they have the pleasant feeling of being in control of the patient and his emotions and reactions.
Hardly more than 10 years ago the Swedish psychoanalyst Ludvig Igra repeated the classical position about totally unprovoked patient aggressions. But he combined it with theoretical ideas of the object relation school. He started with the assertion that infants feel the strong envy, hostility and hate toward the mother’s breast, because the source of physical and mental food lies outside themselves. (MS: There cannot be many mothers who have experienced such things.)
Then Igra proceeds to assert that the adult psychoanalytic patient re-enacts the behaviour and thoughts of infants. The patient feels the need of mocking the psychoanalysts, and of not understanding what he says. He aims at destroying the psychoanalyst and tearing him asunder. And the reason is that the psychoanalyst understands the patient better than the patient understands himself.
“In order to turn the situation into its opposite, the patient tries to produce helplessness, confusion and insecurity of the therapist by making the latter’s intervention useless and ineffective. The most tragic thing is that patient thereby destroys exactly that ‘food’ which he so intensively needs in order to overcome his difficulties.” (Igra, 1997:123f., bold types added).
Let us first ask a fundamental question. Did Freud understand Dora better than she understood herself?
It is an audacious assertion or implication that the patient, from the objective point of view, needs precisely the kind of treatment which the psychoanalyst wants to give him.
Igra (1996) has elsewhere written that the psychoanalytic interpretations are not true; they merely give “relief” and “intellectual pleasure”.
But the excerpt just quoted would be awkward, unless the interpretations were not true.
Moreover, if the interpretations have the effects claimed by Igra (and, as we shall see in a moment, claimed also by Haak), it is no little surprising that they are said to give “relief”.
During three periods the late Nils Haak (1957) was the chairman of the Swedish Association of Psychoanalysis. He asserted that the patient shall not receive from the treatment what he wants (e.g., symptom removal). Instead he shall have something else, which he is not in the least interested in. This other thing is by Haak called “psychic health”. Haak goes on to say that the endeavour to give the other thing to the patient will often, as a perfectly normal outcome, lead to nervous breakdown and suicide attempts – a strange form of psychic health.
Haak could not have been chairman if his view was widely at variance with that of his colleagues – although no one else has made the flaw of stating such things in print.
Both Igra and Haak reveal their indifference as to what is helpful for the patient. – It should be added that Jacques Bénesteau (2002) has documented the large proportion of suicides among the patients of the first generation of psychoanalysts. The largest proportion was found for Anna Freud and Paul Federn.
VIII. The Case-Study of Dora as an Act of Revenge
Yes, this is indeed my view. The case-study was intended to be an act of revenge.
One the one hand Freud took care to include much information that was devoid of any psychiatric significance, but which would have the result that Dora would be widely recognised, e.g. by neighbours, fellow students, servants, distant relatives etc. On the other hand Freud fabricated traits which in central Europe a century ago were extraordinarily compromising.
It would be impossible to conceal such symptoms as cough attacks that had the duration of 3-6 weeks and were associated with aphonia. Many gossip mongers who had a neighbour with these symptoms might well wonder if she was identical with Freud’s patient. But knowing that Dora was 18 years old when he treated her, they could not be sure whether, at the time of the publication of the case-study, she was still 18, or 28, or even older. But from Freud’s text they could see that she was born around 1882. They could also learn that she had one brother who was about 1½ years older, and no further siblings. In addition, her father had tuberculosis. (Strangely – or perhaps not strangely at all – Freud overlooked that her mother also had TBC.)
The three towns in which she lived are indicated. Vienna is explicitly named. Another town is said to be a health-resort in the Southern part of Austria, which was suitable for persons suffering from TBC. Hence, educated people from Glasgow to Moscow would immediately understand that the town was Merano.
The third town is indicated as a manufacturing town other than Vienna, and we are told that Dora’s father was the owner of a factory. – Long before I learned about Dora’s identity, I guessed from certain details in Freud’s text that he had a textile factory. Throughout the entire Double-Monarchy the two greatest factory towns were Budapest and Reichenberg (= present-day Liberec in Czechia); and there is no hint that Dora lived in a non-German-speaking area. In the 1890s there were 144 textile factories in Reichenberg, employing 139,000 workers (carpet factories and many other textile-like enterprises not included). A number of other industrial branches were of a comparable size.
Freud also provides some information about the years and annual seasons of Dora’s five movements between the three towns.
All this is information which a responsible psychiatrist would have concealed at all cost.
The facts and interpretations recounted so far in the present paper were highly compromising. But Freud fabricates the further allegation that Dora was homosexual.
Today it is difficult to imagine what an ignominy this was a century ago, but the following circumstances may be telling. The Second World War ended in 1945. The Allies agreed that Jews, Gypsies and communists who had been tortured or injured in Nazi concentration camps, were entitled to damages. But they also agreed that homosexuals who had been tortured or castrated were not entitled to any damages. In two of the allied countries, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, homosexuality was punishable by the law.
Interestingly, Dora’s alleged homosexuality is hardly mentioned anywhere else than on the four last pages of chapter 1 (GW‑V:220-224/SE‑VII:59-63).
The allegation is preceded by a prologue: if Freud had been a poet and had just now been writing a short-story, then he would not have included this topic this short-story.
Here it may be an appropriate circumstance that Freud (GW‑XIV:11‑15/SE‑XIX:235‑240) has written a brief paper with the title “Negation”, in which he claims that the real meaning of an utterance will sometimes become perceptible if a negation is added or deleted.
There is no doubt that Freud is correct about the general rule, although each of his own examples is unconvincing. But I have encountered many convincing examples in many novels and plays from many centuries and many countries, so the phenomenon itself must have been widespread.
Hence, we should take serious the possibility (no more than the possibility) that the true meaning of Freud’s sentence would be: BECAUSE I am a poet and BECAUSE the paper I am writing is fiction, I have included the topic of Dora’s alleged homosexuality.
It would be insufficient merely to establish that the proofs of Dora’s homosexuality have no evidential power. But although few of my readers may have studied the logic of gossiping, I would ask them to be vigilant of formulations and ideas that seem to have some affinity to gossip mongering.
My enumeration of the proofs is independent of Freud’s, and I shall not discuss all his five proofs.
First proof: When Dora lived with the K family, she shared the sleeping room with Mrs. K, while Mr. lived at a nearby hotel. (GW‑V:222/SE‑VII:61).
In this proof Freud conceals many facts, which can be found on other pages. What happened was that Dora and her father went to the K-family’s summer residence. The plan was that her father would stay there for a week, while Dora would stay for the entire summer and take care of the family’s two younger children. The summer residence was too small for six persons to live comfortably. Both Dora’s father and Mr. K lived at a hotel. They were close friends, who had not seen each other for a long time, and who would after this week not see each other for some time.
We do not know for certain that they had another view than the females about how to spend the evenings and when to go to bed. But we do know that the hotel was also needed for the sexual meetings of Mrs. K and Dora’s father.
To sum up: what other arrangement would be appropriate, than that Dora and Mrs. K shared the bedroom?
Second proof: “I never heard her speak a harsh or angry word against the lady (GW‑V:222/SE‑VII:62).
Here Freud forgets that he himself has elsewhere quoted [or fabricated?] Dora’s statement that Mrs. K. only loves her father because of his money, and likewise Dora’s [fabricated] demand that her father should break with Mrs. K [although, if Freud told the truth, Dora did not care much whether her father broke his relation to Mr. K.]
Third proof: “When Dora talked about Mrs. K., she used to praise her ‘adorable white body’ in accents more appropriate to a lover than to a defeated rival” [about her father’s love].
The logical flaw of all proofs is apparent. But although few of my readers may have reflected much on the kinds of distortions permitted by the logic of gossiping, I believe that many will have felt the similarity to gossip mongering.
Freud’s publication of his systematic lies about Dora are so abominable that the appropriate measure would be to withdraw his medical licence for the rest of his life.
How did later generations of psychoanalysts evaluate the case-study of Dora? As late as 1980 the ego analyst Jules Glenn published Freud’s Adolescent Patients: Katharina, Dora and the “Homosexual Woman”. He accepts all Freud’s interpretations and, like his colleagues, gives an extremely ignominious picture of Dora. And he adds further pejorative interpretations. He cannot imagine that Dora could have felt it unpleasant that her true recollections of the seduction attempts were rejected and that highly-strung imagination was attributed to her. Glenn fabricates a pejorative interpretation that is typical of ego analysts: Dora needed the confirmation of adult people, because she herself was not certain whether the seduction attempt had really occurred.
He also claims that teenagers are a kind of abstract lovers of abstract truth with a big T. This was a fundamental reason why she was so eager to have the others admit the seduction attempts.
And then comes his climax:
[Freud] “was a man of integrity who shared her [=Dora’s] adolescent love of truth. […]
Dora, yearning for this ideal [=the great truth] must have appreciated Freud’s remarkable integrity and single-minded search for truth in his work.” (Glenn, 1980c:35, 34, bold type added)
It is noteworthy that such extreme distortion of the facts could be stated in print by the most prominent psychoanalysts as late as 1980.
IX. Further Methodological Principles
There is a reason why I start this chapter with an account of Dora’s birthday mood. She had, much against her own will, been forced to undergo treatment by Freud. And her father had made it clear to both Freud and Dora that the aim of the treatment was that Freud should teach Dora that the seduction attempt had never taken place. – It is irrelevant that Freud did not comply with the father’s wish, because Dora could not know this until later.
Three weeks after the beginning of the treatment Dora’s 18th birthday occurred. Although she got many expensive presents, she did not feel happy. The thought does not occur to Freud that she could have perceived the forced treatment as a severe and protracted insult. Instead he asserts “the real cause” of her low mood: she missed a present from the “beloved” Mr. K.
As a passing remark I take the liberty to quote some words by a Swedish professor and proponent of psychoanalysis, who has been particularly eager and unethical in his attempts to stop my research:
“Here Scharnberg’s knowledge of human nature is set up against that of Freud’s, and the examples provided by Scharnberg do not make me take it as self-evident that Scharnberg’s knowledge is superior to Freud’s.” (Lars Gunnar Lundh, 1986)
In his article The Unconscious, Freud (GW‑X:265/SE‑XIV:166) claims that the assumption of an unconscious part of the mind is necessary, because there are gaps in the conscious facts.
Many objections could be raised. If there were really gaps, the latter should perhaps be filled out with further conscious facts, or with facts that are not psychological at all (hence, neither conscious nor unconscious).
But two other objections deserve much attention, and both of them are typical of all writings of Freud and those of all his followers.
A therapist, who observes things so carelessly and neglectfully, as Freud did concerning Dora’s birthday mood, is not capable of knowing whether the conscious facts are deficient at all.
Freud’s sleeping room proof of Dora’s agrees perfectly with the very opposite pattern. In order to obtain room for his interpretations Freud must produce gaps by deliberately concealing many facts of the situation, and in particular the most relevant facts.
A chapter has not yet been concerned with the psychoanalytic standard operation procedures. But it is no longer necessary, because Freud’s descriptions and interpretations of Dora’s birthday mood, and likewise his bedroom proof of her homosexuality constitute very good illustrations of this principle.
The same descriptions and interpretations also illustrated the illusion of separation, and the principle of similarity, and the principle of prestige. It is a recurrent phenomenon that one interpretation is grounded on many psychoanalytic principles at the same time.
X. The Postulate of the Out-group
Prior to the 1990s many academicians who were not psychoanalysts, nevertheless agreed that psychoanalysis is the only theory which tries to explain phenomena within a wide domain.
This view could, at most, be true in the same sense in which a journalist could comment on anything.
However, many people have overlooked one fundamental and very strange limitation. Psychoanalytic theory aims only at explaining the feelings, reactions and behaviour of patients and other ordinary persons. It has literally nothing to say about the feelings, reactions and behaviour of psychoanalysts and successfully psychoanalysed persons.
The last seven pages of chapter 3 of the case-study of Dora flagrantly reveal that Freud was overwhelmed by an attack of impotent rage. This attack was pathological, primarily because of the trifle that triggered it, but perhaps also because of its strength.
It is unambiguous that Freud was the person who felt a severe disappointment and a craving for revenge. Evidently, he was spontaneously aware of these emotions. But he was not reflectively aware of the fact that he himself was the person who felt them. Instead he attributed them to Dora.
Even more, all his interpretations during this the last session with Dora, and likewise those interpretations he constructed at the desk when writing the case-study after Dora had terminated, were clearly consolation lies, constructed for the purpose of consoling himself and getting even with this patient.
These interpretations are constructed ad hoc. And even if we compare them with all the other the interpretations throughout of the case-study, their nature and evidential power are perplexing.
Nowhere in the psychoanalytic literature can more unambiguous examples be found of an extensive pattern of pathological emotions.
Nevertheless, all influential psychoanalysts agreed for a generation that Freud did not show any pathological reactions here. Instead he showed sublime wisdom in unearthing what was really wrong with Dora.
Glenn’s quotation at the end of chapter 7, and Lundh’s quotation in the middle of chapter 8, reveal an extreme low capacity for clinical observations, and an equally extreme lack of knowledge of human nature, among Freud’s followers.
In one session Freud (GW‑V:233/SE:VII:71) asked Dora of she could see some object that was today on the table, while it had not been there in the preceding session. Dora could not.
It was a matchbox-holder with a matchbox. – The reason why Freud had put it there was the proverb that “He who plays with fire will wet the bed”. Freud was eager to prove that Dora had been a bed-wetter, because this would in his mind prove that she had masturbated.
Applying the illusion of separation, together with other methodological principles, Freud completely overlooked the natural explanations, viz. that Dora’s perception and memory had not been infallible. But Freud’s theoretical outlook has no room for deficient capacity, but only for misdirected motivation. He took for granted that Dora had correctly perceived the matchbox-holder, and that her memory were sufficient for recalling it – unless motivational processes had interfered and “repressed” the memory. And the primary motive he was looking for was, that Dora had tried to conceal (primarily from herself) that she had masturbated when she was 8 years old.
Freud’s own perception and memory were much more erroneous. He had confused ideas about Dora’s age during the 11 weeks of the treatment (17? 18? 19?). And if he told the truth, he did not notice that Dora limped, until the last week of the treatment.
Among all his proofs that Dora was in love with Mr. K, there is no other to which he attributes so strong evidential power, than the following pattern. Both Mr. K’s business trips and Dora’s periods of aphonia had the same duration, viz. 3-6 weeks (GW‑V:198/SE‑VII:39)
And when she lost her voice because of the cough attacks, she communicated with her family by writing brief notes. Freud’s own “free association” is that when the beloved is near it is appropriate to talk to him. When he is away it is appropriate to write to him. – Hence, Dora’s brief notes to her family on everyday matters, symbolised love letters she would like to write to Mr. K.
There are many errors in this argument. One of the most serious ones is that Freud does not recall his own lies from one page to another. It was not the periods of aphonia but the periods of cough attack that had the duration of 3-6 weeks. Freud explicitly states that Dora lost her voice during half the period of her cough attacks. – Hence, the periods of the business trips and of the aphonia were markedly different.
Once more Freud’s observations were so careless, that he was not in a position to assess whether there are gaps in the conscious facts.
This is an error to which later psychoanalysts have been blind – until the scientific study of psychoanalysis started to flourish in the 1990s. (It must be added, however, that feminist criticism started to flourish somewhat earlier; but it was primarily directed against a limited number of Freud’s sub-theories.)
In the case-study of Dora there are 19 errors which can be proved to be deliberate lies. There are a non-negligible number of errors for which we can suspect on the basis of greater or lesser support that they were also deliberate. The number of errors deriving from carelessness is legion.
In view of Freud’s unusually low knowledge of human nature, he could well have been believed in good faith, when he asserted that Dora was in love with Mr. K.
But it cannot be stressed too much that his followers until very recently have been blind to his highly neurotic behaviour, and likewise to inconsistencies which, according to psychoanalytic theory, derived from a neurotic will to distortion of reality. The following chapter will be devoted to these topics.
XI. Later Psychoanalysts’ Blindness to Freud’s Neurotic Traits and to His Logical and Factual Contradictions
Many neurotic features as well as logical and factual errors in Freud’s writings are on the surface for anyone to see. Psychoanalysts have been strongly inclined to explain logical and factual errors (such as the matchbox holder example above) as caused by neurotic motivation. It is therefore an instructive fact that they until very recently were incapable of perceiving such errors in Freud’s texts.
But the inability to perceive the logical and factual errors also reveals that psychoanalysts are poor scientists (who, among many other things, are not in a position to know whether there are gaps in the conscious data).
It is no deficiency that I shall primarily (but not exclusively) focus on three sections of one single book. Freud and His Patients is edited by two ego-psychoanalysts, Mark Kanzer and Jules Glenn. Both are responsible for the preface (1980b), while two chapters are written by Glenn (1980a, 1980b). The layout of the quotations is my own.
Glenn states that Freud was “an excellent observer” who revealed “brilliant revolutionary insights” and “the stamp of genius”. He was concerned with “territories of the human mind that none had explored before”, and his case-studies were “remarkably informative about his patients”; “most of Dora’s disturbance lies bare before us” (Kanzer & Glenn, 1980b:xiii-xiv; Glenn, 1980a:5, 10, 17). Glenn accepts all Freud’s interpretations, e.g. that Dora’s coughing, loss of voice and migraine were derivative of her love of Mr. K.
But Glenn also distorts Freud’s facts to make them fit better into Freud’s interpretations, and he adds interpretations of his own.
One clear-cut fact is that Mr. K had recently had a governess as his mistress, but had become tired of her after a few weeks Mr. K. And then he tried to make Dora his next mistress. He explicitly said that he had no sexual life with his wife.
Freud proves his low knowledge of human nature by taking this at face value. Neither does he perceive any counter evidence in Mr. K’s scornful depreciation of Dora during three subsequent years after the seduction attempt.
But Glenn “improves” the facts provided by Freud. According to Glenn, Mr. K did not try to seduce Dora to sleep with him. At the so-called “scene at the lake” he asked her to marry him. And he did not say a word about whether they should sleep together just now, or wait for some years until they had got the blessing of the church.
If this was what happened, why should Mr. K tell Dora that he had no sexual life with his wife?
Glenn thinks that only Dora was to blame for the conflict that emerged. She misunderstood Mr. K’s noble intentions. Out of thin air she took his words to mean that he would sleep with her at the present time, and had no marriage plans at all (Glenn, 1980a:27).
Even more, Dora “confirmed in part” (Glenn, 1980b:31) that she had transferred her feelings for Mr. K. to Freud. – We could ask on what page and line this is stated. But psychoanalysts are accustomed to “improve” texts by Freud, by their colleagues, and even by themselves. Glenn writes that Dora “became the deserter and perhaps betrayed Freud by ending treatment.” (Glenn, 1980b:32)
However, Glenn is the only psychoanalyst known to me so far, who fabricated that Dora manifested “paradoxal compliance with her father’s wish that she stop treatment.” (Glenn, 1980b:36)
More comments are needed about this sentence; see, infra, toward the end of chapter 12.
After Dora had terminated, Freud attributed homosexuality to her in an article which clearly exposed her identity. Glenn sees no motive of revenge in this. Instead he transmutes Freud’s fabrication: Freud was “always willing to learn more” (Glenn, 1980a:5).
From now on a few further inconsistencies will be listed, which are not concerned with Glenn, except that he and his colleagues have never noticed them.
In the preface Freud writes that dream analysis must not in all cases have so large a room as it did in this case (GW‑V:168/SE‑VII:11). Elsewhere he states that all Dora’s dreams were immediately written down (GW‑V:166/SE‑VII:10). However, the entire case contains no more than two dreams. We can hardly doubt Freud’s claim that the railway station dream was told in one of the last sessions (most probably in the penultimate meeting). About the time of the fire dream we are told that it occurred in the middle of the treatment (GW‑V:166/SE‑VII:10), but also that it occurred a few weeks [wenige Wochen] before the railway station dream (GW‑V:256/SE‑VII:94). However we may construe this temporal information, it implies that Dora had no dreams during the first months.
A probable hypothesis is that Dora had more dreams during the treatment, but that Freud did not write them down. He had no intention to write an article about the case, until he decided to revenge himself because she had scathed him by dropping out. At that time he recalled the dream she had told around the penultimate session. He only recalled one more dream, and he had no recollection about the time it was told.
Did Dora only have two dreams during 11 weeks? With what topics was the first half of the treatment concerned?
A further inconsequence has neither been detected by any psychoanalyst including Freud himself. Dora’s dreams are not used to prove anything which was not in advance proved by other means. Hence, dreams cannot be the royal road to the unconscious.
But in this case there is an instructive example of Freud’s sloppy thinking. In The Interpretations of Dreams he had stated that if a person dreams that a loved relative has died, and the dreamer is in the dream not sorry, then dying means something else than real dying. – But when he learns that Dora in one of her dreams dreamt that her father had died, and she soon afterwards read in a book, then Freud “forgets” what he had published. Instead he concludes that Dora was unusually evil-minded because she was not more sorry because of her father’s death. (GW‑V:273/SE‑VII:110)
Now another theme. In the late 19th and the early 20th century The Physiology of Love by Paolo Mantegazza was much appreciated, and translated into many languages. People of today would conceive of the title as a misnomer. If anyone does not know that there are anatomic differences between the sexes, he cannot learn it from this book. Typical of its content is instead educational advice, e.g., that a married couple should never see each other completely naked.
In 1898 Dora had taken this book with her to the K-family’s summer residence. Evidently 28-year-old Mrs. K was the only one with whom 15-year-old Dora could talk about such things. – In a moment I shall recount what Freud writes. But I am not sure that Dora concealed her reading from the other persons, or that any of them would disapprove of it.
Throughout nearly all of the case-study Freud claims that Dora after the seduction attempt zealously demanded her father to break his relation to Mrs. K, and that she was not very eager that he should break with Mr. K. – If this were true, her reaction would be very strange.
But on one and only one page does Freud forget himself and, by a slip of tongue or slip of mind, tells the truth, viz. that Dora demanded her father break with Mr. K. The same psychoanalyst who during 11 weeks had allegedly heard Dora demanding her father to abandon Mrs. K, suddenly claims Dora was inconsequent in a neurotic way, because she did not want her father to break with Mrs. K, despite the fact that Mrs. K was the real cause of Dora’s trouble.
To be able to lay the blame at Mrs. K’s door, Freud constructs the following proof. Mrs. K was the only person who knew that Dora read Mantegazza’s book. A logical consequence is that she was the only one who could have told it to her husband. (GW‑V:223/SE‑VII:62)
But elsewhere (GW‑V:184/SE‑VII:26) we need not bother about logical consequences, because Mr. K. explicitly stated that his wife had indeed told it to him.
Mr. K had denied the seduction attempt, and it seems clear that he would have denied it anyway. He had blamed a teenager’s highly-strung imagination for having fancied the seduction attempt and it seems clear that he would have blamed it anyway.
The only difference would have been that he could not have invoked Dora’s reading of Mantagazza, if he had not known about it.
But on the basis of this construction Freud claims that Mrs. K, and only she, was the real cause of Dora’s hardship.
In other words, Freud had systematically lied throughout the case-study, about what member of the K family Dora had demanded her father to break with. – This is one of the 19 untruths that can be proved to be intentional.
XII. Why Did Dora Terminate the Treatment?
It could be suggested that the answer can only be guess work. Maybe; but some guesses are better than others.
It is not controversial that Dora was forced into the treatment. She submitted only because she was unable to withstand her father’s command. Moreover, her father made it clear to both Dora and Freud that the aim was that Freud should teach Dora that the seduction attempt had only taken place in her own imagination.
I shall first discuss a pattern where there is some reason to suspect an intentional lie, but no complete proof. According to the case-study, the reason why Freud was selected as therapist for Dora was, that Dora’s father had seen him 4 years earlier, though not for a protracted treatment, but only for obtaining a diagnosis. Freud had then stated that the father suffered from syphilis. During the later treatment of Dora it turned out that she and some other relatives knew about his illness, and also knew that he had got it before he married. Freud goes on to say that Dora suffered from white vaginal discharge, and that she blamed her father’s syphilis for this symptom.
I have in previous writings noted Freud’s exaggerated inclination to attribute syphilis or ideas of syphilis to patients. Hence I would take no impression of Freud’s diagnosis. But the knowledge of Dora and other family members would constitute genuine supporting evidence – if it were true. However, we have no information except Freud’s word. But we can be sure that Dora had read the case-study (and, I add, had seen that it consisted of a packet of lies). Hence it is not highly believable that Dora would lose such knowledge.
According to Mahony (1996), the correct year when Felix Deutsch saw Dora (twice in her home and at the suggestion of a non-psychiatric doctor), was 1923. It is not important that Deutsch’s own memory is not entirely correct.
But Deutsch (1957) writes that Dora had “forgotten” that her father had ever had syphilis.
This is such a remarkable circumstance, that it is more probable that he never had this disease. Scharnberg (1993) has documented many examples in which Freud put his own lies into the mouths of other people. This is one of his recurrent methods, although I have not given it status as a corner stone method. (Maybe I shall later write a paper on many of Freud’s other methods.)
My hypothesis (so far unproved but not improvable) is that Freud had never met Dora’s father before both of them visited him together when Dora was 15 years old. Freud fabricated a previous meeting four years earlier, in order to conceal that Mr. K was the person (and the only person) who suggested Freud as a suitable therapist for Dora.
Mahony (1996) speculates that Mr. K might have been one of Freud’s patients. I am not inclined to think so.
But it should be obvious that if he was the one who selected Freud, the forced treatment was an even greater insult to Dora.
Nevertheless, Freud did not comply with the father’s goal. On the contrary, he completely accepted the reality of the seduction attempt.
What would most girls do in this situation? It would be a natural thought that Dora delivered an entirely new argument to her father: The very psychiatrist in whom he and Mr. K had so much confidence, had accepted her version of what had happened.
Furthermore, it would be a natural thought that Dora’s father after such an argument would cease to claim that Dora had imagined the seduction attempt.
We might also expect him to visit Freud to complain that Freud had betrayed him.
(Freud actually writes that the father visited him after Dora had terminated. But he goes on to say that the father was satisfied with the treatment and wanted it to be resumed. But Freud saw through him that he was not sincere.)
If my hypothesis is true, Freud gave Dora real help. She used his authority to provide a tolerable family situation for herself.
But Freud did not acknowledge this help. Instead he re-interpreted Dora’s adequate use of the treatment as sadism and revenge.
His knowledge of human nature must be even lower than I had thought before I read the case-study of Dora. The very same doctor, who in the most unrestricted way talked about coarse sexual perversions, expected that the patient on her own should understand that she must not tell outsiders anything about what he had said.
Elsewhere he states that psychoanalysis is “the only possible treatment” of such cases. But while patients are not instructed to keep their mouths shut, they are thrown out if do not do so. Hence the prognosis for such patients is really pessimistic.
Now it is time to say more about Glenn’s (1980b:36) words that Dora manifested “paradoxal compliance with her father’s wish that she stop treatment.” – I can only understand Freud’s text in this way: Dora did not tell her father about Freud’s view, before she had quit. Hence, her father could not know what Freud did. He would most probably have wished the treatment to stop, if he had known it. Dora sensed this and fulfilled what would have been his wish if he had known.
Glenn’s interpretation is typical of the ego-analysts. To claim that a patient secretly complied with her father’s secret wish, when the patient is convinced of making her own rational decision, is an effective way of confusing a patient. Note also the degree of confusion produced. If the degree is too strong, the patient may make no attempt to make sense of it, or may soon give up any such attempt. The interpretation at hand could make the patient believe it is meaningful, and that the meaning could be understood by a hard try. And while the patient engages in a great effort, he or she will have less attention left over for understanding of countering other interpretations.
XIII. The Principle of Similarity?
Against the background of most of the examples given above, a chapter on the principle of similarity would be almost superfluous. I shall nevertheless present some examples.
The patient who is usually called “the rat man” was Freud’s patient for a few months. He suffered primarily from a fantasy which forced itself on him just like other compulsions will do. The content of the fantasy was that rats were gnawing the buttocks of his father or his beloved. – The image itself emerged after the patient had been told about an oriental variety of punishment.
Let us see how Freud will enlighten us about the meaning of this fantasy.
1. The rat is a symbol of the patient himself.
Why? Rats have sharp teeth. When the patient was 3 years old he was severely spanked by his father, probably because he had bitten the nursemaid. He himself had forgotten the event, but his mother recalled it. Freud thinks that this childhood trauma was one of the causes of the compulsion. Freud is also convinced that the patient had not just forgotten the event in the usual sense. Instead recall was actively blocked. Freud is surprised that his interpretation did not lead to cessation of the blocking and to recollection of the event.
2. The rat is a symbol of the patient’s father.
Why? Once during his youth the father gambled away money that was not his. There is a German word: “Spielratte” (= gambler rat). Note that this was Freud’s and not the patient’s association.
3. The rat is related to anal eroticism.
Why? (a) The punishment is related to the buttocks, and buttock = anus. (b) When describing the punishment then patient used the verb “boring”. Freud thinks that it would be incorrect to talk about boring in the buttocks. Therefore the patient must have meant boring into the anus. (c) Freud literally claims that faeces are the food rats eat. (d) Rats are dirty animals, and dirt = faeces.
4. The rat is a symbol of a penis.
Why? As a child the patient had intestinal worms. And a worm resembles a penis. On that ground Freud constructed the interpretation that the patient had an unconscious fantasy of anal intercourse, which involved either his father or his beloved; (not both at the same time).
5. The rat is a symbol of a child.
Why? The patient knew about the old rat maid in Henrik Ibsen’s drama “Little Eyolf” Freud adds his own free association: the fable of the rat-catcher from Hameln, who first treated rats and then children in the same way.
6. The rat compulsion derives from the infantile stage when the patient [allegedly] believed that men also beget children, and that children are born through the anus.
Why? This is deduced from item 4 and 5 together. “Boring into the buttocks” is distorted into “boring into the anus” and, in turn, into “creeping into the intestines”. And then Freud invokes a psychoanalytic interpretation rule for which he claims universal validity. Anything may be substituted by the opposite thing. Thus, creeping into = coming out from. And we saw in item 5 that the rat is a symbol of a child.
7. The rat is a symbol of syphilis.
Why? Rats carry infectious diseases, and syphilis is an infectious disease. (Item 4 is not explicitly invoked, but may be implicit.) Hence, the rat fantasy proves that the patient had the unconscious suspicion that his father had lived an immoral sexual life with risk of contracting syphilis.
8. The rat is a symbol of money.
Why? (a) Rats are related to dirt, and dirt = faeces. Freud thinks that he has proved this in his article Character and Anal Eroticism. (b) The patient’s free associations involve “Ratten – Raten – Heiraten” (rats – to give advice/to guess/instalments – to marry). Freud overlooks that these meagre associations are based on trivial phonetic similarities. “Raten” has three quite different meanings. Freud presents no evidence that the patient meant the meaning that could directly be associated with money. But even if the patient did so, Freud derivation had no evidential value. (c) At a much later time the patient told that when he paid Freud’s fee at the first consultation he had thought “So many florins, so many rats”. Even if the information provided by Freud is true, and suggestive influence was not involved, this pattern is devoid of any evidential value. (d) A final proof is that the “Spielratte” gambled away money. (GW‑VII:432ff.)
Freud’s logic in these examples is poor. But there is a further error which may be easy to overlook. Even if each and every interpretation were true, then the interpretations would explain very little of what need be explained. The patient felt a panic anxiety or repulsion against the rat compulsion. Is it easier to understand the patient’s panic anxiety and repulsion in relation to the rat compulsion, if we know that the rat is a symbol of the patient, his father, a penis, a child, and money? There was reason to fear syphilis before medical treatment was invented. But the patient did not think of himself as being at risk. And the father had not got this disease.
Other interesting features are connected with Character and Anal Eroticism. This brief article was published in 1908, and its main content is that three personality traits – orderliness, obstinacy, and stinginess – are derivatives of the infantile anal functions. But Freud clearly states that it is not his intention to prove the theory. Apparently it was already proved by quite different facts. Hence, his aim is only to make the connection between the anal function and the three personality traits understandable.
But both he himself and his followers have later claimed that the proofs were found in exactly this article.
Note also that about the half of vol. 2 of Scharnberg (1993) is devoted to establishing that Freud had stolen his anal theory from astrology.
– The brief article and the case-study of the rat man were published in 1908 and 1909. Haven’t recent psychoanalysts become wiser since then?
Well, they have not abandoned the principle of similarity:
“Serious surgical procedure can impose real, physical injury, and at the same time invoke castration fantasies” (Renik, 1981:182).
“[…] when analyst and patient meet outside the consultation room. The encounter can stimulate secret wishes which create anxiety in both parties: voyeuristic and exhibitionistic fantasies, primal scene conflicts, oedipal and homosexual desires, sadistic and masochistic urges, and oral incorporative yearnings” (Strean, 1981:257).
[The patient’s words:] “I had fantasies of sucking in each and every one of your words. […] then eating up your tongue; […] I remember at the point in the lecture feeling that your penis was like a big breast covering me snugly” (Strean, 1981:250).
“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).
XIV. The Central Role of the Case-Study of Dora among Freud’s Writings
The case-study of Dora could fittingly be called Freud’s most exhaustive writing. It contains almost all his theoretical ideas, methods and techniques. What is still missing, it hardly more than terminological embellishments, e.g., “the reality principle” and “the superego”. Hence, it has a most natural place in an essay about the corner stones of Freud’s methodology. It was also a most appropriate decision, when the ego analysts and other training institutes selected this paper as a textbook. No other case-study was written and published in order to get revenge and to overcome Freud’s strong feeling of inferiority. And in no other paper were the central interpretations constructed for the same purposes.
Here Freud also presents the true explanation about in what concrete way his theories and interpretations were proved on the couch.
If the psychoanalyst delivers an interpretation, and the patient answers, “I don’t remember that”, or “I didn’t think that”, or “I didn’t think of that”, then this is “a confirmation from the unconscious” of the interpretation. “No other kind of ‘Yes’ can be extracted from the unconscious;” (GW‑V:217f./SE‑VII:57, Italics added).
The father has bought a piece of jewellery for her mother. The mother did not like it and said he had better give it to someone else. Freud immediately interferes with a strongly leading question: “I dare say you thought to yourself you would accept it with pleasure.” – And then Dora’s first words were “I don’t know”. Freud immediately comments: “The regular formula with which she confessed to anything that had been repressed.” (GW‑V:231f./SE‑VII:69, Italics added).
When Felix Deutsch (1957:162) met Dora in 1923 she was “displaying great pride in having been written up as a famous case in psychiatric literature.” Even if we had not known that Felix Deutsch wrote to his wife that Dora had “nothing good to say about analysis” (Mahony, 1996:16), Dora would have been seriously ill if she was really proud. So the only relevant question is whether Deutsch’s claim was an outright lie, or “a confirmation from the unconscious” of the form just illustrated.
Glenn (1980b:34) repeats the same theme: “She must have been proud to have been connected with such an esteemed person” [= Freud].
It is easy to overlook another important issue. Let us try out that 100% of Freud’s interpretations about Dora were true. Even so, Dora would have no chance of feeling their truth. She would be in no better position than an external observer.
– – It is one of Freud’s recurrent habits to blame someone else, and in particular his patients, because of errors and deficiencies for which he himself is responsible. The case-study of Dora is a most confused paper, replete with contradictions. Freud defends this feature in the following words:
“I cannot help wondering how the authors [“authorities” is a mistranslation] can produce such smooth and precise histories in cases of hysteria. As a matter of fact the patients are incapable of giving such reports about themselves.” (GW‑V:173f./SE‑VII:16)
And then a long account follows about contradictions and confusions produced by hysterical patients.
Both the logical and the empirical aspects are altogether false. However much a patient may contradict herself, this cannot prevent a psychiatrist from writing a consistent and coherent account of what the patient said.
But in the case-study of Dora, Freud is responsible for all the contradictions and inconsistencies. If we juxtapose all information which Freud attributed to Dora (regardless of whether she actually said such things), we shall find that this information is entirely consistent. There is a total of one single contradiction. This contradiction is whether Dora requested her father to break with Mr. K or Mrs. K – and even this single contradiction has emerged because Freud mendaciously fabricated that Dora’s request was directed against Mrs. K.
– – I do not think it is a marginal detail why Freud chose to give the patient the pseudonym “Dora”. At the present time it is well-known that her real name was “Ida Bauer”. Her brother Otto Bauer was the Austrian minister of foreign affairs in 1919. He eventually became the chairman of the international Social-Democratic organisation. Dora’s son and only child, Kurt Herbert Adler, was born almost on the same day as Freud published his case-study. The son had a brilliant musical career. In 1936 he was Toscanini’s assistant at the festival in Salzburg. And he ended his days as the general director of the San Francisco Opera.
In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life Freud (GW‑IV:268f./SE‑VI:241f.) presents an explanation of the pseudonym. The real name of the maid of Freud’s sister Rosa was also Rosa. In order to avoid that the persons were mixed up (e.g., when someone called out for “Rosa”), it was decided that the maid would be called “Dora”; and even letters to her should bear this name. It seems that Freud would say: “A person who does not retain her own name should be called Dora.”
But this account sounds as if this was the first time Freud gave a patient a pseudonym. Though in Studies on Hysteria he had given pseudonyms to five previous patients.
Could it be that the aim of the above account was to camouflage the real model of the pseudonym?
It is a well-known fact that Freud sooner or later was caught by hostility toward many of his close friends, inter alia Joseph Breuer, the co-author of Studies on Hysteria. The sequence of events to be told in a moment, is also well-known. It was invented by the psychoanalysts, and it is firmly documented to be false.
Anyway, when Breuer treated a certain female patient he was caught by sexual attraction. He speedily escaped from the situation. And this led to a new honeymoon with his wife. The honeymoon resulted in a daughter, who was born almost at the same time as Ida Bauer. Hence, both girls were of the same age when Freud wrote the case-study, and when he hated both Ida Bauer and Joseph Breuer.
What was the name of Breuer’s daughter? You guessed it: Dora.
– – Millions of interpretations can be constructed and defended by the seven corner stone principles. It is up to the psychoanalyst at hand to apply or ignore a certain principle in a certain context. In so far, the derivations are altogether arbitrary. – I shall supply a strange example in which Freud did not apply the principle of similarity, although the facts were well suited for his doing so.
The same day when she told the fire dream, the following prologue happened:
“As I came into the room in which she was waiting she hurriedly concealed a letter which she was reading. I naturally asked her whom the letter was from, and at first she refused to tell me. Something then came out which was a matter of complete indifference and had no relation to the treatment. It was a letter from her Grandmother, in which she begged Dora to write to her more often. I believe that Dora only wanted to play ‘secrets’ with me […]” (GW‑V:240f./SE‑VII:78).
This text was published in 1905. Most probably Freud changed his mind a few years later – if not of Dora, then of all subsequent patients in the same position. And until recently psychoanalysts would deny that such a thing exists as an entity or circumstance which was “a matter of complete indifference and had no relation to the treatment”.
Second, this case-study contains an unusually large number of highly loaded letters or symbols of letters. Third, it is a common behaviour among patients speedily to pack together whatever they were concerned with in the waiting room, so as not to waste the doctor’s time when he is ready. Fourth, Dora could have a wide variety of motives for saying, for instance, that it was “nothing important”. One such motive might be her eagerness to tell the fire dream. – Fifth, Dora could have hurriedly concealed the letter, because it was concerned with a most central topic for the treatment.
I shall venture no guess as to whether the prologue happened at all, or whether it happened at the same day as Dora told the fire dream.
But according to Freud the fire dream revealed Dora’s erotic fire toward Mr. K. Hence, however much Dora on the conscious level despised Mr. K and wanted to avoid contact with him, couldn’t it be Dora’s unconscious wish that Mr. K would write to her more often – and perhaps also she to him?
XV. Where to Proceed Next?
In the present paper I have supplied none of the classical descriptions. Admittedly, it is some time since psychoanalysts asserted that their method consisted of free associations, or of collecting a wealth of facts and finding the only interpretations which will explain and do justice to all these facts.
Instead I have formulated a number of those rules which psychoanalysts actually apply in the consultation room.
The applications can also be contradictory. Psychoanalytic associations are strictly hierarchical, and those belonging to lower strata will have to go repeatedly in analysis at some of those who are higher – so that inclination to disbelief can be suppressed.
In relation to the patient, the psychoanalyst is always right, and none of his reactions can be explained by any psychoanalytic theory. But when the same psychoanalyst undergoes “control analysis” by an analyst belonging to a higher level, then psychoanalytic theory is applicable to this “normal” analyst, but not to the control analyst.
The ego analysts claimed that they had supplemented Freud’s theory of the development of the pathological mind, with a theory of the development of the healthy mind. – But it is a long time since I have found an ego analyst who dared stick to this claim.
Are the cornerstone principles equally prominent today? By and large the answer is yes. But one really great difference has emerged. Some recovered memory therapists call themselves psychoanalysts and others do not. But to RMT psychoanalysts the gossip theory has completely vanished.
This is not surprising. The gossip theory was eminently suited for putting the blame at the door of the patient. By contrast, RMT psychoanalysts are eager to put the blame at the door of the alleged perpetrator of sexual or ritual abuse, whether they are the parents, the grandparents, non-family members etc.
What would be appropriate ways to go from here? Actually, there is room for, and also so need for, a large number of additional approaches, both concerning methodology and other topics. Thus Robert Wilcocks (2000:255) aptly wrote that Freud’s six “Papers on Technique”, given their intended audience, are probably among the most damaging and reprehensible that Freud ever wrote.”
It would not be fruitful to debate exactly which rules should be called “corner stone principles”. But it would be important to collect and explicate all other methodological rules. I shall give a few specimens which are applied by Freud and many of his followers:
“If an interpretation or a theory has once been proved, it will remain proved, even if the circumstances claimed to prove it are later declared to be non-existent, and no new evidence has been substituted.”
“It is legitimate to fabricate an empirical generalisation ad hoc, when it is needed for proving a certain interpretation.”
“However firmly an empirical generalisation has been confirmed by psychoanalytic practice, if it is incompatible with later ideas or theories, it is legitimate to let it disappear in silence.”
“A statement may be fully proved by invoking secret observations as proof.”
“It is legitimate to fabricate observations out of interpretations.”
“It is legitimate to put the fabrications of the psychoanalyst into the mouth of the patients, and also of other persons.”
Another line of research might be to unearth the history and origin of the corner stones and the other rules. One of Freud’s adult female patients suffered from eczema around her mouth. Freud applied the principle of similarity and deduced that the cause was that the woman’s father had practiced fellatio while she was in the cradle (Masson, 1985:220f.). Here it may be instructive that in 1621 Robert Burton (1927:187) explained a hare-lip in this way: the pregnant mother had been scared by a hare. And Albert Mathias Vering (1817:42) described a woman who had born a child without arms, because she during pregnant had become scared by a beggar without arms. Throughout more than 30 years I have collected numerous such examples, and not only within the Western culture. – A closer scrutiny of psychoanalysis will reveal that Freud was by no means a revolutionary genius (or a revolutionary fool). He was a hyper-conservative psychiatrist, who borrowed numerous constituents from mythical ideas and vulgar lay thinking.
For half a century I have recommended audio-recordings of psychoanalytic dialogues, for the purpose of disclosing what really happens there. And there are several questions that could be researched on this ground. Some psychoanalytic patients are severely harmed by psychoanalytic treatment, and some of them will never recover. Hanns Sachs, who was trained by Freud, said to E. G. Boring (1963) that even if a patient did not have a neurosis when he started the treatment, he would develop one. As we saw in chapter 7, Nils Haak (1957) presented it as a perfectly normal outcome of psychoanalytic treatment that it will lead to nervous breakdown and suicide attempts. And, as we saw in chapter VII, Jacques Bénesteau (2002) had documented the large number of suicides among the patients of the first generation of psychoanalysts.
The analyst given the pseudonym “Lambdason” in Scharnberg (1996) shouted on the audio-tape, and the last sentence was even screamed:
“You can assert hell know what. I mean, you can assert that tomorrow that sun and the moon will collide. I mean – you can say that the analysts are a heap of gangsters who blackmail their patients and keep them in some sorts of ghost – gas chambers, that they brainwash their patients, you can assert anything whatsoever. And patients in psychoanalysis assert such things.”
I have never seen a textbook on psychotherapy, which was written by one person, and which was larger than The Technique of Psychotherapy by Lewis Wolberg (with the exception of later editions of the one I use). Here the following is stated:
“Another form of relationship that may develop is based on an intense fear of the therapist as one who is potentially capable of injuring or enslaving the patient. […] He may exhibit various symptoms that he attributes to the harmful effects of therapy. […] He may become critical, then defiant, challenging the therapist to make him well. Irritability is often transmuted into contempt, and the patient may accuse the therapist of having exploitive or evil designs on him. Feeling misunderstood and humiliated, he will manufacture, out of insignificant happenings in his contact with the therapist, sufficient grounds to justify his notion of being mistreated. […] He may ridicule in his mind proffered interpretations. […] or seek to discontinue therapy, inventing many rationalizations for this.” (Wolberg, 1954:471)
At the same time the hyper-aggressive psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler (12958:287) talks of “the harmless reality of analysis”.
If psychoanalysis can lead to nervous breakdown and suicide attempts, it is definitely not harmless. And the patients’ experience of being in a gas chamber, or being humiliated and mistreated, could well have a strong foundation in reality.
It is flagrant in Bergler’s books that he humiliates and mistreats his patients. One example: “You have the mind of a blackmailer” (Bergler, 1971:228).
If these six quotations or accounts (by Sachs, Haak, Bénesteau, Lambdason, Wolberg and Bergler) are juxtaposed, it is clear that the treatment contains serious dangers. Hence, when patients fear the analyst or the treatment, and when they feel inclination to terminate the treatment, there is – sometimes or often – rational ground for both. And it is odd that so many psychoanalysts have for generations stuck to the myth about the absence of any danger. They cannot have overlooked the empirical facts which emerged in their own consultation room.
I do not think that what harms the patients is primarily the psychoanalysts’ manifest aggressions and insults. It can neither be true that those patients who are harmed (sometimes for the rest of their life), had had a fragile mind before the treatment. Some patients had a normal life until they were 40 or 50 years old, and suddenly became seriously ill after a brief period of psychoanalytic treatment.
A quite different hypothesis is closer to (but not identical with) Jay Haley’s (1993) account in Strategies of Psychotherapy. It may also be closer to reality. A certain proportion of human beings – perhaps the overwhelming majority, perhaps a large minority – have specific weak points. If the psychoanalyst finds the weak points, he can hurt the patient very deeply. – A characteristic point of view is expressed in the following excerpt:
“In his training the young analyst learns the few rather simple rules that he must follow. The first is that it is essential to keep the patient feeling one-down while stirring him to struggle gamely in the hope that he can get one-up (this is called ‘transference’).” (Haley, 1963:197)
If this hypothesis is true, empirical support could no doubt have exposed by the scrutiny of audio-recordings of psychoanalytic dialogues. To find such deliberate techniques behind what is usually called “negative transference”, would be a very important discovery.
Could audio-recorded dialogues be used for unearthing positive results? I would give an affirmative answer. Freud’s own techniques were very primitive. But his followers have gradually learned persuasive techniques that are almost invisible. Such techniques will indeed influence the patient to believe in the interpretations. But a large majority of external observers would not be capable of detecting the techniques. Freud’s followers have also learned almost invisible enraging techniques for producing violent outbursts of impotent rage.
Such facts will be important for science. But we would never get sufficient grants for documenting and analysing them. And the ethical committees, that are so eager to stop research, will willingly permit therapists to harm adults as well as children. Moreover, the psychoanalysts are strongly motivated to conceal all their techniques. The risk is therefore overwhelming that these circumstances will be lost. I would deeply regret if this should be the final outcome.
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Wolberg, Lewis (1954): The Technique of Psychotherapy. New York: Grune & Stratton.
 Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens was published in 1839 (hence, 17 years before Freud was born). When Nicholas’s mother meets his friend Smike for the first time, she assures that he is welcome, and she does so in so many and so exaggerated words, that it is evident that she means the very opposite of what she says. It is equally evident that she is defending herself against what she really feels:
“I am sure, my dear Nicholas, […] I am sure any friend of yours has, as indeed he naturally ought to have, and must have, of course, you know – a great claim upon me, and of course it is a very great pleasure to me to be introduced to anybody you take interest in – there can be no doubt about that: none at all; not the least in the world” (Dickens, 1982:225, in chapter 35).
Proust’s large novel has in various countries been published in three, seven, or some twenty volumes. In seven-volume-editions (such as the Swedish) we shall find the relevant scene in the 7th volume. Two males outside the entrance of a homosexual sado-masochist brothel are torn between desire and shame. One of them repeats every other minute: “You don’t care about that, do you?”. The original French text is “Quoi! Après tout s’en fiche?” (1982:126).
This part of the novel was published in 1927, while Freud’s article on negation (or rather on denial) was published in 1925. Nevertheless, Proust could not have been inspired by Freud. Freud’s examples are counter-intuitive, and prove little more than his own aim of deceiving the patient. Proust’s account agrees with general lay experience.
The Danish author Astrid Ehrencron-Kidde wrote, inter alia, many short-stories about a man named Martin Willén. In the edition published in 1941 this 70-year-old man recalls the tragic death of three of his siblings and of other persons who were close to him. Only one was approaching middle-age, while four were still teenagers.
In one of the short-stories, The Tarantula, there is an excellent scene in which the child Martin asks his mother if it is true that his older sister Elvira is going to marry his father’s brother (1941:98f.). Evidently the mother tries to persuade herself that this will be a good thing, since she knows that she cannot stop it. But she really feels (and rightly so) that this marriage will be a disaster.
It would cost much labour, not only for myself but also for librarians, to disclose at what time this short-story was published for the first time. The collection of 1941 included only short-stories that were written earlier. 1910 is one of the options. However, the exact time is as unimportant concerning Ehrencron-Kidde as it is concerning Proust, and for the same reason.
My final example may be less appropriate, because Marcus Antonius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar does not try to fight his own real but more or less concealed emotions, but the manifest feelings of the audience. He knowingly applies a persuasive technique in his speech at Caesar’s body, when Cesar had just been murdered by Brutus. Antonius many times iterates that “Brutus is an honourable man” – so that the audience will more and more wonder if this is really true.
Some of my readers may have seen Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s movie 1953, with the excellent performance of this speech by Marlon Brando.