The trauma of Freud : controversies in psychoanalysis
Over one hundred years have passed since psychoanalysis was first created by Sigmund Freud in Vienna. As the past century has witnessed the relative decline in the traditional forms of religious faith, people have turned for therapeutic help and moral direction to psychology, believing it to be neutral and scientific. The new profession Freud invented has flourished on the secularization of Western culture, and it is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of various popularizations of aspects of psychoanalytic teachings. By the turn of the twenty-first century, psychoanalytic influence has increasingly extended to some non-Westem societies as well.
Little has so far been written, for instance, about what kind of impact Freud has had in Russia, Japan, India, and China, yet one suspects that the future take on him that those cultures adopt remains a key aspect of the ultimate fate of his doctrines.
Throughout the years since the first publication of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams in late 1899, and then his beginning to assemble a circle of followers around him in 1902, psychoanalysis has, despite its traditional pretensions to being aloof from ethical questions, attracted to itself an extraordinary degree of sectarian bitterness. Freud both satisfied and at the same time frustrated an urgent modem need for meaning, which helped spawn a series of schisms in his movement. And so there have been, in addition to a small hard core of true believers in Freud’s original faith, a series of “heretical” schools that have developed with elaborate theories of their own.
Anyone considering writing on the history of psychoanalysis should have to proceed with an awareness of the existence of Freud’s own short 1914 polemical pamphlet “On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement.” Here Freud was trying to draw a firm dividing line between his own contributions and the innovating ideas of his former associates Alfred Adler and Carl G. Jung; this public controversy has acquired almost mythic proportions, and probably deserves to have attracted more attention than any other internal psychoanalytic quarrel.
Whether Adler and Jung left Freud, or he threw them out — and no doubt a combination of both alternative possibilities played a part — has never been a successfully settled matter. It is not so much that a large literature arose in connection with these pre-World War I difficulties as that Freud had succeeded in setting the terms of debate for years to come. Thus, whenever trouble arose later within psychoanalysis, it could be possible to tar any original thinkers as so-called dissidents in the field; one cannot underestimate the potential force of the charge of being like these early “renegades.
” The “mainstream” is supposed alone to retain legitimacy, without specifying how authoritarian in its exclusions any such a metaphor can be. In retrospect it is apt to seem striking that neither Adler nor Jung did much to contest Freud’s published views about them, and by default the historiographical field was largely left to accept Freud’s own personal viewpoint.3 But that meant that the accusation of being either Jungian or Adlerian was to be all the more a dreaded possibility.
At least as striking as this early set of quarrels is how, whatever one might think now of the merits of what psychoanalysis has had to contribute to the life of the mind, the history of psychoanalysis throughout the twentieth century was repeatedly punctuated by a whole series of hotly contested controversies. It would be impossible to try to write an account of the saga of what psychoanalysis has amounted to apart from these many difficulties with their accompanying acrimony.
The fact that all these rancorous disputes have taken place does not, in my view, in any way detract from the importance of the subject matter itself. On the contrary, that people were willing to engage in such disagreements means to me that something important must have been at issue to make it worthwhile to undertake such differences of opinion. The merits of the case were inextricably mixed up with questions concerning power and ambition, as well as what was perceived to be the future of the “movement.” Although it is not always obvious what generates intellectual strife, and all the splintering associated with such passionate argumentation, it should be safe to generalize that live subjects attract debate, whereas stale matters are left ignored.
For example, no one would be discussing the rights of serfs after the end of feudalism; and fights about whether socialism can be achieved in only one country, which were once so heated a subject of theoretical views at the time of the Russian Revolution, are unlikely to be revived again. So that the fact that psychoanalysis has been such a source of recent contentiousness means, I think, that it has been central to how we have thought about ourselves.
The purpose of this book is to try to put in some sort of sequence and perspective the most memorable issues that have come up in connection with the history of Freud’s school. Perhaps part of what Freud really (unintentionally) established with his 1914 polemic was that this field would continue to be an avidly contested one. He certainly thought that the stakes were high enough then to make public his side of things; and although he never again engaged in any such explicit bit of polemicizing, quarrels did not cease to break out in his lifetime. It has to be noteworthy that he was successful enough in creating a set of doctrines which attracted others so that intellectual blow-ups continued to occur well after his death in 1939.
At least a portion of the objective people had in mind was to succeed to the mantle of Freud’s authority; the question of legitimate lineage has always been unusually important within psychoanalysis. Analysts have had special problems with being self-created, as biological parenthood could become secondary to who had trained whom; the legitimacy of the offspring of recognized disciples came to acquire special importance. (Even while Freud was still alive his students could argue about who had remained true to the essence of his teachings.) Freud himself had relied on various of his great predecessors in the history of ideas in order to help establish his authority, and on a smaller scale that sort of reasoning about ancestry, although confined within the psychoanalytic canon itself, has continued in the years since his death.
1. The Problem of Seduction
2. Carl Gustav Jung: The Zurich School
3. Sandor Ferenczi: The Budapest School
4. Kleinianism: The English School
5. Anna Freudianism
6. Ethics and Privacy
7. The Power of Orthodoxy
9. Erikson’s Ego Psychology
10. Jackson Pollock and Creativity
11. The History of Psychotherapy
12. Public Scandal
13. Sandor Rado
Conclusions: A Plea for Toleration and the Future
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