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Letters to Fliess
Up to the spring of 1897 Freud still held firmly to his conviction of the reality of childhood traumas, so strong was Charcot's teaching on traumatic experiences and so surely did the analysis of the patient's associations reproduce them. At that time doubts began to creep in although he made no mention of them in the records of his progress that he was regularly sending to his friend Fliess. Then quite suddenly, he decided to confide to him "the great secret of something that in the past few months has gradually dawned on me." It was the awful truth that most--not all--of the seductions in childhood which his patients had revealed, and about which he had built his whole theory of hysteria, had never occurred. The letter of September 21, 1897, in which he made this announcement to Fliess is perhaps the most valuable of that valuable series which was so fortunately preserved.1No other letter that Freud wrote has called forth such a response. Hardly any major historian of psychoanalysis has failed to comment on it in detail.2 Because of the critical place it occupies in the history of Freud's thinking, this letter deserves to be quoted at length:
Dear Wilhelm:Despite the many commentaries this letter has received from psychoanalysts, it is still bristling with obscurities. The objections Freud raises in the letter to the reality of the sexual abuse of children sound like those raised earlier by his colleagues, critical of the theory from the beginning. Freud had answered those objections in the three 1896 papers on seduction referred to in the last chapter, the three papers in which Freud establishes his belief in the reality of childhood seduction, providing evidence and answers to possible objections, the very objections that Freud raises in this letter. The letter symbolizes the beginning of an internal reconciliation with his colleagues and with the whole of nineteenthcentury psychiatry. It is as if Freud were standing before his colleagues at the Society for Psychiatry and saying: "You were right, after all--what I thought was true is nothing but a scientific fairy tale."
The idea that Freud made a decisive and permanent decision about seductions, that they were, by and large, unreal, the fantasies of hysterical women, has become standard in psychoanalytic thought.5 Marie Bonaparte, when she bought Freud's letters to Fliess, was the first to record this opinion. She kept a notebook about the letters, giving brief summaries of the contents of each. These summaries are remarkably objective and accurate. With one exception, I did not find a single misrepresentation of Freud's remarks in the letters. That single exception is her comment on the letter of September 21, 1897, which shows yet again how deeply charged with emotion the topic is for all analysts. For Marie Bonaparte writes: "Freud a perce a jour le 'mensonge' des hysteriques. La seduction reguliere par le pere est un 'fantasme."' (Freud dragged into the light the "lie" of hysterics. The frequent seduction by the father is a "fantasy.") In fact, as we can see from reading the letter, Freud did not say that this was a lie, yet this is how it was to be understood by generations of psychoanalysts.
For example, Ernst Kris, who, along with Anna Freud, made the selection of Freud's letters to Fliess for publication, wrote in his introduction to the volume:
In the spring of 1897, in spite of accumulating insight into the nature of infantile wish-phantasies, Freud could not make up his mind to take the decisive step demanded by his observations and abandon the idea of the traumatic role of seduction in favour of insight into the normal and necessary conditions of childish development and childish phantasy life. He reports his new impressions in his letters, but does not mention the conflict between them and the seduction hypothesis until one day, in his letter of September 21st, 1897 (Letter 69), he describes how he realized his error (p. 29).In explanation of this important step, Kris writes in a note (p. 216):
He had drawn near to the Oedipus complex, in which he recognized the aggressive impulses of children directed against their parents, but had still remained faithful to his belief in the reality of the seduction scenes. It seems reasonable to assume that it was only the self-analysis of this summer that made possible rejection of the seduction hypothesis.Kris is correct: Freud had altered the direction of his thinking. Earlier, he had recognized the aggressive acts of parents against their children--for seduction was an act of violence. Now Freud had a new insight, that children had aggressive impulses against their parents; cf. Origins, p. 207: "Hostile impulses against parents (a wish that they should die) are also an integral part of neuroses." Indeed, why should children not wish for vengeance for a crime committed against them? If the seductions had actually taken place, these "aggressive impulses" would have been healthy signs of protest. But once Freud had decided that these seductions had never occurred, that the parents had not done anything to their children in reality, then these "aggressive impulses" replaced seduction in Freud's theories. An act was replaced by an impulse, a deed by a fantasy. This new "reality" came to be so important for Freud that the impulses of parents against their children were forgotten, never to surface again in his writings. It was not only the aggressive acts of a parent that were attributed to the fantasy life of a child; now aggressive impulses too were the products of a child's imagination.
In a letter in response to my view that Freud was wrong to abandon the seduction hypothesis, Anna Freud wrote to me (September 10,1981)
Keeping up the seduction theory would mean to abandon the Oedipus complex, and with it the whole importance of phantasy life, conscious or unconscious phantasy. In fact, I think there would have been no psychoanalysis afterwards.This is the standard view--that if Freud had not given up his seduction theory, he would never have become aware of the power of internal fantasy, and would not have been able to go on to make the discoveries he did, including the Oedipus complex, leading to the creation of psychoanalysis as a science and a therapy. Of course, nobody can know what would have happened had Freud not abandoned the seduction hypothesis. What we can know for certain, however, is that the view adopted by Anna Freud and almost all other analysts is deeply engrained. In fact, supporting this view seems to have been so crucial to the maintenance of psychoanalytic theory that Anna Freud and Ernst Kris were willing to deprive Freud of his own doubts in the matter. In the "Editors' Note" at the beginning of The Origins of Psychoanalysis, signed by Marie Bonaparte, Anna Freud, and Ernst Kris, the authors write:
The selection was made on the principle of making public everything [though this word was not in the original German edition] relating to the writer's [Freud's] scientific work and scientific interests and everything bearing on the social and political conditions in which psycho-analysis originated; and of omitting or abbreviating everything publication of which would be inconsistent with professional or personal confidence.The truth is, however, that Freud had not been allowed his voice. Anna Freud and Ernst Kris were so convinced that they had understood what Freud meant that they expunged from the public record evidence to the contrary: for the unedited letters provide evidence that Freud was not convinced that he had done the right thing.
In an unpublished letter dated December 12, 1897, three months after he supposedly abandoned his theory, Freud writes:
My confidence in the father-etiology has risen greatly. Eckstein treated her patient deliberately in such a manner as not to give her the slightest hint of what will emerge from the unconscious, and in the process obtained, among other things, the identical scenes with the father. By the way, the young girl is doing beautifully.Although the wording is somewhat obscure, there can be no doubt about the meaning of this passage: Emma Eckstein is treating a woman in analysis. She is using Freud's method, and has thereby come upon "identical scenes with the father," that is, the same "scenes" (here used in Freud's old sense, to mean genuine memories) that Freud himself elicited from his patients, memories of being sexually assaulted by the father.
Moreover, Freud says that Emma Eckstein treated the patient in such a manner that she carefully avoided any form of suggestion, precisely the error that Freud believed he himself had fallen into. Freud probably instructed Emma Eckstein to be certain that she not suggest scenes of seduction to the patient, but wait to see what material emerged. What then emerged convinced Freud that he had been correct to believe in the "father-etiology." And by "father-etiology," Freud must mean the source of neurosis that lies in actions on the part of the father, i.e., sexual attacks on the daughter. (Freud uses the term in this fashion elsewhere.6)
This letter is, therefore, a postscript to the earlier letter of September 21, 1897. It is as though Freud were telling Fliess: I was too hasty, I believe I was right to think that seductions occur and can be remembered in analysis. Moreover, I believe I was right to think that the source of illness can be traced to such events. And yet Ernst Kris and Anna Freud omitted this passage from the published letters. According to the "official" history, Freud abandoned the seduction hypothesis in September 1897. Here is a letter from December 1897 in which Freud states, unambiguously, that now he has changed his mind again. There is no doubt that Anna Freud and Ernst Kris's view, that this was a mistaken pause along the road to truth, came ultimately to be shared by Freud himself. Freud did, eventually, renounce the seduction hypothesis as wrong. But he should be allowed his own voice, his own doubts, his own slow pace.
Furthermore, Freud did not reach this position of doubting his wisdom in renouncing the seduction theory for no reason at all. He provides us with clinical evidence for his hesitations. Yet this critical clinical evidence, too, was removed from the record. For example, later that month, on December 22, 1897, he sent Fliess a case history which allows us a rare glimpse into his clinical material on seduction:
The following little scene which the patient claims to have observed as a three-year-old child speaks for the intrinsic genuineness of infantile trauma. She goes into a dark room where her mother is carrying on [ihre Zustdnde abmacht?] and eavesdrops. She has good reason to identify with that mother. The father belongs to the category of men who stab women, for whom bloody injuries are an erotic need. When she was two he brutally deflowered her and infected her with gonorrhea, so that her life was in danger as a result of the loss of blood and vaginitis. The mother now stands in the room and screams: "Rotten criminal, what do you want from me? I will have no part of that. Just whom do you think you have in front of you?" Then with one hand she tears off her clothes while with the other hand she presses them against her body, making a funny impression. Then, with her features distorted with rage, she stares at a spot in the room, covers her genitals with one hand and pushes something away with the other. Then she raises up both hands, claws at the air and bites the air. While screaming and cursing she bends over backwards, again covers her genitals with one hand, then falls forward so that her head almost touches the floor, finally falls over backwards quietly to the floor. Afterwards, she wrings her hands, sits down in a corner with her features distorted with pain and weeps.Freud is reporting to Fliess additional clinical evidence, from his own practice, that seductions occur, and, moreover, that these seductions are not minor sexually tinged acts (which they were later to be categorized as, e.g., bathing a child), but are frightening, violent, explosive scenes which can affect the victim's entire later life. In addition, Freud hints here, with his comment about censorship, that such events cause gaps in memory, so that what is left appears unintelligible, as the symptoms in a psychosis. The original scene is symbolized in the symptoms, which are nothing less than the signposts of memory, pointing back to the original reality.
Freud seems to be moved by the suffering of his patient (either she or the mother was psychotic, or both), and he proposes to Fliess that from now on the motto of psychoanalysis should be: "What have they done to you, poor child?" This is a line from a poem by Goethe, from his novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-1796), and is put in the mouth of the strange, androgynous character Mignon. She sings a song to Wilhelm Meister that begins: "Do you know the country where the lemon trees flower, and the golden oranges glow in the dark foliage ..."7The sympathy Freud shows for the suffering of this patient was not permitted to stand. This passage was omitted from the published letters, and Freud's motto, along with it, was removed from the record.
The Public Renunciation of the Seduction Theory
The earliest published reference to Freud's altered views on the origins of neurosis has gone unnoticed by historians. It is contained in a letter Freud wrote to the Munich psychiatrist Leopold Lowenfeld (1847-1923). Lowenfeld was a well-known psychiatrist and prolific writer on medical and neuropsychiatric topics. Freud refers to him several times in his published writings (e.g., S.E., 16, p. 245; S.E., 10, p. 221) and in fact included two of his own papers--"Freud's Psycho-Analytic Procedure" and "My Views on the Part Played by Sexuality in the Aetiology of Neuroses" (S.E., 7) --in books written by Lowenfeld. In 1904 Lowenfeld published Die psychischen Zwangserscheinungen (Psychic Obsessions)8 with a preface dated 1903, which gives evidence 0f a lively correspondence between Freud and Lowenfeld during the years 1900-1903, the critical period for Freud's change of heart about the seduction hypothesis. On p. 296 of that work, Lowenfeld discusses Freud's views on seduction:
I refrain at this point from discussing in any detail the complicated processes which, according to the author, supposedly take place between the initial infantile sexual factor and the onset of obsessional ideas, in view of the fact that Freud, according to communications made to me, changed his views on a number of points over the years, and it is not known to me at this moment to what extent he still holds to his views published in 1896 ... [but] with respect to the modifications made to the above-mentioned views of the author [Freud] in the course of the years, I believe that I may mention here that he no longer attributes to infantile sexual experiences the same meaning with respect to compulsion neurosis as he did earlier. According to the current views of the author, the symptoms of compulsion neurosis do not originate directly from real sexual experiences, but from fantasies which attach themselves to these experiences. The latter accordingly form important intermediary links between memories and pathological symptoms. "As a rule it is the experiences of puberty which have a harmful effect. In the process of repression these events are fantasied back into early childhood, following the pathways of sexual impressions accidentally experienced during the illness or arising from the [sexual] constitution." (Letter from the author.) This modification does not change the basic tenets of the theory.Since this is not a quotation from one of Freud's early papers, I believe that it, too, is from a letter, and in fact summarizes Freud's position from the period of around 1902. In fact, it is the only word we have from Freud during this important period.
These two previously unknown passages by Freud aid our understanding of Freud's shift in direction. He has now precisely reversed his earlier theory. In the 1896 papers, he postulated that the experiences of puberty were harmful because they repeated, or stirred up, unconscious memories of early traumatic events. The adolescent experiences were unconsciously repressed (or even consciously suppressed) because they were reminiscent of earlier, far more painful ones. But here he is saying that the early childhood traumas turn out to be fantasies which are conjured up as a defense against fully experiencing the events of adolescence. The psychological motives for repression have been removed, leaving the sexual constitution as the only explanation. The "neurotic" adolescent does not want to acknowledge her own sexual desires, and in order to cover them up, she "invents" sexual tales of seduction from her early childhood. She does this propelled by her sexual constitution, and not out of defense, i.e., in order to escape painful memories from her past. Sexual constitution was not a term that Freud employed in the 1896 papers. From now on it would come to dominate much of his thinking about women and sexuality. This becomes apparent in one of his most famous books, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.9
Three Essays can be thought of as the theoretical conclusion of the "insights" Freud had gained from treating Emma Eckstein and Dora,10 an extended rebuttal of his 1896 papers. What Freud now (p. 1.70) calls a "constitutional disposition" begins to play an increasing role in his theoretical thinking. He talks of the "excessive intensity of ... the sexual instinct" (p. 170) and the "innate strength of the tendency to perversion" (p. 170).
Sexual assaults such as Freud described them in the 1896 papers have been entirely relegated to the fantasy life of the child, or to the lies of hysterical women. The corresponding "truth" is now called an "excess of parental affection":
It is true that an excess of parental affection does harm by causing precocious sexual maturity and also because, by spoiling the child, it makes him incapable in later life of temporarily doing without love or of being content with a smaller amount of it. One of the clearest indications that a child will later become neurotic is to be seen in an insatiable demand for his parents' affection. And on the other hand neuropathic parents, who are inclined as a rule to display excessive affection, are precisely those who are most likely by their caresses to arouse the child's disposition to neurotic illness (p. 223).Three Essays also contains Freud's first published reference to his abandonment of the seduction hypothesis (apart from the letter to Lowenfeld quoted above). Freud writes (p. 190):
I cannot admit that in my paper "The Aetiology of Hysteria" (1896) I exaggerated the frequency or importance of that influence [seduction], though I did not then know that persons who remain normal may have had the same experiences in their childhood, and though I consequently overrated the importance of seduction in comparison with the factors of sexual constitution and development.In a footnote to this passage in Three Essays, Freud writes:
Havelock Ellis (1913 )11 has published a number of autobiographical narratives written by people who remained predominantly normal in later life and describing the first sexual impulses of their childhood and the occasions which gave rise to them. These reports naturally suffer from the fact that they omit the prehistoric period of the writers' sexual lives, which is veiled by infantile amnesia and which can only be filled in by psycho-analysis in the case of an individual who has developed a neurosis. In more than one respect, nevertheless, the statements are valuable, and similar narratives12 were what led me to make the modifications in my etiological hypotheses which I have mentioned in the text.13Freud is stating here that in reading the case histories given by Havelock Ellis in the appendix to his 1903 volume, Analysis of the Sexual Impulse,14 he learned that someone can be seduced in childhood and yet remain comparatively normal in later life. Since Freud had believed that these early sexual experiences were traumatic, and led to later neurosis, this kind of information, if correct, would have important consequences for his theories. Indeed, in this note Freud says that narratives similar to those in Ellis's book led him to give up his seduction hypothesis. Since this is the case, and given the historic importance of this step for the later history of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in general, it is only natural that one would wish to take a closer look at Ellis's book.
Ellis, in the preface to the 1903 edition of his book, writes:
In an Appendix will be found a selection of histories of more or less normal sexual development. Histories of gross sexual perversion have often been presented in books devoted to the sexual instinct; it has not hitherto been usual to inquire into the facts of normal sexual development.15This undoubtedly struck Freud as true. The German authors that Freud mentions as authorities on "the sexual aberrations" (p. 135) in the beginning of Three Essays (KrafftEbing, Moll, Mobius, Lowenfeld, etc.) do not provide case histories of normal sexual development. Freud's own theories, of course, were based exclusively on people who had sought his help. Here, then, was Freud's first significant encounter with a point of view different from the one he had espoused in 1896 but dealing with the same material. It could hardly fail to arouse his interest.
Phyllis Grosskurth, in her recent study of Ellis, has some harsh yet justified comments about his case histories:
The highly eccentric nature of the organization of the Studies is a reflection of its amateur basis and of a descriptive empirical approach to the subject. . . . His citation of vague authorities--"a friend," "a correspondent," "a woman who enjoys the confidence of many women"--is ridiculous. Even Krafft-Ebing was far more sceptical of the reliability of the case accounts in his case-histories, and Kinsey, who was to owe much to Ellis, devised methods of circumventing lies or exaggerations.16Only one of the twelve case histories (six more were added to the second edition, but none of those added deals with seduction) involves a sexual seduction of a child, and, indeed, not at all the kind of sexual seduction that Freud had in mind when he wrote about his own case histories in his letters to Fliess (as we saw from the two cases quoted in the preceding chapter), or when he spoke about seduction in the 1896 papers.
The first case in Ellis's book tells of the seduction of a nine-year-old boy by a servant girl, written in the third person:
T. was nine when he interrogated a servant girl of sixteen about babies and their origin. She laughed and said that one day she would tell him how children came. One Sunday this servant took T. for a country walk and initiated him in sexual intercourse, telling him he was too young to be a father, but that was the way babies were made. The girl took T. into a field, saying she would show him how to do something which would make him "feel as though he was in heaven," informing him that she had often done this with young men. She then succeeded in causing an erection and instructed him howThis is the only account of a sexual seduction that occurs in the case histories. Indeed, in all the seven volumes of Studies in the Psychology of Sex there is no discussion of seduction or its effects. For the rest, the case histories are rather pathetic and sad accounts, primarily by men, of their struggles with masturbation, of their shame at having had sexual thoughts early in life, and of adolescent explorations. There is nothing in this book by Ellis that could possibly support or refute Freud's 1896 thesis. Ellis's work is wholly irrelevant to the seduction hypothesis. How, then, can we explain the fact that Freud specifically cites this book by Ellis as a major reason for abandoning the seduction hypothesis?
I believe I have an answer to this puzzle, though it is somewhat speculative. It seems to me that Freud had not read this book by Ellis at all. In a footnote to the Dora case (p. 51), Freud praises a book by Iwan Bloch, Beitrage zur Aetiologie der Psychopathia Sexualis (Contributions to the Etiology of Sexual Pathology), which was published in 1902 and 1903.17 Though not mentioned in the Trosman and Simmons catalogue of Freud's library, this book is in the collection at Maresfield Gardens in London, and was marked by Freud. On p. 13 (vol. 1), Freud marked the following passage:
Many of the autobiographical statements and descriptions of symptoms taken by Krafft-Ebing too trustingly, clearly reveal the influence of fantasy. Thereby the true state of affairs is frequently falsified in a clearly recognizable manner.Bloch is criticizing Krafft-Ebing for not giving due credit to fantasy, the very complaint that Krafft-Ebing had implicitly made against Freud when he called his paper a "scientific fairy tale." On p. 175, Freud checked the following passage:
We would like to impress on all parents, doctors, and teachers the warning of Retif de La Bretonne, who certainly knew, "Parents, if you have children, beware of the morals of your servants."18The reference is to the possibility that servants will sexually seduce children in their care. On the next page is the passage which solves our mystery:
The large role played by seduction in the sexual life even of healthy people is very significant. Havelock Ellis recently provided the anamneses of five such cases.19The passage is not marked, but since Freud had marked a passage on seduction on the preceding page it is almost certain that he read it. However, it seems that Bloch himself had not seen the article by Havelock Ellis, but only a review of the article. The review appeared in the Monatshefte fur praktische Dermatologie (33, no. 12, December 15, 1901) on pp. 627-628, signed Hopf, Dresden, and it discusses Havelock Ellis's article "Die Entwicklung des Geschlechtstriebes" (The Development of the Sexual Instinct) from the American Journal of Dermatology and Genitourinary Diseases (no. 5, September 1901, pp. 176-188; continued in the November issue, pp. 266-231). In fact, this article is simply a reprint from the Alienist and Neurologist (22, no. 3, July 1901, pp. 501-521), a fact that Bloch was not aware of. There can be no doubt that Bloch takes his remarks about seduction from the review by Hopf, for he cites the same (inexact) reference that Hopf does, and more important, Bloch does not give any detail from the article by Ellis that is not given by Hopf (though Hopf's citations are very brief). Furthermore, except for certain omissions, Bloch gives the cases in Hopf's words, not in the words of Ellis. Moreover, Bloch (I, p. 177 n.) cites Hopf's review but does not indicate that his information comes, not from the article itself, but from Hopf's review. Bloch was himself a dermatologist, and in fact a review by him is included in the same issue of the Monatshefte (33, p. 50), which shows that he knew this volume. It was Bloch who added the comments about the importance of sexual seduction. This is not part of Ellis's original article or of Hopf's review. The title of Ellis's article, "The Development of the Sexual Instinct," is appropriate, since Ellis is concerned with learning about the early history of people's sexual lives. He does not single out seduction, and is not, in fact, concerned with it in the article. Nor does Ellis say it played any particular role in the sexual history of the five cases he gives. This is entirely Bloch's interpretation of the article, based, not on the original article itself, but, as I have shown, on a review of the article. Freud seems to have seen neither Ellis's original article nor the review by Hopf, but only Bloch's interpretation of this review. Freud would thus have given up his major discovery partly on the basis of a comment derived from an account in a review of an article which he had never seen .20
It should be noted that on the same page marked by Freud (1, p. 175), Bloch says that little girls are liars and that they often unjustly accuse servants of sexually molesting them. In vol. 2 (p. 258) Bloch complains that schoolgirls have sexually corrupted perfectly moral young teachers. Freud does cite the appendix to Ellis's 1903 book, rather than the 1901 article on which it is based, so it is not impossible that Freud drew from the article precisely the same conclusions that Bloch did. But since these conclusions are by no means obvious, nor are they the ones indicated by Ellis himself, such a coincidence strikes me as improbable, and I believe that Freud in fact based his comments on Bloch because Bloch's observations were necessary to him, not because they represented new evidence or new facts he had overlooked.
Freud's first explicit rejection of the seduction hypothesis appeared in a book written by Lowenfeld, Sexualleben and Nervenleiden (Sexual Life and Neurosis).21 At Lowenfeld's request, in 1905 Freud wrote a short piece that was incorporated in the book, entitled "My Views on the Part Played by Sexuality in the Aetiology of Neuroses" (S.E., 7, pp. 270-279), in which he writes:
At that time my material was still scanty, and it happened by chance to include a disproportionately large number of cases in which sexual seduction by an adult or by older children played the chief part in the history of the patient's childhood. I thus overestimated the frequency of such events (though in other respects they were not open to doubt). Moreover, I was at that period unable to distinguish with certainty between falsifications made by hysterics in their memories of childhood and traces of real events (p. 274).Thus, although Freud concedes that some seductions were real, the theoretical importance of seduction, which Freud now called an "accidental influence," was greatly diminished:
Accidental influences derived from experience having thus receded into the background, the factors of constitution and heredity necessarily gained the upper hand once more (p. 275).In explaining why he has come to this new view, Freud gives the same reason as in Three Essays:
Further information now became available relating to people who had remained normal; and this led to the unexpected finding that the sexual history of their childhood did not necessarily differ in essentials from that of neurotics, and, in particular, that the part played by seduction was the same in both cases (p. 276).22This "further information" is probably a reference to the work of Havelock Ellis, examined above. In any event, it is curious that Freud does not reveal the source of this new information which has had such important theoretical consequences for him. There was no way an impartial reader could investigate the matter for himself, since Freud does not give any reference. On such a crucial matter, one would expect Freud to provide a detailed commentary. His reticence is disquieting.
Is Freud's essay, apart from these difficulties, entirely sincere? I quote again: "I thus overestimated the frequency of such events [seductions]" (p. 274). Yet in the same year (1905), Freud wrote in Three Essays: "I cannot admit that in my paper `The Aetiology of Hysteria' (1896) I exaggerated the frequency or importance of that influence [seduction]" (p. 190). These statements cannot both be true.
In Freud's first fully articulated account of his changing views on fantasy vs. reality, "On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement (1914; S.E., 14, p. 17), he writes:
On the way [to the creation of psychoanalysis], a mistaken idea had to be overcome which might have been almost fatal to the young science. Influenced by Charcot's view of the traumatic origin of hysteria, one was readily inclined to accept as true and etiologically significant the statements made by patients in which they ascribed their symptoms to passive sexual experiences in the first years of childhood--to put it bluntly, to seduction. When this etiology broke down under the weight of its own improbability and contradiction in definitely ascertainable circumstances, the result at first was helpless bewilderment. Analysis had led back to these infantile sexual traumas by the right path, and yet they were not true [emphasis added]. The firm ground of reality was gone. At that time I would gladly have given up the whole work, just as my esteemed predecessor, Breuer, had done when he made his unwelcome discovery [about love and transference in the case of Anna O.]. Perhaps I persevered only because I no longer had any choice and could not then begin at anything else. At last came the reflection that, after all, one had no right to despair because one has been deceived in one's expectations; one must revise those expectations. If hysterical subjects trace back their symptoms to traumas that are fictitious, then the new fact which emerges is precisely that they create such scenes in fantasy, and this psychical reality requires to be taken into account alongside practical reality. This reflection was soon followed by the discovery that these fantasies were intended to cover up the autoerotic activity of the first years of childhood, to embellish it and raise it to a higher plane. And now, from behind the fantasies, the whole range of a child's sexual life came to light.The last comment is curious. It is a misreading of a 1907 paper by Karl Abraham, "The Experiencing of Sexual Trauma as a Form of Sexual Activity."23 The point of Abraham's paper is not that children in general have a sexual constitution calculated to provoke sexual traumas, but that certain children are seductive, desire the seduction, provoke it, and, the tone suggests, deserve it. Abraham says:
I arrived at the conclusion that their sexual development was precocious and their libido itself quantitatively abnormal, and that their imagination was prematurely occupied with sexual matters to an abnormal degree. This idea can now be expressed more definitely. We can say that children belonging to this category show an abnormal desire for obtaining sexual pleasure, and in consequence of this undergo sexual traumas (p.54).The point of view taken by Abraham is contrary to a psychological one. For example, he writes:
For a child disposed to hysteria or dementia praecox . . . undergoes the trauma in consequence of a tendency in its unconscious. If there is an underlying unconscious wish for it, the experiencing of a sexual trauma in childhood is a masochistic expression of the sexual impulse.... It is a remarkable thing that a child who has experienced a sexual trauma should keep it secret from its parents. . . . A girl of 9 years was enticed by a neighbour into a wood. She followed him quite willingly. He then attempted to rape her. It was only when he had almost or quite [?]24 attained his purpose that the child succeeded in getting free. She hurried home but said nothing about what had happened; nor did she ever speak about it afterwards to her family . . . [she] had allowed herself to be seduced. She had followed the neighbour into the wood and allowed him to go a long way in carrying out his purpose before she freed herself from him and ran off. It is not to be wondered at that this child kept the occurrence secret (pp. 51-53).Strange that it never occurs to Abraham to seek another explanation for her secrecy. Perhaps the child feared her parents would have taken her confession as a fantasy and beaten her for inventing stories.
If this is the "last word," as Freud says, then it is a frightening one.
In his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1916; S.E., 16, p. 369), Freud writes: ". . . if in the case of girls who produce such an event [seduction] in the story of their childhood their father figures fairly regularly as the seducer, there can be no doubt either of the imaginary nature of the accusation [emphasis added] or of the motive that has led to it." And he continues: ". . . up to the present we have not succeeded in pointing to any difference in the consequences, whether phantasy or reality has had the greater share in these events of childhood."
Freud is saying that whether seduction actually took place or was only a fantasy does not matter. What matters, for Freud, are the psychological effects, and these effects, Freud states, are no different where the event is a real one or imagined. But in actuality there is an essential difference between the effects of an act that took place and one that was imagined.
To tell someone who has suffered the effects of a childhood filled with sexual violence that it does not matter whether his memories are anchored in reality or not is to do further violence to that person and is bound to have a pernicious effect. A real memory demands some form of validation from the outside world--denial of those memories by others can lead to a break with reality, and a psychosis. The lack of interest in a person's store of personal memories does violence to the integrity of that person.
Freud's statement, however, was not taken by psychoanalysts at face value; in fact, psychoanalysts have always shown a greater interest in the fantasy life of a patient than in real events. Freud shifted the interest of psychoanalysis to the pathogenic effects of fantasies, putting less emphasis on the pathogenic effects of real memories in repression. The ideal analytic patient has come to be a person without serious traumas in his childhood. Analysis, it is felt, is not equipped to deal with patients who have suffered real and serious emotional injury in childhood. This is undoubtedly true, but the more important question is why this has come to be true, and whether it is an inevitable outcome of Freud's shift of interest from real seductions to fantasies. Because these are serious questions, the answers to which make a real difference in the lives of many people, it is important that we be informed of all the possible reasons why Freud made his shift. While I would describe this shift as a loss of courage, I do not believe that this judgment provides an explanation. Perhaps we will never have a single explanation for why Freud shifted his interest from real traumas to fantasies, but I believe that the historical documents allow us to come much closer to an answer than has been possible until now.
We have already seen the roles played by the case of Emma Eckstein and Freud's close relationship with Fliess in this shift. Freud could not have remained close to Fliess if he had not been willing to change his emphasis from what really happened to Emma Eckstein to her fantasies. The real operation and its ill effects, and the real seduction, had to cede place to "bleeding out of longing" and the wish to be seduced. But perhaps Freud's shift of interest to wishes and fantasies was motivated, at least in part, by still other factors.
Freud suffered emotional and intellectual isolation as long as he held to the reality of seduction. Freud felt his isolation most following the meeting of April 21, 1896, when he first publicly announced the seduction theory. ("I felt as though I were despised and universally shunned."") Freud had hoped that Breuer, after collaborating with him on Studies on Hysteria, would gradually alter his views on the sexual etiology of the neuroses. This did not happen. On the contrary, Breuer joined the ranks of those who believed Freud was losing his grip on reality, as we see from an unpublished passage in a letter from Freud to Fliess of March 1, 1896, in which he writes of Breuer that
our personal relationship, externally reconciled, casts a deep shadow over my existence here. I can do nothing right for him and have given up trying. According to him, I would daily have to ask myself whether I am suffering from moral insanity or paranoia scientifica.Condemnation was not confined to Breuer and Freud's colleagues. Freud had been timid enough in Studies on Hysteria when it came to discussing the effects of real seduction. But the book did speak about the importance of sexual life in the origin of the neuroses, and this alone was enough to provoke others to reject Freud's ideas, as is shown by the reviews. The German psychiatrist Adolf von Strumpell, in his review of Studies on Hysteria for an influential psychiatric journal, Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Nervenheilkunde, complains bitterly of Freud's invasion of the private sexual life of the patient.26 He claims that what Freud and Breuer discovered were only the "fantasies and invented tales" typical of hysterics. Conrad Rieger was even more forceful and unpleasant in his comments on "Further Remarks" in Centralblatt fur Nervenheilkunde Psychiatrie and gerichtliche Psychopathologie, where he writes:
I cannot believe that an experienced psychiatrist can read this paper without experiencing genuine outrage. The reason for this outrage is to be found in the fact that Freud takes very seriously what is nothing but paranoid drivel with a sexual content--purely chance events--which are entirely insignificant or entirely invented. All of this can lead to nothing other than a simply deplorable "old wives' psychiatry."27The medical community was offended by Freud. Breuer had now abandoned him. Lowenfeld, who had initially shown some interest, certainly more than other psychiatrists, seems to have attempted to persuade Freud to abandon the seduction hypothesis. As long as he held to the seduction theory, Freud was alone.
Where was Freud to turn for support? As we saw in chapter 2, in France Freud could look to a large medico-legal literature in support of the factual aspects of his work. Such events, the French literature made clear, do happen, and far more often than anyone but the legal physician is in a position to recognize. But the climate seems to have been different in Vienna. Eduard von Hofmann, professor of legal medicine at the University of Vienna from 1875 to 1897 28(during the period of Freud's emerging views), had written an obituary of Tardieu in 1879 in which he took issue with him for being naive in his book on attentats aux moeurs. Yet Hofmann also said that "this work alone would have been sufficient to assure the fame of the name of Tardieu in legal medicine."29 In 1888, Hofmann wrote an influential article (which Freud certainly saw--he had mentioned this issue to Fliess) in the very first issue of the Wiener klinische Wochenschrift about the case of a twenty-year-old servant, to determine whether or not she had been sexually attacked by her employer.30 Hofmann decided against the girl, primarily on the grounds that she had already had sex, and that she was strong and could have defended herself. His conclusion is significant for us:
. . . It must be mentioned that in the case of the neurosis known as hysteria (which takes on many forms) it is common knowledge that it frequently entails a pathological tendency to lie and exaggerate as well as an inability to faithfully retell [an event]. This reveals itself in a partiality for sexual accusations.But the work on seduction most often referred to by Freud's German colleagues (especially by Krafft-Ebing, but also by Bloch and others) was Johann Ludwig Casper's Klinische Novellen zur gerichtlichen Medicin (Clinical Stories from Forensic Medicine), published in Berlin in 1863.31 Casper had warned against the lies and general unreliability of children. Indeed, on the very first page of the book he speaks of the "outright lies" of children who accuse adults of rape. In one case he speaks of a thirteen-year-old who had a
shocking confrontation with her father, whom she had accused of incest and who, according to all the circumstances, was innocent, and used a way of speaking and expressions in her enraged accusation that are simply not to be repeated (p. 14).The German medico-legal literature was thus more strongly identified with the current represented by Fournier in Paris than it was with the other tradition in the French literature.32 Freud could find no support there.
In accepting the reality of seduction, in believing his patients, Freud was at odds with the entire climate of German medical thinking. Moreover, the acceptance of external trauma from such an unexpected source (the family) also cast doubts on yet another bulwark of traditional medicine: the primacy of constitutional factors. Indeed, as long as Freud believed in seduction, he would have to reject the conventional explanations of mental illness in terms of heredity (la famille nevropathique, as the French called it). Freud's independence in 1895 and 1896 was brought home to me when, in London, I examined his copy of Lowenfeld's Pathologie and Therapie der Neurasthenie and Hysterie (Pathology and Therapy of Neurasthenia and Hysteria)." On p. 20 n., Lowenfeld writes: "Bouveret makes a special point of noting that in a considerable number of neurasthenics whom he saw, `there could be found no trace whatever of nervous heredity.' " Freud penciled in the margin: "Bravo!"
The Seduction of Robert Fleiss
Freud believed, for many years, that he had found at least one person who would support him in his views when everybody else in the scientific community shunned him, and that was Wilhelm Fliess. We have seen several reasons why Fliess would not have been receptive to Freud's theory of seduction. Nevertheless, Freud continued to write to Fliess about his new discoveries. He was the one person to whom Freud was willing to tell everything he knew about the evidence slowly emerging from his clinical practice supporting the reality of seductions and their psychological impact. We have no way of investigating Fliess's response, though this response was bound to affect Freud profoundly. I have found evidence, however, not previously suspected, that Robert Fliess (1895-1970), Wilhelm Fliess's son, believed that his father had sexually molested him, and this at precisely the time Freud was writing to Fliess about seduction.34 If true, it casts an entirely new light on the relationship between the two men.
The final volume of the Psychoanalytic Series that Robert Fliess had been engaged in all his professional life appeared in 1973 as Symbol, Dream, and Psychosis. This volume constitutes an eloquent and intelligent plea for the return of Freud's early seduction theory to modern-day psychoanalytic practice. The heart of the book is an exposition of Robert Fliess's conviction that Freud made a mistake when he abandoned the seduction hypothesis. He also explains why seductions are so often denied by analysts, and shows how deep amnesia reaches and how difficult it is to undo. His thesis is that all severe neurotics have been sexually seduced or otherwise traumatized in early childhood by a psychotic (but often perfectly socially adjusted) parent, and in the process are violated, humiliated, and damaged. Moreover, he believes this happens at a very early age, before the age of four (cf. P. 218 of Symbol, Dream and Psychosis). The irony is that Freud propounded this very thesis to Robert Fliess's father in 1896 and 1897. Could something have happened to Robert Fliess around that time?
In the first volume of his series, Erogeneity and Libido: Addenda to the Theory of the Psychosexual Development of the Human, published in 1956, Robert Fliess writes (foreword, p. 17) about the "unbelievable frequency of the ambulatory psychosis," and he defends, there, the reality of the memories of severe aggression and sexual seductions: "The amnesia removal uncovers, much more frequently than Freud's writings lead one to expect, memories of which there can be no doubt [wrongly printed as "of which there can be doubt"35] as to their authenticity." In a footnote to this passage Robert Fliess writes:
The appearance of Freud's biography compels me further to append a remark that I would not otherwise make. However, the initiative is no longer mine. In the first volume of his biography Jones gives a description of my father that enables the psychiatric reader to make his own diagnosis. Some of these readers, perhaps defending themselves against acknowledging the above-mentioned incidence in their own families, may therefore be tempted to dismiss what I have observed as a form of projection. For their benefit: following Freud's advice to the analyst to re-enter analysis, I have clarified the picture of my father in two expert and thorough analyses, the last in middle age with Ruth Mack Brunswick; and I have had an extended conversation with Freud himself about his onetime friend.What are the implications of this passage? Robert Fliess is saying that it is in bad taste to discuss serious defects in one's parents in print, but since Jones has already described his father Wilhelm in such a fashion that an experienced diagnostician will know the mental disease he was suffering from, there is no point in not acknowledging it. What is this disease? Not, in fact, paranoia (which would be the diagnosis drawn from the hint that Jones provides), because that is not relevant to what Robert Fliess is discussing; nor would he expect the reader to defend himself against the possibility of such a disease existing in his own family. What Robert Fliess unquestionably is referring to is psychosis in that particular form which interested him: ambulatory psychosis. The ambulatory psychotic is, to the external world, a normal person, possibly even a great scientist (there is every reason to believe that Robert Fliess admired his father's medical achievements well into adult life). No one (with the possible exception of his most intimate family, who would have every reason to deny it) would suspect that the person is suffering from a psychosis that invades his sexual life. Robert Fliess goes on to say that one might be tempted to dismiss what he has observed as a form of projection, that is, as an invention, a fantasy. But Fliess explains that he did not fantasize these seductions or beatings; they actually happened. When he says that he "clarified the picture" of his father, he must mean that the picture he had finally managed to put together of his father as a child abuser, or molester, was accurate. In telling us that he had an extended conversation with Freud himself about Wilhelm Fliess, Robert Fliess apparently meant that Freud accepted what he had to tell him about his father as true.
The assumption that Robert Fliess is talking about a seduction in this passage is supported by another statement on the preceding page:
There is no place here to deal with the inexhaustible subject of the psychoses; I can therefore say only in passing that the child of such a parent becomes the object of defused aggression (maltreated and beaten almost within an inch of his life), and of a perverse sexuality that hardly knows an incest barrier (is seduced in the most bizarre ways by the parents, and, at his or her instigation, by others).Robert Fliess tells us explicitly in this passage that a psychotic adult both beats and seduces the child. Indeed, the case histories that Robert Fliess gives in his last book are in support of this.
I think it is clear from this earlier book, taken in conjunction with the later volume, that Robert Fliess believed that his father had sexually seduced him when he was a young child. Now, if it is true that Wilhelm Fliess was seducing or otherwise harming his own child at the same time that Sigmund Freud was on the track of his greatest discovery, one that could not be acknowledged in scientific circles or given any theoretical credence (even though it had been mentioned earlier in the French and German medico-legal literature), then we see here one of the poorest matches in the history of intellectual discoveries. Freud is communicating his newly gained insights to the one person least prepared to hear them, because of the profound significance these theories held for that person's own life. Freud was like a dogged detective, on the track of a great crime, communicating his hunches and approximations and at last his final discovery to his best friend, who may have been in fact the criminal.
Frank Sulloway, in his recent influential book Freud: Biologist of the Mind (p. 191), champions the view that Fliess had discovered infantile sexuality either before Freud or at the same time, and that he was a major influence on Freud's views on the subject. He writes:
Wilhelm Fliess's discoveries on the subject of infantile sexuality bring me to the second question concerning Freud's debt to him. If the spontaneous, Fliessian conception of infantile sexual development proved in the end so fruitful for understanding neurotic phenomena, why did Freud ever develop his own antithetical seduction theory of neurosis? .. . In fact, it was only two years later, in the fall of 1897, that Freud finally gave up his seduction theory; and only then did he replace this erroneous notion with the spontaneous conception of infantile sexual life championed by Fliess.On the next page Sulloway writes:
Fliess's influence therefore consisted, in part, of his independent pursuit of a genetic, spontaneous, and biological conception of human sexual development that only became fully relevant to Freud and psychoanalysis when the seduction theory finally collapsed.Inadvertently, Sulloway has put his finger on a crucial issue: it is true that, for Freud, all non-traumatic forms of sexuality were irrelevant to subsequent neurosis, as long as he believed in seduction. For Fliess, this was never the case. The two men, curiously, were never closer in their views than when their friendship finally collapsed. Sulloway is correct: Freud became more like Fliess than he was prepared to admit. But Sulloway is wrong to believe (cf. P. 205),
with the majority of analysts, that this was the real triumph of psychoanalysis. It was the beginning of its end.
The strange fact is that no author of this time directly refuted Freud's major contributions relating to the effects of seduction in childhood on a person's later life. Lowenfeld, for example, superior in many respects to his psychiatric colleagues, nevertheless consistently missed the point of Freud's 1896 papers, though he was preoccupied with them and wrote about them seriously. There is no scientific criticism of the thesis, only disavowal and disgust. If Freud found this silence perplexing, he finally decided to identify with it. Studies on Hysteria and The Interpretation of Dreams are revolutionary books in ways that no subsequent book written by Freud would be. True, he enabled people to speak about their sexual lives in ways that were impossible before his writings. But by shifting the emphasis from an actual world of sadness, misery, and cruelty to an internal stage on which actors performed invented dramas for an invisible audience of their own creation, Freud began a trend away from the real world that, it seems to me, is at the root of the presentday sterility of psychoanalysis and psychiatry throughout the world.
1. Jones (2, p. 5) has amplified the story even further:
Freud at first accepted his patients' stories of their parents' sexual overtures towards them when they were children, but came to realize that the stories were simply fantasies derived from his patients' own childhood.
Cf. Jones (2, p. 478):
Less astonishing perhaps and certainly more fateful for good, was the credulous acceptance of his patients' stories of paternal seduction which he narrated in his earlier publications on psycho-pathology. When I commented to my friend James Strachey on Freud's strain of credulity he very sagely remarked: "It was lucky for us that he had it." Most investigators would have simply disbelieved the patients' stories on the ground of their inherent improbability--at least on such a large scale--and have dismissed the matter as one more example of the untrustworthiness of hysterics.
As noted above, Freud himself in 1925 (S.E., 20, p. 34) wrote: "If the reader feels inclined to shake his head at my credulity I cannot altogether blame him."
2. Portions of the letter were included by Strachey in vol. 1 of the S.E. (pp. 259-260), with an improved translation. For commentaries, see, in particular, Max Schur, Freud: Living and Dying (New York: International Universities Press, 1972). See also: Didier Anzieu, L'Auto-analyse de Freud (2nd ed.; Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, r975); A. Schusdek, "Freud's `Seduction Theory': A Reconstruction," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 2 (1966), pp. 159-166; M. B. Macmillan, "Freud's Expectations and the Childhood Seduction Theory," Australian Journal of Psychology, 29 (1977), pp. 223-236; Marianne Kriill, Freud and sein Vater; Arthur Efron, "Freud's Self-Analysis and the Nature of Psychoanalytic Criticism," International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 4 (1977), pp. 253-280; Frank Sulloway, Freud: Biologist of the Mind (New York: Basic Books, 1979).
3. The editors of the German text misread the manuscript. The German text, as printed in Anfdnge (Origins), reads: "Die fortgesetzten Enttduschungen bei den Versuchen, meine Analyse zum wirklichen Abschluss zu bringen ..." which Strachey correctly translates as: ". . . continual disappointments in my attempts at bringing my analysis to a real conclusion . . ." But meine is an error in the transcription of the original manuscript. The manuscript reads eine Analyse, "a single analysis."
4. Schur (Freud: Living and Dying, p. 191) writes: "The meaning of this Jewish joke is obvious: `You were once a proud bride, but you got into trouble, the wedding is off--take off your bridal gown.' " Another interpretation, which I believe to be correct, was suggested to me by Anna Freud, namely, that Freud believed himself, with his theory of the neuroses, privileged and happy as a bride. Those days were now over, and he had to return to his earlier ordinary status. He had made no discovery. Kalle is a slang word that can also mean prostitute. See Judisches Lexicon, 1930 ed., vol. 4. under Vulgiirausdrucke.
5. There has been a great deal of speculation about the significance of Freud's letter to Fliess of October 3, 1897 (published in Origins), centering on Freud's comments about his nursemaid. Freud often indicated to Fliess that he regarded himself as mildly hysterical. In this letter, which deals with his self-analysis through dreams, Freud writes: "1 can only indicate that the old man plays no active part in my case . . . that in my case the `prime originator' [Urheberin] was an ugly, elderly but clever woman who told me a great deal about God Almighty and hell and who instilled in me a high opinion of my own capacities." Later in the letter Freud writes: "She was my teacher in sexual matters and complained because I was clumsy and unable to do anything. . . . Moreover, she washed me in reddish water in which she had previously washed herself. (The interpretation is not difficult; I find nothing like this in the chain of my memories; so I regard it as a genuine ancient discovery.)" In fact, interpretation of this detail (the recovery of a memory through a dream) has proved more elusive than Freud thought. It seems to me that Freud is hinting at a sexual seduction by the nursemaid, but this is not entirely clear. It is interesting that this letter should follow by only a few weeks the letter (of September 21) in which Freud says that he has given up the seduction hypothesis.
According to Josef Sajner ("Sigmund Freuds Beziehungen zu seinem Geburtsort Freiberg [Piibor] and zu Mahren," Clio Medica, 3 , pp. 167-180), the woman's name was Monika Zajic. (Cf. Krull, Freud and sein Vater, p. 144.) Professor Sajner informed me, in a personal communication, that he has not been able to find out any particulars about this woman. When Freud says she was elderly it is not clear whether he is speaking from the point of view of the child or of the adult. Anna Freud told me she thinks she may have been in her forties. (Cf. Renee Gicklhorn: "The Freiberg Period of the Freud Family," Journal of the History of Medicine, 24 , pp. 37-43.)
6. In a letter to Fliess of April 28, 1897 (published in Origins), Freud writes: "The complete interpretation occurred to me only after a lucky chance this morning brought a fresh confirmation of paternal etiology," where "paternal etiology" clearly refers to seduction.
7. Cf. K. R. Eissler, Goethe: A Psychoanalytic Study (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963), 2, p. 756.
8. Leopold Lowenfeld, Die psychischen Zwangserscheinungen (Wiesbaden: J. F. Bergmann, t904). The preface is dated 1903. Freud had the book in his library in London. Lowenfeld was one of the few psychiatrists who had attempted to take Freud's views on seduction seriously. This is evident from a number of his publications. In his Lehrbuch der gesammten Psychotherapie (Wiesbaden: J. F. Bergmann, 1897, p. 166) he makes it clear that he was impressed by the method of Freud and Breuer as revealed in Studies on Hysteria, and attempted some form of psychoanalysis in his own clinical practice (cf. Die psychischen Zwangserscheinungen, p. 298:
... I used in these attempts the same analytic method described by Freud in Studies on Hysteria"). See also his book Die moderne Behandlung der Nervenschwdche (Neurasthenia) der Hysteria and verwandter Leiden (Wiesbaden: J. F. Bergmann, 1904), p. 147: "It seems evident from the above that the use of this method will, for the time being, probably be restricted to its discoverer." After Lowenfeld published Freud's essay in his Die psychischen Zwangserscheinungen, he writes a chapter comparing Freud's method with hypnotherapy, and ends (p. 553) by saying: "For the time being, physicians in any event have no choice but to fall back on the use of other psychotherapeutic methods." It is clear from a passage on p. 474 of Die psychischen Zwangserscheinungen that Lowenfeld could not take in what Freud meant by a sexual trauma, for he distinguishes there a sexual etiology from an emotional etiology. It did not occur to him (any more than it did to any other of Freud's colleagues or the French authors on rape) that a "sexual seduction" is also an emotional assault. Cf. his conclusions on etiology on p. 477 of the book.
9. S.E., 7, pp. 125-245. It was published under the title Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie (Leipzig and Vienna: Franz Deuticke, 1905) .
10. The Dora case was written during Freud's transitional period, right after 1900, though he waited five years to publish it ("Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria," S.E., 7, pp. 3122). The first draft was completed in January 1901, but it was not published until 1905.
11.Strachey gives a 1913 date for the Ellis book, but this is merely the date of the edition that Strachey used (the second edition). In G.W. Freud gives 1903, which is the date of the first edition. I consulted a first edition of Drei Abhandlungen, and 1903 is also the date given there. (Ellis did not publish any other book in 1903.)
12. Freud says, according to Strachey's translation:similar narratives were what led me to make the modificationsin my aetiological hypotheses ..." But Freud did not really use theword "narrative." The German text reads "Erkundigungen der gleichen Art." This means, literally, "inquiries of a similar nature." It is not entirely clear what Freud means; possibly that he began to make inquiries of his own. But since he does not reveal to us the nature of these inquiries, or the results, we cannot evaluate their relative worth in leading him to abandon his theory.
13. S.E., 7, p. 191.
14. Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. 3: Analysis of the Sexual Impulse; Love and Pain; The Sexual Impulse in Women (Philadelphia: F. A. Davis, 1903).
15. Although Ellis does not mention the fact in the appendix itself, the appendix had already appeared in print as an article entitled "The Development of the Sexual Instinct" in Alienist and Neurologist, 32, no. 3 (July 1901), pp. 500-521. It consists of the introduction that appears in the 1903 edition of the book, word for word, plus eight case histories, more or less identical to the ones in Studies. There are, however, some, albeit minor, changes. For example, p. 503: "She then provoked genital excitation," is, on p. 252 of the book, reproduced as "She then succeeded in causing erection." Ellis does not, then, quote verbatim, although the very first history is prefaced with the words: "I reproduce this history, written in the third person, as it reached my hands." The 1913 edition of the book contains the case history as it appears in 1903, but in this edition there are 64 pages as opposed to the 35 pages in the first edition. Ellis sent Freud a copy of the seven volumes of the Studies, but it is not clear from the catalogue (Trosman and Simmons, no. 38) which edition it is. If I remember correctly, from seeing the set in Maresfield Gardens, it was a later edition, not the first (cited by Freud in Three Essays). Freud did have in his private library Ellis's "The Analysis of the Sexual Impulse," which appeared in Alienist and Neurologist, 21 (1900), pp. 247-262. In the article itself is a footnote: "This article is an abstract of a chapter which will appear in volume 3 of the author's Studies in the Psychology of Sex." But in fact there are no case histories in this article, so it could not be the source of Freud's comment.
16. Havelock Ellis: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), p. 219.
17. 2 vols., foreword by Albert Eulenburg, Dresden: H. R. Dohrn. Sulloway mentions in Freud: Biologist of the Mind, p. 316, that he saw this copy of Bloch's book in Freud's London library, as well as another copy in the New York library, which may have belonged to Freud or to Friedrich Krauss. Iwan Bloch (1872-1922), who wrote his first books on the Marquis de Sade under the pseudonym Eugene Duhren, was a Berlin dermatologist who wrote on syphilis and on sexuality from an anthropological point of view. His influence on the scientific study of sexuality has been discussed by Sulloway, op. cit., and by Annemarie Wettley and W. Leibbrand in Von der "Psychopathia sexualis" zur Sexualwissenschaft (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke, 1959; see especially p. 137 n.).
18. In view of Freud's reluctance to admit that in cases he had investigated the father was often the person to be blamed for sexual assaults (as we see from the Katharina case in Studies on Hysteria and from the letter to Fliess of September 21, 1897), it would be interesting to follow his thinking about the role of servants in this respect. For here was a class of people who could be accused with complete safety. Freud marked several passages in his personal reading in which servants were accused, including those in Krafft-Ebing's book and in the Bloch book. There is still another source. Freud owned Albert Moll's Untersuchungen fiber die Libido sexualis (Berlin: H. Kornfeld, 1895). On p. 195 of his copy the following passage is marked: "Tardieu draws particular attention to female servants who exchange sexual touchings with children who are confided to them." Sulloway (op. cit., pp. 313-314) feels that Moll was influential in Freud's abandonment of the seduction theory. He comments:
Finally, Moll's Libido Sexualis was notable for one other important insight that was not lost upon Freud at this time. As a clinician, Moll faced a problem similar to that confronting Freud in the mid-1890's: How does one know whether autobiographical confessions of childhood sexual activity are really true? Indeed, they are often not so, Moll contended, citing a variety of psychological reasons: distortions of memory, the patient's desire to rationalize a perversion as innate, subsequent repression of normal heterosexual memories, and so forth. Not only did Moll discuss this point in some detail in the Libido Sexualis (315-316), but he also compared it with the problem of weighing the often outrageous complaints and accusations of hysterical patients, and he cautioned moderation in believing hysterics and perverts alike. To be sure, there was nothing terribly new in Moll's recommendations; but this timely reminder, in a passage scored by Freud in the margin of his personal copy of Moll's book, could hardly have come at a more appropriate time in Freud's wavering support for the seduction theory. In The Sexual Life of the Child (1909), Moll later warned against the danger of accepting too readily the accusations of sexual misconduct that little girls often lodge against men, and called it "one of the gravest scandals of our present penal system" that such charges were so frequently believed by judges. The problem was particularly marked, he also emphasized. with child hysterics 1912a trans.: 204, 228; Moll's italics).See, too, Sulloway, pp. 299-305, for details about Moll and his possible influence on Freud, and the appendix D: "The Dating of Freud's Reading of Albert Moll's Untersuchungen uber die Libido sexualis" (pp. 516-518). It is possible that Emma Eckstein's interest in the wretched sexual treatment of servants (see Appendix A) was awakened by her awareness of Freud's attempt to blame them for abuse of children. It was, of course, completely safe to blame servants for seductions; nobody would object.
19. The English translation of Bloch's 1902 book is entitled Anthropological Studies in the Strange Sexual Practices of All Races in All Ages, Ancient and Modern, Oriental and Occidental, Primitive and Civilized, translated by Keene Wallis (New York: Privately printed by the Anthropological Press, 1933). Note p. 174, for some of the cases that follow are the same as those published in the Studies, but one (no. 3), at least, is not mentioned there.
20. Freud had another book by Iwan Bloch in his personal library: Das Sexualleben unserer Zeit in seinen Beziehungen zur modernen Kultur (Berlin: Louis Marchus, 1907) (I have used the 1909 edition). The date precludes any direct influence on Freud's developing views, but Freud may well have been aware of Bloch's views from the many articles that he published between 1900 and 1907. The same views, moreover, are contained in the earlier books, as we saw. Bloch's book had a considerable influence in Europe for some time. On p. 273, Bloch says:
Finally, an important point should not be forgotten: the untrustworthiness of children's statements, which the pediatrician Adolf Baginsky ("Die Impressionabilitat des Kindes unter dem Einfluss des Milieus," in Medizinische Reform, edited by Rudolf Lennhoff, 1906, nos. 43 and 44, esp. pp. 533-534) has recently dealt with in an excellent work. This remarkably wise man, who knows the soul of the child so well, explains:One can appreciate the resistance Freud would have encountered had he stood by his earlier views when one reads such a comment. for Bloch was considered ( and is still so considered) to be the leader of the liberal reform movement concerning the laws dealing with sexual perversions. In a chapter in that book on the sexual seduction of children, Bloch writes (p. 731 ) :
In conclusion, another point must be made with respect to sexual crimes involving children, which has legal significance, namely the fact that frequently there is no question of the "seduction" of children, but rather the instigation derives in the first place from the children themselves. . . . The so frequent [sexual] crimes of priests and teachers against young girls in their care often appear in a different light if one subjects the denunciations of children to an exacting interrogation, including a physical examination. This often reveals a deeply rooted promiscuity which goes back a long way and brings to light the fact that long before this sexual crime, sexual intercourse had taken place with other men, and that willingly.Here then was an authority who contradicted all the major points of Freud's 1896 papers: seductions did not as a rule occur; if they occurred, they were harmless; in any event, the people who perpetrated these acts (for in Das Sexuallehen Bloch acknowledges crimes against children) were, for the most part, servants (thereby perpetuating the dissimulation that Freud had resorted to in Studies on Hysteria when he disguised the identity of Katharina's father); and finally, Bloch supported the current of thought to which Freud had been subjected in Paris, represented by Fournier and others, namely that children invent these tales.
21. 5th ed.; Wiesbaden: J. F. Bergmann, 1904. A copy of this book is in Freud's library in London.
22. Freud says quite openly in the concluding section of the essays that he has replaced seduction (what he calls "accidental influences") with constitutional factors: "... accidental influences have been replaced by constitutional factors and `defense' in the purely psychological sense has been replaced by organic `sexual repression' " (p. 278). In other words, Freud has shifted from a psychology which depends on personal memories to phylogenetic explanations. The concept of "organic sexual repression," which refers to the "organic defense ... achieved with man's erect gait against his earlier animal existence [i.e., the free play of sexuality]," is explained in a footnote to Civilization and Its Discontents (S.E., 21, pp. 105-106, 99). (Cf. the end of Three Essays, p. 242.) Freud's comments imply that with early sexual tragedies (which are only of significance for those whose sexual constitution "predisposes" them to react strongly) any psychological defense becomes irrelevant, since this response will in any event be governed by a biological repression of the original act. Such a view is inimical to any psychology of the emotions, but is one that would undoubtedly appeal to Fliess, and possibly derives from Fliess's influence. (Cf. Sulloway, op. Cit., p. 177.) On August 7, 1901, Freud wrote to Fliess that he intended to write a book called Bisexuality in Man, and asked Fliess to write the book with him. This was already after their break, and Fliess refused. What emerged from Freud's plan was Three Essays and it is not surprising, therefore, that there are traces of Fliess in the book, and attempts to adopt his point of view even when this would preclude a psychological perspective. Bisexuality was regarded, not as a psychological problem, but as an organic one. In one of the last papers that Freud wrote, "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" (1937), he mentions and dismisses Fliess's view that repression derives from bisexuality (S.E., 23, p. 251), but then a page later he writes:
We often have the impression that with the wish for a penis and the masculine protest we have penetrated through all the psychological strata and have reached bedrock, and that thus our activities are at an end. This is probably true, since, for the psychical field, the biological field does in fact play the part of the underlying bedrock.23. The article ("Das Erleiden sexueller Traumen als Form infantiler Sexualbetatigung") was published in the Centralblatt fur Nervenheilkunde and Psychiatric, 18 (1907), pp. 854-865. It was Abraham's first psychoanalytic publication. The English translation is from Selected Papers of Karl Abraham, with an Introductory Memoir by Ernest Jones, translated by Douglas Bryan and Alix Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1973), pp. 47-63. The German text is reprinted in Karl Abraham, Psychoanalytische Studien, vols. 2167-2181, edited by Johannes Cremerius (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1971).
24. The German (p. 171) reads: "Erst als er seinen Zweck nahezu oder ganz erreicht hat, gelingt es dem Kinde, sich zu bef reien." Does Abraham mean the child did not know whether the man had "attained his purpose"?
25. S. E., 20, p. 273.
26. Vol. 8 (1895-1896), pp. 159-161. The relevant sentence reads: "I am afraid that many hysterics will be encouraged to give free rein to their fantasy and invent stories."
27. Vol. 7 (1896), pp. 451-452.
28. See Vierteljahrsschrift fur gerichtliche Medicin and offentliches Sanitdtswesen, 3rd ser., vol. 8 (1894): Festschrift fur Prof. Eduard von Hofmann, edited by A. Haberda, where a list of his writings is given.
29. Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift, 29 (1879), pp. 89-92.
30. "Angebliche Notzucht mit nachfolgender Blenorrhoe and hystero-epileptischen Anfallen. Fraglicher Geisteszustand," no. 1, pp. 9-10; no. 2, pp. 31-32.
31. Berlin: August Hirschwald. The subtitle reads: Nach eigenen Erfahrungen (Based on My Own Experiences).
32. Krafft-Ebing wrote an article, "Uber Unzucht mit Kindern and Padophilia erotica" (On Sexual Abuse of Children and Pedophilia Erotica), published in Friedrichs Blatter fur gerichtliche Medicin, in 1895. It was reprinted, with additions, in his Arbeiten aus dem Gesammtgebiet der Psychiatric and Neuropathologie (Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1898), 3, pp. 91-127. This is a volume that Freud owned (Hinterberger, no. 302). The article, which is substantially similar to the chapter published in Psychopathia Sexualis, is more elaborate, and treats the literature in greater detail. Krafft-Ebing cites Tardieu, Brouardel, Bernard, Casper, and Hofmann. Freud owned works by the first three, and undoubtedly knew the work of the other two. Krafft-Ebing shows sympathy (e.g., p. 113) for the accused, but not for the children. It is interesting that in many of his own cases the adult admitted having committed these acts (e.g., p. 112), thereby ruling out the possibility that they were fantasies on the part of the child.
33. Wiesbaden: J. F. Bergmann, 1894. In the margin of p. 18, where Lowenfeld speaks of a "neuropathische Pradisposition," Freud asks: "Woher?"--in other words, where would such a thing come from? Again, on p. 19, where Lowenfeld speaks of an abnormal constitution and inherited tendencies in hysteria, Freud has the same question in the margin. At the top of p. 20 Freud pencils in: "Neurasth =Degeneration, warum?"--that is, why should neurasthenia be equated with degeneration (i.e., constitution)?
34. Elenore Fliess, Robert Fliess's wife, wrote a short biography, Robert Fliess: The Making of a Psychoanalyst (written in 1974; it was privately published, printed by Roffey & Clark, 12 High Street, Croydon, England). Robert Fliess received his analytic training in Berlin. He was best known to American analysts through his books The Psychoanalytic Reader: An Anthology of Essential Papers with Critical Introductions (New York: International Universities Press, 1948) and The Revival of Interest in the Dream: A Critical Study of Post-Freudian Psychoanalytic Contributions (New York: International Universities Press, 1952). His next two books were also well received: Erogeneity and Libido: Addenda to the Theory of the Psychosexual Development of the Human--Psychoanalytic Series, vol. I (New York: International Universities Press, 1956) and Ego and Body Ego: Contributions to Their Psychoanalytic Psychology--Psychoanalytic Series, vol. 2 (New York: Schulte Pub. Co., 1962; International Universities Press, 1970). But with his last volume, Symbol, Dream, and Psychosis with Notes on Technique, he fell afoul of the psychoanalytic establishment, though in my opinion it is his most profound work and one of the most brilliant works in psychoanalysis (Psychoanalytic Series, vol. 3 [New York: International Universities Press. 19731).
35. Personal communication from Mrs. Robert Fliess.