Das doppelgänger Freud A review of Freud’s Patients: A Book of Lives

Robert M. Kaplan

Affiliation: University of Wollongong, Sydney, Australia

Keywords: Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalysis, Treatment

Categories: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law

DOI: 10.17160/josha.9.1.803

Languages: English

Sigmund Freud described very few cases, but more details have come out over the years despite the efforts of the Freud estate to embargo embarrassing records. Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, a leading historian of psychoanalysis, has described thirty-eight patients treated by Freud. He refrains from taking into account Freud’s interpretations, instead providing an account of how Freud interacted with his patients, contrasting with the canonical version. The conclusion he draws is that Freud’s cures were largely ineffectual, when they were not downright destructive. Relevant aspects of the background and circumstances of the cases is provided. Many patients were of aristocratic descent, some enormously wealthy, a significant number were Jewish, while Americans were given priority because of the high value of the US dollar. It also provides an insight into the fading world of fin de siècle Vienna and how incestuous was the Jewish circle of Freud, his family and patients. The author shows that the cures written up by Freud were far less than that and there were a number of casualties. Part of the problem was the sheer novelty of early psychoanalysis where rules and boundaries were not established. There was a dichotomy between the cases that the world learned of from Freud’s writing and what actually happened. Does it matter that Freud gave such misleading accounts of these treatments? Borch-Jacobsen has no doubt. Psychoanalysis must be criticised because it refuses to recognise that it creates the reality it purports to describe and attempts to cover up the artifice. On that basis, one could argue that there was a doppelgänger Freud.

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