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Books, Part XXVIII
Freud and His Critics
Chapter 2: Jeffrey Masson: Freud, Seduction, and the New Puritanism
The intellectual and emotional distance separating Frank
Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979) from Jeffrey
Masson's The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction
Theory (1984) is substantial. In Masson's book the ambivalence
and mutedness of Sulloway's anti-Freudianism give way to consistent
and strident hostility. Where Sulloway's Freud is an example of hidden
greatness marred by ambition, Masson's Freud is one of failed greatness
ruined by cowardice. Clearly, by the mid-1980s the anti-Freudian mood
was growing more aggressive, and Jeffrey Masson had become its foremost
Sulloway's and Masson's books also differ
in scope. As we have seen, Sulloway aimed to write a full intellectual
biography that would displace the traditional account of Freud's development
as a thinker. Masson's ambition initially seems much more modest:
he focuses on a single incident in Freud's career, the abandonment
of the seduction theory in September 1897. But, for Masson, the whole
of Freud's intellectual achievement was at stake in this decision.
Indeed, Masson believes that the history not merely of psychoanalysis
but of twentieth-century humanity was profoundly altered as a result
of Freud's change of heart. Thus the narrowing of focus as one moves
from Sulloway to Masson is more apparent than real, especially when
one bears in mind that Sulloway's interpretation of Freud is itself
limited to identifying the hidden Darwinian rationale of psychoanalysis.
One could very well argue that both interpreters are guilty of subordinating
Freud's life work to a single preoccupation--in Masson's case the
seduction theory, in Sulloway's the repressed sense of smell.
But there is a more important difference
between the two. Masson's attack came from within the psychoanalytic
establishment and has resulted in a bruising battle of personalities,
while Sulloway has remained very much the outsider whose book created
nothing like the storm of controversy attending Masson's apostasy.
In the 1970s Masson, then a loyal Freudian, insinuated himself into
the psychoanalytic hierarchy, befriending some of its most powerful
figures and ultimately winning the sponsorship of Kurt Eissler, the
director of the Freud Archives, the collection of materials on the
history of psychoanalysis now housed in the Library of Congress. So
impressed was Eissler with Masson that he chose him to be his successor
and installed him in the provisional job of projects director, where
Masson was put in charge of the publication of a complete edition
of Freud's correspondence with Fliess. But at a meeting of the Western
New England Psychoanalytic Society in June of 1981, Masson revealed
surprisingly iconoclastic ideas about the seduction theory. The New
York Times printed two articles reporting on that meeting, as
well as a subsequent interview with Masson, after which Eissler felt
compelled to fire him. Then, even before the appearance of The
Assault on Truth, Masson was catapulted to a new level of notoriety
by Janet Malcolm's
two long articles about him in The New Yorker, which appeared
in 1983 and were later issued in book form as In the Freud Archives.
Virtually everybody who read the Malcolm articles remembers them less
for their careful account of Masson's views on the seduction theory
than for their portrait of an intellectual opportunist and philanderer,
who boasted of having slept with nearly a thousand women. Masson sued
Malcolm, and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court,
suggesting that Jeffrey Masson may well be remembered more as a figure
in the history of American libel law than as a critic of psychoanalysis.
In Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst
(1990) he has written his own version of his rude expulsion from the
Freudian empyrean--an account that sheds interesting light on the
view of Freud he expounds in The Assault on Truth. Meanwhile,
Frank Sulloway spent the tumultuous years in which Masson was becoming
a celebrity and the subject of much psychoanalytic tooth-gnashing
rather quietly as a historian of science (he is now a visiting scholar
at MIT) and as the dignified recipient of a MacArthur grant.
This contrast between the contentious,
highly visible Masson and the retiring, academic Sulloway is aptly
reflected in the tone of their respective books. Actually, by ordinary
standards, Sulloway himself is anything but modest. Freud, Biologist
of the Mind is shamelessly self-regarding, both in its inflated
intellectual claims and in the solipsism of its prose. But set beside
the slash-and-burn, scorched-earth manner of Masson, Sulloway sounds
decidedly pedantic. His sentences are overburdened and ornate, while
Masson's are direct, simple, and breezy. Above all, Masson writes
in the charged language of moral indignation, his discussion of historical
questions giving way easily and often to personal judgment and ad
hominem attack. His idiosyncrasies notwithstanding, with Sulloway
one never doubts that the real issue is one of intellectual history--of
getting Freud's story properly told. With Masson, by way of contrast,
the reader is aware that just beneath the surface of historical debate
lies a bitter and ongoing controversy within the psychoanalytic profession.
Masson's subject may be Freud himself, but the true object of his
enmity is psychoanalysis in the 1980s. He attacks the root in order
to kill the tree.
THE ABANDONED SEDUCTION THEORY
To appreciate the impact of The Assault on Truth, one must
begin with a firm understanding of the place of the seduction theory
in the history of Freud's thought. More precisely, one must begin
with an understanding of the place the seduction theory has come to
occupy in the traditional story of Freud's intellectual development.
Without exaggeration, the abandonment of the seduction hypothesis
figures as the central event in the discovery of psychoanalysis, both
in Freud's own account and in that of his biographers. Thus, in championing
the seduction theory and questioning the validity of Freud's reasons
for rejecting it, Masson's book undermines the received conception
of Freud's intellectual achievement, just as it casts doubt on his
For approximately four years during
the mid-1890s, Freud believed that certain forms of mental illness,
notably hysteria, originated in premature sexual traumas. His hysterical
patients, he became convinced, had been subjected to sexual abuse--seduction--before
puberty, and the repressed memory of those assaults was the cause
of their illness. Typically (although not exclusively) Freud identified
a parent, usually the father, as the author of these childhood assaults,
just as a daughter was the characteristic victim. Freud first mentioned
the seduction hypothesis in a letter to Fliess of May 30, 1893, and
one can trace Freud's rising confidence in the theory through the
correspondence of the following years. On April 21, 1896, he presented
his theory to the public in the form of a lecture, "The Aetiology
of Hysteria," given before the Society for Psychiatry and Neurology
in Vienna. He published the lecture the following month. The theory
was also articulated in two other scientific papers of 1896, "Heredity
and the Aetiology of the Neuroses" and "Further Remarks
on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence."
But little more than a year later, on
September 21, 1897, Freud wrote Fliess what has come to be regarded
as the most important letter in the history of psychoanalysis. In
it Freud announced that he had lost faith in his seduction hypothesis.
As he put the matter himself, "I no longer believe in my neurotica"--his
theory of the neuroses. Freud gave four reasons for his disbelief,
of which the second was doubtless the weightiest:
The surprise that in all cases, the father, not excluding
my own, had to be accused of being perverse--the realization of the
unexpected frequency of hysteria, with precisely the same conditions
prevailing in each, whereas surely such widespread perversions against
children are not very probable. The [incidence of] perversion would
have to be immeasurably more frequent than the [resulting] hysteria
because the illness, after all, occurs only where there has been an
accumulation of events and there is a contributory factor that weakens
Freud didn't confess his change of mind
in print until eight years later, in the Three Essays on the Theory
of Sexuality, and then only in language that is surprisingly evasive.
He eventually came to think that his patients' accounts of seduction
most often originated in fantasies, and that their root lay not in the
perverse actions of adults but in the spontaneous sexual desires of
children. In this fashion, the abandonment of the seduction theory promoted
the emergence of the idea of infantile sexuality, and in particular
the notion of the Oedipus complex--first mentioned in a letter to Fliess
of October 15, 1897, less than a month after Freud announced his rejection
of the seduction hypothesis. At the same time, the new role assigned
to fantasy considerably enhanced the importance of the unconscious in
Freud's conception of psychic life. In other words, the two pillars
of mature psychoanalytic theory--infantile sexuality and the unconscious--were,
one might say, the intellectual beneficiaries of the change of view
Freud announced in his September letter. Indeed, in later accounts of
his intellectual development, Freud and his biographers were to maintain
that if the error of the seduction theory had not been recognized, psychoanalysis
would never have been born. Instead, Freud would have remained stuck
in a mistaken environmental interpretation of psychological development
and would have failed to grasp the role of indigenous desire and the
unconscious in mental life.
In The Assault on Truth, however,
Masson contends that Freud's original view was correct and his abandonment
of the seduction theory in error. How Masson knows this is far from
clear. The most striking feature of his book is precisely the arguments
he does not mount. Masson is much given to talking about documents,
brandishing an unreconstructed positivism in an age when the linguistic
turn has made such passions seem unfashionable, if not entirely without
charm. But in fact he has uncovered no documentary evidence that would
enable him to settle the empirical question. He does not, for example,
have access to information about the cases of hysteria--"The Aetiology
of Hysteria" mentions eighteen of them--that first formed the basis
of Freud's conviction and later became the source of his doubt. No clinical
records or case notes have turned up. Moreover, even if such documents
existed, one would be unable to penetrate beyond Freud's conviction,
at the time, that the stories he elicited from his patients were true,
just as one cannot penetrate beyond his later conviction that many of
them were false. The question, after all, is one of interpretation.
Ultimately, Masson's blithe assurance that the traumatic narratives
are accurate depends on their inaccessibility: because they can never
be shown to be false, Masson is free to assert their trustworthiness.
Nor can he cite later studies establishing the correctness of Freud's
belief that hysteria is always caused by sexual abuse in childhood,
because there are no such studies. The best he can do is invoke the
opinions of Sandor Ferenczi (in 1932) and Robert Fliess (in 1974), who
argued that childhood sexual traumas are more often a cause of mental
illness than psychoanalysts have cared to recognize.
The real source of Masson's persuasion
lies in the political culture of the past decade, with its rising awareness
of the abuse of children. Because we have grown increasingly conscious
of sexual violence against children, Freud's belief that his patients
suffered such abuse, and that it dramatically shaped their lives, strikes
Masson as entirely plausible. One senses that he would prefer to deflect
attention from the specific etiological claim Freud advanced--that sexual
seduction in childhood is the invariable cause of one particular form
of mental illness, hysteria--to a more general assertion that childhood
sexual abuse is both common and the source of emotional damage. At the
same time, he perhaps feared that this more general proposition would
have been easily absorbed by the psychoanalytic community, since, far
from clinging obdurately to fantasy as the sole explanation for tales
of seduction, any number of analysts have recently put greater emphasis
on childhood sexual traumas and their psychic consequences. Masson's
hostility to psychoanalysis thus required a more decisive, a more dramatic,
gesture. Hence his unqualified assertion that the seduction theory was
absolutely correct and Freud's abandonment of it utterly mistaken.
Yet even this assertion--although it might
have elicited objections of the sort I have suggested about the lack
of historical or clinical evidence--would never have resulted in the
major controversy that The Assault on Truth unleashed. Credit
for the book's explosive impact goes not to the issue of seduction itself
but rather to Masson's contention about what motivated Freud to change
his mind. Masson argues that Freud abandoned the seduction theory because
he was a liar and a coward. Freud was a liar, according to Masson, because,
even when he wrote the September 21st letter, at some level he still
believed that his patients' stories were true. He was a coward because
the only consideration leading him to abandon the theory was his inability
to bear the opposition it had provoked among his scientific contemporaries.
Here we have a proposition perfectly calculated to cause scandal, especially
when it is combined with repeated assertions that Freud's spineless
retreat from reality--his blaming of the child for the vices of the
parent--established the pattern of psychoanalytic thought and practice
right down to the present day.
Not surprisingly, Masson devotes much
of his attention in The Assault on Truth to arguing the case
for this spectacularly irreverent explanation of Freud's change of heart.
Yet even here one is immediately struck by what he does not do. In particular,
he pays only passing attention to the reasons Freud gives in his September
21 letter for no longer believing the theory. Masson has just one thing
to say about these reasons: they cannot be taken seriously because Freud
had already raised, and rebutted, the same objections in his articles
of 1896. Masson does not bother to demonstrate the identity of these
two sets of objections, although such a demonstration would seem to
be a minimum requirement for dismissing them as irrelevant. Nor does
he seek to answer them. Most striking of all, he gives no ground for
thinking that Freud himself did not really find these reasons persuasive.
One would especially like to hear why we should not credit the genuineness
of Freud's conviction that, in view of the prevalence of hysteria, the
traumatic etiology made sexual assaults on children much more common
than seemed probable. The issue, be it noted, is not whether this reservation
was justified, but whether Freud might legitimately have come to feel
its weight. In effect, Masson implies that there could never be intellectually
persuasive grounds for altering one's opinion about childhood seduction.
Because Freud had once believed his patients' accounts, he must have
been lying when he claimed to have changed his mind.
There is merit in Masson's suggestion
that the September 21, 1897, letter did not mark the end of Freud's
hopes for the seduction theory. In this regard Masson draws attention
to two passages from subsequent letters to Fliess. Almost two months
later, on December 12, 1897, Freud reported on a patient treated by
Emma Eckstein. Eckstein had evidently obtained an account of a childhood
seduction by the patient's father: "My confidence in paternal etiology
has risen greatly," Freud writes. "Eckstein deliberately treated
her patient in such a manner as not to give her the slightest hint of
what would emerge from the unconscious and in the process obtained from
her, among other things, the identical scenes with the father. The phrase
"paternal etiology" is Freud's shorthand for his seduction
hypothesis; the same locution occurs in a letter of April 28, 1897,
where its meaning is unambiguous. In the present comment on Eckstein's
patient, Freud seems to be arguing against an imputation that the seduction
stories were elicited by the analyst's suggestion. Nonetheless, the
statement that his "confidence" in the seduction theory has
"risen greatly" shows that the renunciation letter of September
21, despite its categorical language ("I no longer believe in my
neurotica"), did not mark a clean break with the hypothesis.
But Masson overinterprets Freud's briefly resurgent expectations, writing
that "it was 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 his next letter, dated December 22,
1897, Freud recounts another case in which a real childhood trauma occurs:
The intrinsic authenticity of infantile trauma is borne
out by the following little incident which the patient claims to have
observed as a three-year-old child. She goes into a dark room where
her mother is carrying on and eavesdrops. She has good reason for
identifying herself with this mother. The father belongs to the category
of men who stab women, for whom bloody injuries are an erotic
need. When she was two years old, he brutally deflowered her and infected
her with his gonorrhea, as a consequence of which she became ill and
her life was endangered by the loss of blood and vaginitis.
In contrast to his remark on Eckstein's patient, Freud here makes
no reference to the import of this case for his conviction about the
"paternal etiology." Moreover, even late in his career Freud
continued to believe that a significant proportion of his patients'
accounts of childhood sexual abuse were genuine. Still, the proximity
of this narrative to the Eckstein case mentioned some ten days earlier
probably justifies seeing in it revived enthusiasm for the seduction
hypothesis. Both passages imply a certain volatility in Freud's thinking
on the subject late in 1897. But they do not support the more radical
proposition that he was dissembling when, in the famous renunciation
letter of September 21, 1897, he told Fliess he no longer believed
in the theory. We should hardly be surprised that Freud was reluctant
to part with an idea from which, as he confessed, he had expected
to win "eternal fame . . . , certain wealth, complete independence,
travels, and lifting the children above the severe worries that robbed
me of my youth."'
Like his contention that Freud's patients
were telling the truth about their childhood seductions, Masson's accusation
that Freud changed his mind because he couldn't bear the disapproval
of his medical colleagues floats in a kind of epistemological void.
Masson can assert it without ever fearing that it might be disproved.
After all, it alludes to an intrapsychic event--something invisible--against
which countervailing evidence isn't even imaginable. Instead, in order
to lend the accusation an aura of plausibility, Masson attempts to clear
a kind of historical space for it. In particular he draws attention
to the hostile reception that greeted Freud's lecture on "The Aetiology
of Hysteria." Writing to Fliess five days afterward, Freud reported:
A lecture on the etiology of hysteria at the psychiatric
society was given an icy reception by the asses and a strange evaluation
by Krafft-Ebing: "It sounds like a scientific fairy tale."
And this, after one has demonstrated to them the solution of a more-than-thousand-year-old
problem, a caput Nili [source of the Nile]! They can go to
hell, euphemistically expressed.
Masson's conclusion that the hostility evoked by the lecture broke
Freud's spirit rests, above all, on a complaint registered in the next
letter to Fliess: "I am as isolated as you would wish me to be.
Word was given out to abandon me, for a void is forming all around me.
The presentation of the seduction hypothesis, in other words, resulted
in Freud's professional isolation, which he ultimately found unbearable
and from which he sought to escape by sacrificing the theory. At the
opposite end of the evidential tunnel, Masson notes that only after
he had published his recantation (in the Three Essays on the Theory
of Sexuality) was Freud able to gather about him a group of disciples
and thus bring his intolerable isolation to an end.
What most astonishes in Masson's presentation
of this hypothesis is his failure to address the obvious objections.
Perhaps first is the simple fact that less than two weeks after giving
the lecture on "The Aetiology of Hysteria," and after bemoaning
his isolation, Freud resolved to publish the essay, almost as if to
prove that he was not so easily cowed: "In defiance of my colleagues
I wrote down in full for Paschkis [editor of the Wiener klinische
Rundschau] my lecture on the etiology of hysteria. The first installment
appears today. This response is in keeping with everything we know about
Freud's character, as attested to by friend and foe alike: he positively
reveled in opposition, and his mental toughness and tolerance for conflict
were seemingly boundless. Opponents of psychoanalysis have often complained
that he was immune to criticism, no matter how just. Masson's image
of him caving in to peer pressure on an issue where he felt truth was
on his side makes no characterological sense.
The hypothesis is also beset by chronological
problems, above all by the fact that Freud's feeling of isolation predates
the lecture of April 21, 1896. The Fliess correspondence and even the
earlier letters to his wife give the impression that for years Freud
positively cultivated his loneliness. In a typical complaint of March
16, 1896, he writes: "I am satisfied with my progress, but am contending
with hostility and live in such isolation that one might imagine I had
discovered the greatest truths."") In editing the Fliess correspondence,
Masson tries to shape the evidence to fit his hypothesis by grouping
the letters after the April 21, 1896, lecture under the rubric "Isolation
from the Scientific Community." But the abandonment of the seduction
theory announced on September 21, 1897, cannot be meaningfully correlated
with Freud's feelings of isolation, which, while they may have reached
a high point in the wake of his April 1896 lecture, pervaded the 1890s.
Masson's own book supplies evidence that
scholarly research on childhood sexual abuse did not necessarily constitute
a bar to professional recognition in the nineteenth century. His second
chapter argues that Freud may have been introduced to the seduction
issue during his visit to Paris in 1885-86. There, Masson suggests,
Freud probably became familiar with the views on child abuse of Ambroise
Tardieu (1818-1879), Paul Bernard (1828-1886), and Paul Brouardel (1837-1906),
all of whom wrote about sexual assaults on children. Freud attended
Brouardel's lectures at the Paris Morgue--Masson speculates that he
may have observed Brouardel conduct autopsies on victims of child abuse--and
he had the relevant publications of all three authorities in his library
(although one cannot determine when he obtained them or, for that matter,
whether he had read them, since none of them is annotated). If, as Masson
argues, Freud was familiar with the work of these figures, he must also
have known that their exploration of child abuse brought them not ignominy
but renown. Masson himself notes that Tardieu was professor of legal
medicine at the University of Paris, dean of the Faculty of Medicine,
president of the Academy of Medicine in Paris, and, in the words of
the Dictionnaire encyclopedique des sciences medicales of 1885,
"the most eminent representative of French legal medicine".
Bernard was professor of criminal law on the Faculty of Law in Lyon,
while Brouardel succeeded to Tardieu's chair in Paris and was known
as the "Pontifex Maximus" of French medicine. These rather
inconvenient facts force Masson into arguing that Freud's isolation
was a strictly Viennese affair and, by implication, that he threw over
the seduction theory to win back the good opinion of his local colleagues.
It is a kind of perverse variation on the "Viennese" Freud
that both Carl Schorske and William McGrath champion with such sophistication
and delicacy. A more plausible reading would suggest that the opposition
to the seduction theory, as registered by Freud's colleagues in April
of 1896, rested not, as Masson would have it, on some visceral inability
to accept the reality of childhood sexual abuse but on a rational skepticism
about the sweeping etiological generalization Freud had proposed, namely,
that such abuse was the necessary and invariable cause of hysteria.
Surely, however, the most powerful objection
to Masson's thesis of moral cowardice is that Freud abandoned the seduction
theory only to embrace an idea that was even more offensive to the prejudices
of his culture, the theory of infantile sexuality. The new doctrine,
far from being a gesture of reconciliation, transgressed the most cherished
belief of nineteenth-century sexual ideology, the innocence of childhood.
If Freud's decision to abandon the seduction theory was guided by a
wish to ingratiate himself once again with Vienna's medical authorities,
he chose a most unlikely way to achieve that end.
The extravagance, both intellectual and
rhetorical, of Masson's thesis invites reflection. What is the meaning
of this interpretation, at once so irreverent, poorly supported, and
improbable? Given all the possible ways to account for Freud's decision
to abandon the seduction theory, why has Masson gone out of his way
to construct a hypothesis that reflects so adversely on Freud's character?
The obvious temptation is to believe that Masson wishes to discredit
Freud and through him the entire psychoanalytic enterprise. This suspicion
finds support in Masson's own unhappy experience with analysis, recounted
in Final Analysis. Moreover, as I have already suggested, The
Assault on Truth doubtless mirrors the broadly felt hostility to
Freud that has emerged in the past decade; it testifies to the sensibility
of our time.
But more than simple anti-Freudianism
is involved. Freud's betrayal of the seduction theory exasperates Masson
because it places Freud (and the profession he founded) on the wrong
side of what has recently become a major issue in sexual politics: the
abuse of women and children. Freud, Masson suggests, was ahead of his
time: he had the insight to recognize a profound truth, as it were,
prematurely. But he ruined his achievement because he lacked the fortitude
to stick by his discovery when the rest of the world opposed it. Worse
than this simple failure of nerve, Freud constructed an intellectual
system that actually lent new and sophisticated support to the very
abuses he had earlier denounced. The theory of infantile sexuality and
the notion of unconscious fantasy did not simply divert attention from
sexual abuse; they made children themselves responsible for the passions
that the seduction theory had correctly located in adults. Thus, rather
than alleviating mental illness, psychoanalysis has in fact contributed
to the suffering of its patients by denying the reality of the terrible
things that had been done to them and insisting that neurotics were
ultimately to blame for their own unhappiness. Masson never tires of
issuing this indictment, which seems to represent the ultimate source
of his antipathy to Freud. He extracts a measure of revenge for Freud's
betrayal by attributing his action to the basest of motives.
Beneath the simple hostility to Freud
and the indignation about sexual abuse, however, the intellectual historian
is inclined to detect an even deeper current of dissatisfaction, one
pertaining to the modern conception of the self. When Freud gave up
the seduction theory and articulated his ideas about infantile sexuality
and the unconscious, he made himself the foremost spokesman for a new
way of thinking about the subject. He insisted that the self cannot
be imagined as a passive seat of consciousness upon which the external
world leaves its impressions. Rather, the self is implicated in its
own destiny; it carries within itself secret desires and unknown capacities
that profoundly affect its history. Above all, the modern self is a
site of internal tension and conflict. This new conception made Freud
the central figure in the emergence of the modernist sensibility in
the early twentieth century. It is a conception that resonates widely
and deeply in the work of his most important contemporaries, whether
social theorists, imaginative writers, or artists.
Masson appears to be caught up in a kind
of postmodern rejection of this modern self. Repeatedly, he urges us
to a return to a conception of human relations in which children are
both innocent and inert--never subjects, but always objects. Initiative
and aggression are, for Masson, the exclusive property of adults, especially
adult males. He seems not at all mystified by the question of how these
passive children eventually become dangerously active grown-ups--precisely
the mystery that Freud sought to explain with his ideas of infantile
sexuality and unconscious motivation. Rather, Masson accepts this dichotomy
as part of the order of things. Presumably because they are sexually
mature (and physically powerful), adults are the natural repositories
of all sexual action. Children figure in the psychosexual economy only
as victims. Masson's conception of the self is profoundly nostalgic.
He seeks to return us to a sentimental intellectual dispensation that
Freud did more than anyone else to undermine.
There is a similarity here between Masson
and Sulloway, whose views of Freud are otherwise so unlike. Sulloway,
too, sets little store by the intellectual accomplishment that actually
accounts for Freud's stature. Sulloway shunts the core psychoanalytic
ideas to the margins in order to identify a secret Darwinian teaching
as the authentic source of Freud's greatness. For Masson those core
psychoanalytic ideas are not inconsequential but malevolent, because
they came between Freud and the discovery on which his greatness should
have been founded. As Masson is wont to say, they mark not the birth
of psychoanalysis but its death.
Masson's resistance to Freud's actual
historical achievement--to his stature as the premier modernist--is
expressed by way of a political fantasy. Masson constructs an imaginary
scenario of what psychoanalysis might have become had Freud remained
loyal to the seduction theory. Not surprisingly, this counterfactual
history derives from the politics of the 1980s. In Final Analysis
I knew what I imagined psychoanalysis stood for:
the breaking of taboos; fearless invasion into enemy territory, the
enemy being ignorance; "speaking truth to power" as we had
said in the sixties; abolition of denial; compassion for the suffering
of others, especially for those who suffered in childhood; an uncompromising
search for historical truth, no matter where this led; finding the
hidden injuries of class, sexism, racism. Such was my understanding
of the thrust behind Freud's creation of a new discipline, a truth-seeking
In effect, Masson pictures Freud launching a political rather than
an intellectual revolution--becoming the founding father not of modernism,
with its richly ambivalent conception of the self, but of a crusade
to abolish injustice, in particular to stamp out child abuse. In the
introduction to A Dark Science, his collection of nineteenth
century psychiatric texts on female sexuality, Masson comments: "The
changes that psychoanalysis introduced into society in general were
far less fundamental than they would have been had Freud stood by his
initial heretical and revolutionary hypothesis." One might object
that even during the years when he believed in the seduction theory,
Freud showed no inclination to transform himself into a political activist;
his hostility to the misbehavior of adults never threatened to explode
the individual therapeutic framework within which he tried to undo the
damage. But the point of a fantasy is to imagine the historically unimaginable.
Thus Masson envisions Freud carrying out the agenda of the 1980s at
the end of the nineteenth century, thereby saving humanity decades of
needless misery. That modernism would have been sacrificed to this cause
is a triviality, of concern only to intellectual historians.
We have already met Emma Eckstein briefly in her role as the therapist
who, in December 1897, revived Freud's hopes for the "paternal
etiology" by eliciting a story of childhood seduction from one
of her patients. But Emma Eckstein has a much larger part to play in
The Assault on Truth. More than a quarter of Masson's text is
devoted to Eckstein's own experiences as a patient in the mid-1890s,
and it would not be inaccurate to call her the book's heroine. In this
capacity she is assigned two closely related functions. First, in Freud's
response to Eckstein, Masson finds an exact structural parallel to the
abandonment of the seduction theory, a kind of model for his fateful
change of view. To be precise, Freud's treatment of Eckstein exemplifies
the same disgraceful pattern whereby fantasy displaced reality in his
thinking. Second, Eckstein is herself made the victim of a childhood
sexual assault, the reality of which Masson uses to rebuke Freud once
again for his intellectual retreat. These two functions are permitted
to intermingle, because Masson wishes to keep the seduction hypothesis
in the reader's mind even when the events he describes (as in the case
of his structural parallel) appear to have nothing to do with seduction.
The saga of Emma Eckstein, as revealed
in the Fliess correspondence, is spectacularly interesting. References
to her were excised from the original edition of the letters, but Freud's
physician, Max Schur, was given access to the originals when he was
preparing his biography of Freud, and in 1966 Schur published the deleted
passages in an article. They tell a remarkable story of medical malfeasance
on the part of Fliess, abetted by Freud, whose reaction to Eckstein's
misfortune is the main source of Masson's structural parallel.
Emma Eckstein was one of Freud's early
analytic patients. Her exact problem cannot be determined, but she seems
to have suffered from painful or irregular menstruation. In accordance
with Fliess's naso-genital theory, Freud and Fliess decided she needed
an operation on her nose, and in February 1895 Fliess came from Berlin
to Vienna to perform the surgery, removing her turbinate bone. Following
the operation, however, Eckstein did not heal. Instead, she experienced
"persistent swelling," "purulent secretion," and
finally "a massive hemorrhage." When
her suffering continued, other doctors were summoned. Freud's account
(in a letter to Fliess dated March 8, 1895) of what then transpired
makes for gripping reading:
I wrote you that the swelling and the hemorrhages would
not stop, and that suddenly a fetid odor set in, and that there was
an obstacle upon irrigation.... I arranged for Gersuny to be called
in; he inserted a drainage tube, hoping that things would work out
once discharge was reestablished; but otherwise he was rather reserved.
Two days later I was awakened in the morning--profuse bleeding had
started again, pain, and so on. Gersuny replied on the phone that
he was unavailable till evening; so I asked Rosanes to meet me. He
did so at noon. There still was moderate bleeding from the nose and
mouth; the fetid odor was very bad. Rosanes cleaned the area surrounding
the opening, removed some sticky blood clots, and suddenly pulled
at something like a thread, kept on pulling. Before either of us had
time to think, at least half a meter of gauze had been removed from
the cavity. The next moment came a flood of blood. The patient turned
white, her eyes bulged, and she had no pulse. Immediately thereafter,
however, he again packed the cavity with fresh iodoform gauze and
the hemorrhage stopped. It lasted about half a minute, but this was
enough to make the poor creature, whom by then we had lying flat,
unrecognizable. In the meantime--that is, afterward--something else
happened. At the moment the foreign body came out and everything became
clear to me and I immediately afterward was confronted by the sight
of the patient--I felt sick. After she had been packed, I fled to
the next room, drank a bottle of water, and felt miserable. The brave
Frau Doktor then brought me a small glass of cognac and I became myself
Despite the removal of the gauze that
was the immediate cause of the hemorrhages, Eckstein suffered three
more episodes of nasal bleeding over the course of the next month. A
year later, in April and May of 1896, Freud developed a psychological
explanation for Eckstein's persistent hemorrhaging. He concluded that
it was hysterical in origin, "occasioned by longing,"
in particular, longing for Freud himself. He gives the fullest version
of his hypothesis in a letter of May 4, 1896:
... She had not lost consciousness during
the massive hemorrhage; when I returned to the room somewhat shaky,
she greeted me with the condescending remark, "So this is the
I do not believe it was the blood that
overwhelmed me--at that moment strong emotions were welling up in
me. So we had done her an unjustice; she was not at all abnormal;
rather, a piece of iodoform gauze had gotten torn off as you were
removing it and stayed in for fourteen days, preventing healing; at
the end it tore off and provoked the bleeding. That this mishap should
have happened to you; how you will react to it when you hear about
it; what others could make of it; how wrong I was to urge you to operate
in a foreign city where you could not follow through on the case;
how my intention to do my best for this poor girl was insidiously
thwarted and resulted in endangering her life--all this came over
As for Eckstein--I am taking notes on her history so that I can send
it to you--so far I know only that she bled out of longing. She has
always been a bleeder, when cutting herself and in similar circumstances;
as a child she suffered from severe nosebleeds; during the years when
she was not yet menstruating, she had headaches which were interpreted
to her as malingering and which in truth had been generated by suggestion;
for this reason she joyously welcomed her severe menstrual bleeding
as proof that her illness was genuine, a proof that was also recognized
as such by others. She described a scene from the age of fifteen,
in which she suddenly began to bleed from the nose when she had the
wish to be treated by a certain young doctor who was present (and
who also appeared in the dream). When she saw how affected I was by
her first hemorrhage while she was in the hands of Rosanes, she experienced
this as the realization of an old wish to be loved in her illness,
and in spite of the danger during the succeeding hours she felt happy
as never before. Then, in the sanatorium, she became restless during
the night because of an unconscious wish to entice me to go there;
since I did not come during the night, she renewed the bleedings,
as an unfailing means of rearousing my affection. She bled spontaneously
three times and each bleeding lasted for four days, which must have
some significance. She still owes me details and specific dates.
Max Schur interprets this entire episode in terms of the pathology
of Freud's relationship with Fliess. It reveals, according to Schur,
the depth of Freud's neurotic dependence on Fliess and his consequent
need to go to any length to exonerate his friend. But, unlike Schur
and Freud's other biographers, Masson is not interested in Freud's
peculiar emotional ties to Fliess. Nor is he interested in Fliess's
intellectual influence on Freud, as is Sulloway. Masson chooses instead
to construct a reading of the Eckstein episode in which every element
is equated with a corresponding moment in the history of the seduction
theory. Although the parallel between Eckstein's story and the fate
of the seduction theory is not always made explicit, there can be
no doubt that it is the underlying source of Masson's interest in
her. The Eckstein case, Masson suggests, established an unhappy pattern
in Freud's intellectual history.
In this structural parallel, Fliess's
original operation assumes the position of a childhood seduction. It
is, above all, a real event, an actual trauma, just as the seductions
were real. What's more, like a childhood seduction, it is an abnormal
or perverse event, its perversity residing not in the victim but in
the authority figures (the counterparts of the parents), Freud and Fliess.
Indeed, it is doubly perverse: first, because it was undertaken on the
basis of Fliess's crackpot ideas, and second, because Fliess blundered
by leaving half a meter of gauze in the wound.
Eckstein's hemorrhaging in turn corresponds
to the neurotic illness that, according to the seduction theory, results
from childhood sexual abuse. The important thing about the hemorrhaging,
given Masson's parallel, is that it was actually caused by the operation,
just as hysteria is caused by the real sexual abuse inflicted on children.
This is true, Masson firmly implies, not merely of the bleeding that
occurred in the immediate wake of Fliess's operation and again when
Rosanes removed the gauze, but also of the three hemorrhages during
the following month.
Freud's hypothesis, developed a year later,
that Eckstein's bleeding was hysterical--the result of an erotic attachment
to Freud--corresponds to the abandonment of the seduction theory and
the substitution of infantile sexual desire and fantasy as the sources
of neurosis. Now Freud says that the patient's illness originated in
her own imagination--which, significantly, is erotically charged--rather
than in a real traumatic event suffered at the hands of others. The
patient/child's fantasy has, in effect, replaced the doctors/parents'
perverse actions as the causal agent. To make the analogy perfect, however,
Freud would have had to believe that not merely the three final hemorrhages
but also the earlier ones (right after Fliess's operation and at the
time the gauze was removed) were products of unconscious desire. In
this way, Eckstein's original trauma could be made to disappear entirely,
as did the childhood sexual assaults when Freud gave up the seduction
theory. But Freud's statement, in the May 4 letter, that "she bled
spontaneously three times" clearly alludes only to the later episodes.
Hence Masson must be satisfied with a weaker version of his parallel:
the original operation has not been utterly abolished into fantasy,
as were the childhood seductions, but it has "receded far into
the background" and "seems to have been completely forgotten".
To round out the analogy, Masson assigns
Fliess a role in the episode roughly akin to that of Freud's Viennese
colleagues, whom Freud supposedly tried to appease by relinquishing
the seduction theory. Granted, Masson does not draw this parallel expressly,
but its presence is strongly felt. In this view, Fliess becomes a powerful
medical authority whose disapproval Freud could not tolerate and for
whose sake Freud was prepared to deny the significance of real abuse--the
bungled operation--in favor of a theory of imaginary erotic desires.
This explains Masson's lack of interest in the specific psychopathology
of Freud's emotional bond to Fliess and his tendency to see Fliess simply
as a doctor, another of those colleagues whose ideas and judgment Freud
overvalued. In other words, Masson stresses the symptomatic character
of Freud's deference to Fliess: the incident shows Freud spinelessly
retreating from reality in order to ingratiate himself with a presumed
No matter how one construes it, the Emma
Eckstein episode makes Freud look bad. Indeed, one suspects that Masson
dwells on it at such length at least in part because he is eager to
display Freud's shortcomings. But Masson's explicit purpose remains
to enlist the episode as evidence for his explanation of the decision
to abandon the seduction theory. Unfortunately, the episode can provide
only an analogy, and an imperfect one at that. While analogies may lend
plausibility to an idea, their authority is always less than decisive.
Masson seeks to give his analogy greater weight by introducing evidence
concerning Emma Eckstein's own childhood seduction. Freud, Masson argues,
must have believed that Eckstein herself was a victim of childhood sexual
abuse, because he diagnosed her as a hysteric at a time when he still
subscribed to the seduction theory and hence believed that all
cases of hysteria originated in childhood assaults. Beyond this purely
inferential reason, Masson bases his claim on direct evidence of an
actual assault in Eckstein's childhood, though not the original (presumably
parental) assault that he considers the ultimate source of her illness.
This evidence comes from the 1895 Project for a Scientific Psychology,
which contains an account of a patient called "Emma" whom
Masson says, plausibly, is none other than Emma Eckstein. The Emma of
the Project suffers from a neurotic aversion to entering shops,
which Freud traces to an early sexual experience:
Emma is subject at the present time to a compulsion of not
being able to go into shops alone. As a reason for this, [she
produced] a memory from the time when she was twelve years old (shortly
after puberty). She went into a shop to buy something, saw the two
shop-assistants (one of whom she can remember) laughing together,
and ran away in some kind of affect of fright. In connection
with this, she was led to recall that the two of them were laughing
at her clothes and that one of them had pleased her sexually....
In interpreting this account, Masson emphasizes that Freud considered
Emma's memory entirely reliable: it accurately recaptured a little girl's
abuse by an older man, an experience that subsequently gave rise to
her neurotic symptom. Of course, the fact that Freud would attribute
Emma's compulsion about entering shops to a real childhood experience
is neither surprising nor significant. After all, the Project for
a Scientific Psychology was written in 1895: the seduction hypothesis
was in the ascendant, and the Emma of the Project is just one
of many hysterical patients whose analysis seemed to support Freud's
hypothesis. But Masson conveniently ignores the characteristic way in
which Freud's narrative implicates the patient in the origins of her
own illness. In terms of the emergence of psychoanalysis, what is in
fact most striking about the passage is not Freud's view of the abuse
itself but his focus on Emma's return to the scene of the crime, as
well as her sexual attraction to one of the shop assistants in the later
episode. In other words, where Masson wants to find guilty adult males,
Freud presents the much more ambivalent picture of a girl whose desires
play into the hands of her abusers.
Further investigation now revealed a second memory, which she denies
having had in mind at the moment of Scene I.... On two occasions when
she was a child of eight she had gone into a small shop to buy some
sweets, and the shopkeeper had grabbed at her genitals through her
clothes. In spite of the first experience she had gone there a second
time; after the second time she stopped away. She now reproached herself
for having gone there the second time, as though she had wanted in
that way to provoke the assault. In fact a state of "oppressive
bad conscience" is to be traced back to this experience.
What difference does it make that the
Emma whom the shopkeeper abused was apparently the same Emma whose surgical
mistreatment by Fliess Freud sought to excuse with his diagnosis of
hysterical longing? Logically speaking, there is no connection between
the two. But Masson labors mightily to juxtapose them in such a fashion
that they might lend substance to his thesis about the abandonment of
the seduction theory. He tries to connect the two by arguing that once
Freud had explained away Fliess's bungled operation in terms of Emma's
hysterical longing, Freud was liberated to think that her story of childhood
seduction was also imaginary: "If Emma Eckstein's problems (her
bleeding) had nothing to do with the real world (Fliess's operation),
then her earlier accounts of seduction could well be fantasies too".
This reasoning, however, appears more forcible than it actually is.
It rests on the assumption that Freud's conviction about the reality
or unreality of Eckstein's childhood seduction was uniquely decisive
for the fate of the seduction theory--more decisive, that is, than his
conviction about the seduction stories told to him by his many other
patients. But there is no reason to think this was the case. The accident
of Emma Eckstein being the subject of both stories creates the impression
of a meaningful connection when in fact none exists. Recognizing perhaps
that he has been unable to forge a persuasive link between the two Emma
stories, or to use either one to prove that Freud gave up the seduction
theory out of moral cowardice, Masson falls back in the end on a categorical
From 1894 through 1897, no subjects so preoccupied Freud as the reality
of seduction and the fate of Emma Eckstein. The two topics seemed bound
together. It is, in my opinion, no coincidence that once Freud had determined
that Emma Eckstein's hemorrhages were hysterical, the result of sexual
fantasies, he was free to abandon the seduction hypothesis.
Even if we grant Masson's dubious promotion
of Emma Eckstein into a major preoccupation, the case for her central
role in the abandonment of the seduction theory is hopelessly contrived--an
unstable compound of inference, hypothesis, analogy, and not a little
sleight-of-hand. Ultimately, as far as the seduction theory is concerned,
Eckstein is a red herring. She tells us a good deal about Freud's unhealthy
attachment to Fliess and his weakness for psychological speculation
(and, as Max Schur has shown, she is also an important source for Freud's
famous specimen dream of Irma's injection, the theme of which is medical
incompetence). But, when it comes to understanding why, in 1897, Freud
ceased to believe in his neurotica, Emma Eckstein is no more
relevant than Freud's other patients. The fact that Masson lavishes
so much attention on her, expending such energy constructing what is
finally a ramshackle argument for her significance, again makes one
wonder about his motives. Above all, Emma Eckstein is for him a woman
whom Freud and Fliess abused. She is thus the prototypical psychoanalytic
victim. Through Masson's reconstruction she is empowered to give voice
to the mute sufferings of generations of women at the hands of men,
notably male analysts. This symbolic function, rather than her putative
role in the abandonment of the seduction theory, explains her dominant
place in The Assault on Truth.
If Emma Eckstein is the heroine of Masson's book (and Freud its villain),
then Sandor Ferenczi is its hero. The Assault on Truth ends with
a long chapter on what Masson calls "The Strange Case of Ferenczi's
Last Paper." Like the chapter on Eckstein, it attempts to lend
credibility to Masson's thesis about the seduction theory by way of
an argument that is again entirely inferential. At the same time, Ferenczi
becomes for Masson the central figure in his imaginary counter-history
of psychoanalysis, whose vicissitudes he traces from Freud in 1896,
through Ferenczi in 1932, to his own presentation to the Western New
England Psychoanalytic Society in 1981. Ferenczi's paper, delivered
at the Wiesbaden Congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association,
suggests what psychoanalysis might have become had it remained faithful
to Freud's original seduction theory.
The paper, "Confusion of Tongues
between Adults and the Child," argues that real childhood seductions
are more often the cause of neurosis than psychoanalysts were inclined
to acknowledge. Naturally, Masson thinks Ferenczi was right in his judgment,
not to mention brave in contesting the orthodox emphasis on fantasy.
Masson's subject, however, is not Ferenczi's paper itself but Freud's
reaction to it. Masson tries to read in that reaction evidence that,
even in 1932, Freud still felt ashamed about his craven abandonment
of a theory he knew in his heart was correct. Ferenczi's revival of
the seduction hypothesis so threatened Freud, Masson argues, that Freud
was driven to terminate their friendship. "Ferenczi's tenacious
insistence on the truth of what his patients told him would cost him
the friendship of Freud and almost all of his colleagues and leave him
in an isolation from which he never would emerge". Only Freud's
guilty inability to accept the reality of seduction explains Freud's
"otherwise mysterious turning away from Ferenczi".
As Peter Gay has observed, the contention
that Ferenczi's revival of the seduction theory cost him Freud's friendship
is "contradicted by the facts. Throughout the final months of his
life, as Ferenczi collapsed both mentally and physically (he died May
22, 1933), Freud continued to correspond with him and his wife, and
the letters display great affection as well as distress at Ferenczi's
suffering. Whatever tension the Wiesbaden paper may have introduced
into the relationship, it did not cause Freud to sever his ties with
the man who for many years had been his favorite disciple.
Masson, then, exaggerates when he says
that Freud punished Ferenczi for reviving the seduction theory by terminating
their friendship. But perhaps his hypothesis can survive without this
inflated claim. Freud certainly disapproved of Ferenczi's paper, and
Ferenczi's final years did witness an undeniable alienation between
the two men, if nothing so extreme as Masson suggests. But is there
anything in Freud's response to the paper to indicate that he actually
felt threatened by it--that it touched a sore spot in his conscience?
The best evidence of Freud's reaction
comes from a letter written to his daughter Anna on September 3, 1932.
Four days earlier, on August 30, Ferenzci had visited Freud, who, because
of his cancer, did not attend the Wiesbaden congress. Freud appears
to have been more startled by Ferenczi's manner than by what he had
to say: without so much as a greeting, Ferenczi began, "I want
to read you my paper," which he proceeded to do. In his letter
to Anna, Freud says that he found the presentation "confused, obscure,
artificial," but he seems mainly concerned that the paper would
harm Ferenczi's reputation. The letter, in other words, suggests that
Freud felt not threatened but saddened and somewhat embarrassed for
Ferenczi. Masson does not cite this letter and appears to be unaware
of it, but it can be squared with his interpretation only by arguing
that, even in a private communication to his daughter, Freud hypocritically
misrepresented his true feelings. This verges dangerously on making
Freud's guilt a matter of raw assertion, against which no evidence can
prevail. Like his cowardly collapse before his Viennese colleagues more
than three decades earlier, it becomes an invisible, intrapsychic event,
to which Masson alone has access. In reality, Freud's disapproval of
Ferenczi's paper is easily explained by the simple fact that Freud considered
it mistaken. The idea that he not only disliked it but also "feared"
it is purely suppositional.
Likewise, Masson's characterization of
Freud's "turning away" from Ferenczi as "otherwise mysterious"
is unjustified. The tension between Freud and Ferenczi had important
sources beyond the matter of seduction. Freud was much troubled by Ferenczi's
deviations from classical analytic technique and his introduction of
a more active form of therapy. In an effort to break with what he considered
the ineffective and authoritarian conventions of traditional analysis,
Ferenczi had ventured on what, to Freud, was a dangerous experiment
in intimacy. Freud wrote him in late 1931: "You have not made a
secret of the fact that you kiss your patients and let them kiss you."
More ambitious therapists, Freud warned, would feel invited to proceed
Picture what will be the result of publishing your technique.
There is no revolutionary who is not driven out of the field by a
still more radical one. A number of independent thinkers in matters
of technique will say to themselves: why stop at a kiss? Certainly
one gets further when one adopts "pawing" as well, which
after all doesn't make a baby. And then bolder ones will come along
who will go further to peeping and showing--and soon we shall have
accepted in the technique of analysis the whole repertoire of demiviergerie
and petting parties, resulting in an enormous increase of interest
in psychoanalysis among both analysts and patients. The new adherent,
however, will easily claim too much of this interest for himself,
the younger of our colleagues will find it hard to stop at the point
they originally intended, and God the Father Ferenczi gazing at the
lively scene he has created will perhaps say to himself: maybe after
all I should have halted in my technique of motherly affection before
Behind the issue of the kiss stands the fact that Freud and Ferenczi
had come to occupy opposite ends of the therapeutic spectrum within
psychoanalysis. Freud's expectations for therapy were always modest.
At best, he said, analysis aimed at "transforming . . . hysterical
misery into common unhappiness." Ferenczi permitted himself to
hope for more. "The need to cure and to help had become paramount
in him," Freud wrote in his obituary notice for Ferenczi; "he
had probably set himself aims which, with our therapeutic means, are
altogether out of reach today." Such passages afford strong reason
to believe that Freud's concern over Ferenczi's approach to therapy
and its implications for Ferenczi's state of mind was a paramount factor
in Freud's withdrawal from his beloved associate. At the very least,
the existence of this ongoing therapeutic disagreement considerably
weakens Masson's claim that the tension between Freud and Ferenczi derived
wholly, or even largely, from the seduction issue.
Because Masson's attempt to use Ferenczi
to substantiate Freud's dishonorable motives in giving up the seduction
theory is such a lame affair--feebler even than his earlier effort to
enlist Emma Eckstein in the cause--one again suspects that Masson's
real interest in Ferenczi lies elsewhere. Ferenczi, I would suggest,
occupies a significant place in Masson's fantasy about what should have
become of psychoanalysis. Contemplating Ferenczi delivering his paper
in Wiesbaden, Masson slips easily into the "as-if " language
of the imaginary:
Perhaps never before had anyone spoken for the abused child with
such sympathy and eloquence. The ideas Freud had propounded to a skeptical
medical world in his 1896 papers were here repeated, but expanded
through the knowledge gained by analysis in the years after 1896.
It is as if Ferenczi were demonstrating to the analytic world how
psychoanalysis could have developed had Freud not abandoned the seduction
In effect, Masson pictures Ferenczi's paper as a kind of reenactment
of Freud's own paper on "The Aetiology of Hysteria." This
time, however, Ferenczi corrects Freud's error by steadfastly refusing
to capitulate before a hostile audience:
It was as if Ferenczi
were telling Freud: "You lacked the courage to stay with the truth
and defend it. The movement that grew up around you is a product of
this cowardice. I will not be a part of it. I will not break faith with
what I know to be true." And that is what happened; Ferenczi died,
but he did not recant.
Had psychoanalysis followed Ferenczi's lead in 1932, the result, Masson
believes, would have been a therapeutic revolution: analysts would have
stopped denying their patients' sufferings and confirmed the reality
of the abuse to which those patients had been subjected. Sympathy, belief,
and affection would have replaced the constipated insistence on emotional
restraint and skepticism. Analytic therapy would have developed something
of the loving, democratic character (although not the sexual intimacy)
of Ferenczi's "mutual analysis," whose attractions Masson
was to celebrate later in Against Therapy (1988).
But beyond this therapeutic transformation
Masson also imagines Ferenczi inspiring a renaissance of the political
campaign against sexual abuse that Masson so wanted Freud to launch
at the end of the nineteenth century. Revealingly, Masson's fateful
presentation of his ideas about the seduction theory before a group
of critical analysts in New Haven in 1981 again reenacts the original
scenario. Masson was then the same age as Freud was when he gave his
paper on "The Aetiology of Hysteria" to the Viennese Society
for Psychiatry and Neurology. Masson's account, in Final Analysis,
of his own reception by those in attendance strongly echoes his account,
in The Assault on Truth, of Freud's brutal treatment at the hands
of his Viennese medical colleagues in 1896. As he did with Freud, Masson
stresses the "deathly silence" that followed his talk, as
well as his sense of being "completely isolated" afterward.
(Masson also portrayed Ferenczi, we will recall, as condemned to "an
isolation from which he never would emerge.") Like Ferenczi in
1932, Masson in 1981 both repeats and corrects Freud's original gesture:
he tells his colleagues the truth about childhood sexual abuse, and
he refuses to recant. Moreover, in contrast to the ailing Ferenczi,
Masson lives on to repudiate psychoanalysis entirely and become the
public crusader against child abuse that Freud should have (and Ferenczi
might have) been. In effect, Masson constructs an imaginary political
narrative for Freud and then seeks to realize it in his own life. The
sequence of embattled lecturers--1896, 1932, 1981--suggests a profound
identification not only with Ferenczi but, surprisingly, with Freud
himself. Thus, like Emma Eckstein, Ferenczi is first and foremost a
symbolic figure for Masson: just as Eckstein is the prototypical psychoanalytic
victim, so Ferenczi embodies the liberating ideological promise of Freud's
original insight. This explains his place of honor at the end of Masson's
Childhood and Society
Chapter 7- Eight Stages of Man
I. TRUST VS. BASIC MISTRUST
The first demonstration of social trust in the baby is the ease of his feeding, the depth of his sleep, the relaxation of his bowels) The experience of a mutual regulation of his increasingly receptive capacities with the maternal techniques of provision gradually helps him to balance the discomfort caused by the immaturity of homeostasis with which he was born. In his gradually increasing waking hours he finds that more and more adventures of the senses arouse a feeling of familiarity, of having coincided with a feeling of inner goodness. Forms of comfort, and people associated with them, become as familiar as the gnawing discomfort of the bowels. The infant's first social achievement, then, is his willingness to let the mother out of sight without undue anxiety or rage, because she has become an inner certainty as well as an outer predictability. Such consistency, continuity, and sameness of experience provide a rudimentary sense of ego identity which depends, I think, on the recognition that there is an inner population of remembered and anticipated sensations and images which are firmly correlated with the outer population of familiar and predictable things and people.
What we here call trust coincides with what Therese Benedek has called confidence. If I prefer the word "trust," it is because there is more naivete and more mutuality in it: an infant can be said to be trusting where it would go too far to say that he has confidence. The general state of trust, furthermore, implies not only that one has learned to rely on the sameness and continuity of the outer providers, but also that one may, trust oneself and the capacity of one's own organs to cope with urges; and that one is able to consider oneself trustworthy enough so that the providers will not need to be on guard lest they be nipped.
The constant tasting and testing of the relationship between inside and outside meets its crucial test during the rages of the biting stage, when the teeth cause pain from within and when outer friends either prove of no avail or withdraw from the only action which promises relief: biting. Not that teething itself seems to cause all the dire consequences sometimes ascribed to it. As outlined earlier, the infant now is driven to "grasp" more, but he is apt to find desired presences elusive: nipple and breast, and the mother's focused attention and care. Teething seems to have a prototypal significance and may well be the model for the masochistic tendency to assure cruel comfort by enjoying one's hurt whenever one is unable to prevent a significant loss.
In psychopathology the absence of basic trust can best be studied in infantile schizophrenia, while lifelong underlying weakness of such trust is apparent in adult personalities in whom withdrawal into schizoid and depressive states is habitual. The re-establishment of a state of trust has been found to be the basic requirement for therapy in these cases. For no matter what conditions may have caused a psychotic break, the bizarreness and withdrawal in the behavior of many very sick individuals hides an attempt to recover social mutuality by a testing of the borderlines between senses and physical reality, between words and social meanings.
j Psychoanalysis assumes the early process of differentiation between inside and outside to be the origin of projection and introjection which remain some of our deepest and most dangerous defense mechanisms. In introjection we feel and act as if an outer goodness had become an inner certainty. In projection, we experience an inner harm as an outer one: we endow significant people with the evil which actually is in us. These two mechanisms, then, projection and introjection, are assumed to be modeled after whatever goes on in infants when they would like to externalize pain and internalize pleasure, an intent which must yield to the testimony of the maturing senses and ultimately of reason. These mechanisms are, more or less normally, reinstated in acute crises of love, trust, and faith in adulthood and can characterize irrational attitudes toward adversaries and enemies in masses of "mature" individuals.
The firm establishment of enduring patterns for the solution of the nuclear conflict of basic trust versus basic mistrust in mere existence is the first task of the ego, and thus first of all a task for maternal care. But let it. be said here that the amount of trust derived from earliest infantile experience does not seem to depend on absolute quantities of food or demonstrations of love, but rather on the quality of the maternal relationship. Mothers create a sense of trust in their children by that kind of administration which in its quality combines sensitive care of the baby's individual needs and a firm sense of personal trustworthiness within the trusted framework of their culture's life style. This forms the basis in the' child for a sense which will later combine a sense of being "all right," of being oneself, and of becoming what other people trust one will become. There are, therefore (within certain limits previously defined as the "musts" of child care), few frustrations in either this or the following stages which the growing child cannot endure if the frustration leads to the ever-renewed experience of greater sameness and stronger continuity of development, toward a final integration of the individual life cycle with some meaningful wider belongingness. Parents must not only have certain ways of guiding by prohibition and permission; they must also be able
to represent to the child a deep, an almost somatic conviction that there is a meaning to what they are doing. Ultimately, children become neurotic not from frustrations, but from the lack or
loss of societal meaning in these frustrations.
But every-under the most favorable circumstances, this stage seems to introduce into psychic life (and become prototypical for) a sense of inner division and universal nostalgia for a paradise forfeited. It is against this powerful combination of a sense of having been deprived, of having been divided, and of having been abandoned--that basic trust must maintain itself throughout life.
Each successive stage and crisis has a special relation to one of the basic elements of society, and this for the simple reason that the human life cycle and man's institutions have evolved together' .1 In this chapter we can do little more than mention, after the description of each stage, what basic element of social organization is related to it. This relation is twofold: man brings to these institutions the remnants of his infantile mentality and his youthful fervor, and he receives from them--as long as they manage to maintain their actuality--a reinforcement of his infantile gains.
The parental faith which supports the trust emerging in the newborn, has throughout history sought its institutional safeguard (and, on occasion, found its greatest enemy) in organized religion. Trust born of care is, in fact, the touchstone of the actuality of a given religion. All religions have in common the periodical childlike surrender to a Provider or providers who dispense earthly fortune as well as spiritual health; some demonstration of man's smallness by way of reduced posture and humble gesture; the admission in prayer and song of misdeeds, of misthoughts, and of evil intentions; fervent appeal for inner unification by divine guidance; and finally, the insight that individual trust must become a common faith, individual mistrust a commonly formulated evil, while the individual's restoration must become part of the ritual practice of many, and must become a sign of trustworthiness in the community. We have illustrated how tribes dealing with one segment of nature develop a collective magic which seems to treat the Supernatural Providers of food and fortune as if they were angry and must be appeased by prayer and self-torture. Primitive religions, the most primitive layer in all religions, and the religious layer in each individual, abound with efforts at atonement which try to make up for vague deeds against a maternal matrix and try to restore faith in the goodness of one's strivings and in the kindness of the powers of the universe.
Each society and each age must find the institutionalized form of reverence which derives vitality from its world-image-fro predestination to indeterminacy. The clinician can only observe that many are proud to be without religion whose children cannot afford their being without it. On the other hand; there are many who seem to derive a vital faith from social action or scientific pursuit. And again, there are many who profess faith, yet in practice breathe mistrust both of life and man.
2. AUTONOMY VS. SHAME AND DOUBT
In describing the growth and the crises of the human person as a series of alternative basic attitudes such as trust vs. mistrust, we take recourse to the term a "sense of," although, like .a "sense of health," or a "sense of being unwell," such "senses" pervade surface and depth, consciousness and the unconscious. They are, then, at the same time, ways of experiencing accessible to introspection; ways of behaving, observable by others; and unconscious inner states determinable by test and analysis. It analysis. important to keep these three dimensions in mind, as we proceed.
Muscular maturation sets the stage for experimentation with two simultaneous sets of social modalities: holding on and letting go. As is the case with all of these modalities, their basic conflicts can lead in the end to either hostile or benign expectations and attitudes. Thus, to hold can become a destructive and cruel retaining or restraining, and it can become a pattern of care: to have and to hold. To let go, too, can turn into an inimical letting loose of destructive forces, or it can become a relaxed "to let pass" and "to let be. "
Outer control at this stage, therefore, must be firmly reassuring. The infant must come to feel that the basic faith in existence which is the lasting treasure saved from the rages of the oral stage, will not be jeopardized by this about-face of his, this sudden violent wish to have a choice, to appropriate demandingly, and to eliminate stubbornly. Firmness must protect him against the potential anarchy of his as yet untrained sense of discrimination, his inability to hold on and to let go with discretion. As his environment encourages him to "stand on his own feet," it must protect him against meaningless and arbitrary experiences of shame and of early doubt.
The latter danger is the one best known to us. For if denied the gradual and well-guided experience of the autonomy of free choice (or if, indeed, weakened by an initial loss of trust) the child will turn against himself all his urge to discriminate and to manipulate. He will overmanipulate himself, he will develop a precocious conscience. Instead of taking possession of things in order to test them by purposeful repetition, he will become obsessed by his own repetitiveness. By such obsessiveness, of course, he then learns to repossess the environment and to gain power by stubborn and minute control, where he could not find large-scale mutual regulation. Such hollow victory is the infantile model for a compulsion neurosis. It is also the infantile source of later attempts in adult life to govern by the letter, rather than by the spirit.
Shame is an emotion insufficiently studied, because in our civilization it is so early and easily absorbed by guilt. Shame supposes that one is completely exposed and conscious of being looked at: in one word, self-conscious. One is visible and not ready to be visible; which is why we dream of shame as a situation in which we are stared at in a condition of incomplete dress, in night attire, "with one's pants down." Shame is early expressed in an impulse to bury one's face, or to sink, right then and there, into the ground. But this, I think, is essentially rage turned against the self. He who is ashamed would like to force the world not to look at him, not to notice his exposure. He would like to destroy the eyes of the world. Instead he must wish for his own invisibility. This potentiality is abundantly used in the educational method of "shaming" used so exclusively by some primitive peoples. Visual shame precedes auditory guilt, which is a sense of badness to be had all by oneself when nobody watches and when everything is quiet--except the voice of the superego. Such shaming exploits an increasing sense of being small, which can develop only as the child stands up and as his awareness permits him to note the relative measures of size and power.
Too much shaming does not lead to genuine propriety but to a secret determination to try to get away with things, unseen--if, indeed, it does not result in defiant shamelessness. There is an impressive American ballad in which a murderer to be hanged on the gallows before the eyes of the community, instead of feeling duly chastened, begins to berate the onlookers, ending every salvo of defiance with the words, "God damn your eyes." Many a small child, shamed beyond endurance, may be in a chronic mood (although not in possession of either the courage or the words) to express defiance in similar terms. What I mean by this sinister reference is that there is a limit to a child's and an adult's endurance in the face of demands to consider himself, his body, and his wishes as evil and dirty, and to his belief in the infallibility of those who pass such judgment. He may be apt to turn things around, and to consider as evil only the fact that they exist: his chance will come when they are gone, or when he will go from them.
Doubt is the brother of shame. Where shame is dependent on the consciousness of being upright and exposed, doubt, so clinical observation leads me to believe, has much to do with a consciousness of having a front and a back-and especially a "behind." For this reverse area of the body, with its aggressive and libidinal focus in the sphincters and in the buttocks, cannot be seen by the child, and yet it can be dominated by the will of others. The "behind" is the small being's dark continent, an area of the body which can be magically dominated and effectively invaded by those who would attack one's power of autonomy and who would designate as evil those products of the bowels which were felt to be all right when they were being passed. This basic sense of doubt in whatever one has left behind forms a substratum for later and more verbal forms of compulsive doubting; this finds its adult expression in paranoiac fears concerning hidden persecutors and secret persecutions threatening from behind (and from within the behind)
This stage, therefore, becomes decisive for the ratio of love and hate, cooperation and willfulness, freedom of self-expression and its suppression. From a sense of self-control without loss of self-esteem comes a lasting sense of good will and pride; from a sense of loss of self-control and of foreign overcontrol comes a lasting propensity for doubt and shame.
If, to some reader, the "negative" potentialities of our stages seem overstated throughout, we must remind him that this is not only the result of a preoccupation with clinical data. Adults, and seemingly mature and unneurotic ones, display a sensitivity concerning a possible shameful "loss of face" and fear of being attacked "from behind" which is not only highly irrational and in contrast to the knowledge available to them, but can be of fateful import if related sentiments influence, for example, interracial and international policies.
We have related basic trust to the institution of religion (The lasting need of the individual to have his will reaffirmed and delineated within an adult order of things which at the same time reaffirms and delineates the will of others has an institutional safeguard in the principle of law and order. In daily life as well as in the high courts of law--domestic and international--this principle apportions to each his privileges and his limitations, his obligations and his rights. A sense of rightful dignity and lawful independence on the part of adults around him gives to the child of good will the confident expectation that kind of autonomy fostered in childhood will not lead to undue doubt or shame in later life Thus the sense of autonomy fostered in the child and modified as life progresses, serves (and is served by) the preservation in economic and political life of a sense of justice.
3. INITIATIVE VS. GUILT
There is in every child at every stage a new miracle of vigorous unfolding, which constitutes a new hope and a new responsibility for all. Such is the sense and the pervading quality of initiative. The criteria for all these senses and qualities are the same: a crisis, more or less beset with fumbling and fear, is resolved, in that the child suddenly seems to "grow together" both in his person and in his body. He appears "more himself," more loving, relaxed and brighter in his judgment, more activated and activating. He is in free possession of a surplus of energy which permits him to forget failures quickly and to approach what seems desirable (even if it also seems uncertain and even dangerous) with undiminished and more accurate direction. Initiative adds to autonomy the quality of undertaking, planning and "attacking" a task for the sake of being active and on the move, where before self-will, more often than not, inspired acts of defiance or, at any rate, protested independence.
I know that the very word "initiative to many, has an American, and industrial connotation. Yet, initiative is a necessary l part of every act, and man needs a sense of initiative for whatever he learns and does, from fruit-gathering to a system of enterprise.
The ambulatory stage and that of infantile genitality add to the inventory of basic social modalities that of "making," first in the sense of "being on the make." There is no simpler, stronger word for it; it suggests pleasure in attack and conquest. In the boy, the emphasis remains on phallic-intrusive modes; in the girl it turns to modes of "catching" in more aggressive forms of snatching or in the milder form of making oneself attractive and endearing.
The danger of this stage is a sense of guilt over the goals contemplated and the acts initiated in one's exuberant enjoyment of new locomotor and mental power: acts of aggressive manipulation and coercion which soon go far beyond the executive capacity of organism and mind and therefore call for an energetic halt on one's contemplated initiative. While autonomy concentrates on keeping potential rivals out, d therefore can lead to jealous rage most often directed against encroachments by younger siblings, initiative brings with it anticipatory rivalry with those who have been there first and may, therefore, occupy with their superior equipment the field toward which one's initiative is directed. Infantile/jealousy and rivalry, those often embittered and yet essentially futile attempts at demarcating a sphere of unquestioned privilege, now come to a climax in a final contest for a favored position with\ the mother; the usual failure leads to. resignation, guilt, and anxiety. The child indulges in fantasies of being a giant and a tiger, but in his dreams he runs in terror for dear life. This, then, is the stage of the "castration complex," the intensified fear of finding the (now energetically erotized) genitals harmed as a punishment for the fantasies attached to their excitement.
Infantile sexuality and incest taboo, castration complex and superego all unite here to bring about that specifically human crisis during which the child must turn from an exclusive, pregenital attachment to his parents to the slow process of becoming a parent, a carrier of tradition. Here the most fateful split and transformation in the emotional powerhouse occurs, a split between potential human glory and potential total destruction. For here the child becomes forever divided in himself. The instinct fragments which before had enhanced the growth of his infantile body and mind now become divided into an infantile set which perpetuates the exuberance of growth potentials, and a parental set which supports and increases self-observation, self- guidance, and self-punishment.
The problem, again, is one of mutual regulation. Where the chid, now so ready to overmanipulate himself, can gradually develop a sense of moral responsibility, where he can gain some insight into the institutions, functions, and roles which will permit his responsible participation, he will find pleasurable accomplishment in wielding tools and weapons, in manipulating meaningful toys--and in caring for younger children.
Naturally, the parental set is at first infantile in nature: the fact that human conscience remains partially infantile thoughout life is the core of human tragedy. For the superego of the child can be primitive, cruel, and uncompromising, as may be observed in instances where children overcontrol and overconstrict themselves to the point of self-obliteration; where they develop an over-obedience more literal than the one the parent has wished to exact; or where they develop deep regressions and lasting resentments because the parents themselves do not seem to live up to the new conscience. One of the deepest conflicts in life is the hate for a parent who served as the model and the executor of the superego, but who (in some form) was found trying to get away with the very transgressions which the child can no longer tolerate in himself. The suspiciousness and evasiveness which is thus mixed in with the all-or-nothing quality of the superego, this organ of moral tradition, makes moral (in the sense of moralistic) man a great potential danger to his own ego--and to that of his fellow men.
In adult pathology, the residual conflict over initiative is expressed either in hysterical denial, which causes the repression of the wish or the abrogation of its executive organ by paralysis, inhibition, or impotence; or in overcompensatory showing off, in which the scared individual, so eager to "duck," instead "sticks his neck out." Then also a plunge into psychosomatic disease is now common. It is as if the culture had made a man over-advertise himself and so identify with his own advertisement that only disease can offer him escape.
But here, again, we must not think only of individual psychopathology, but of the inner powerhouse of rage which must be submerged at this stage, as some of the fondest hopes and the wildest phantasies are repressed and inhibited. The resulting self-righteousness--often the principal reward for goodness--can later be most intolerantly turned against others in the form of persistent moralistic surveillance, so that the prohibition rather than the guidance of initiative becomes the dominant endeavor. On the other hand, even moral man's initiative is apt to burst the boundaries of self-restriction, permitting him to do to others, in his or in other lands, what he would neither do nor tolerate being done in his own home.
In view of the dangerous potentials of man's long childhood, it is well to look back at the blueprint of the life-stages and to the possibilities of guiding the young of the race while they are young. And here we note that according to the wisdom of the ground plan the child is at no time more ready to learn quick and avidly, to become bigger in the sense of sharing obligation and performance than during this period of his development. He is eager and able to make things cooperatively, to combine with other children for the purpose of constructing and planning, and he is willing to profit from teachers and to emulate ideal prototypes. He remains, of course, identified with the parent of the same sex, but for the present he looks for opportunities where work-identification seems to promise a field of initiative without too much infantile conflict or oedipal guilt and a more realistic identification based on a spirit of equality experienced in doing things together. At any rate, the "oedipal" stage results not only in the oppressive establishment of a moral sense restricting the horizon of the permissible; it also sets the direction toward the possible and the tangible which permits the dreams of early childhood to be attached to the goals of an active adult life. Social institutions therefore, offer children of this age an economic ethos, in the form of ideal adults, recognizable by their uniforms and functions, and facinating enough to replace, the heros of picture book and fairy tale.
4. INDUSTRY VS. INFERIORITY
Thus the inner stage seems all set for "entrance into life, except that life must first be school life, whether school is field or jungle or classroom. The child must forget past hopes and wishes, while his exuberant imagination is tamed and harnessed to the laws of impersonal things--even the three R's. For before the child, psychologically already a rudimentary parent, can become a biological parent, he must begin to be a worker and potential provider. With the oncoming latency, period, the normally advanced child forgets, or rather sublimates, the necessity to "make" people by direct attack or to become papa and mama in a hurry: he now learns to win recognition by producing things. He has mastered the ambulatory field and the organ modes. He has experienced a sense of finality regarding the fact that there is no workable future within the womb of his family, and thus becomes ready to apply himself to given skills and tasks, which go far beyond .the mere playful expression of his organ modes or the pleasure in the function of his limbs. He develops a sense of industry--i.e., he adjusts himself to the inorganic laws of the tool world. He can become an eager and absorbed unit a productive situation. To bring a productive situation to completion is an aim which gradually supersedes the whims and wishes of play. His ego boundaries include his tools and skills: the work principle (Ives Hendrick) teaches him the pleasure of work completion by steady attention and persevering diligence. In all cultures, at this stage, children receive some systematic
instruction, although, as we saw in the chapter on American Indians, it is by no means always in the kind of school which literate people must organize around special teachers who have learned how to teach literacy. In preliterate people and in nonliterate pursuits much is learned from adults who become teachers by dint of gift and inclination rather than by appointment, and perhaps the greatest amount is learned from older children. Thus the fundamentals of technology are developed, as the child becomes ready to handle the utensils, the tools, and the weapons used by the big people. Literate people, with more specialized careers, must prepare the child by teaching him things which first of all make him literate, the widest possible basic education for the greatest number of possible careers. The more confusing specialization becomes, however, the more indistinct are the eventual goals of initiative; and the more complicated social reality, the vaguer are the father's and mother's role in it. School seems to be a culture all by itself, with its own goals an( limits, its achievements and disappointment.
The child's danger, at this stage, lies in a sense of inadequacy and inferiority. If he despairs of his tools and skills or of his status among his tool partners, he may be discouraged from identification with them and with a section of the tool world. To lose the hope of such "industrial" association may pull him back to the more isolated, less tool-conscious familial rivalry of the oedipal time. The child despairs of his equipment in the tool world and in anatomy, and considers himself doomed to mediocrity or inadequacy. It is at this point that wider society becomes significant in its ways of admitting the child to an understanding of meaningful roles in its technology and economy. Many a child's development is disrupted when family life has failed to prepare him for school life, or when school life fails to sustain the promises of earlier stages.
Regarding the period of a developing sense of industry, I have referred to outer and inner hindrances in the use of new capacities but not to aggravations of new human drives, nor to submerged rages resulting from their frustration. This stage differs from the earlier ones in that it is not a swing from an inner upheaval to a new mastery. Freud calls it the latency stage because violent drives are normally dormant. But it is only a lull before the storm of puberty, when all the earlier drives reemerge in a new combination, to be brought under the dominance of genitality.
On the other hand, this is socially a most decisive stage: since industry involves doing things beside and with others, a first sense of division of labor and of differential opportunity, that is, a sense of the technological ethos of a culture, develops at this time. We have pointed in the last section to the danger threatening individual and society where the schoolchild begins to feel that the color of his skin, the background of his parents, or the fashion of his clothes rather than his wish and his will to learn will decide his worth as an apprentice and thus his sense of identity--to which we must now turn. But there is another, more fundamental danger, namely man's restriction of himself
and constriction of his horizons to include only his work to which, so the Book says, he has been sentenced after his expulsion from paradise. If he accepts work as his only obligation, and "what works" as his only criterion of worthwhileness, he may become the conformist and thoughtless slave of his technology and of those who are in a position to exploit it.
5. IDENTITY VS. ROLE CONFUSION
With the establishment of a good initial relationship to the world of skills and tools, and with the advent of puberty, childhood proper comes to an end. Youth begins. But in puberty and adolescence all samenesses and continuities relied on earlier are more or less questioned again, because of a rapidity of body growth which equals that of early childhood and because of the new addition of genital maturity. The growing and developing youths, faced with this physiological revolution within them, and with tangible adult tasks ahead of them are now primarily concerned with what they appear to be in the eyes of others as compared with what they feel they are, and with the question of how to connect the roles and skills cultivated earlier with the occupational prototypes of the day. In their search for a new sense of continuity and sameness, adolescents have to refight many of the battles of earlier years, even though to do so they must artificially appoint perfectly well-meaning people to play the roles of adversaries; and they are ever ready to install lasting idols and ideals as guardians of a final identity.
The integration now taking place in the form of ego identity is, as pointed out, more than the childhood identifications. It is the accrued experience of the ego's ability to integrate all identifications with the vicissitudes of the libido with the aptitudes developed out of endowment, and with the opportunities offered in social roles. The sense of ego identity, then, is the confidence that the inner sameness and continuity prepared in the past are matched by the sameness an continuity
of one's meaning for others as evidenced in the tangible promise of a "career."
The danger of this stage is role confusion. Where this is based on a strong previous doubt as to one's sexual identity, delinquent and outright psychotic episodes are not uncommon. If diagnosed and treated correctly, these incidents do not have the same fatal significance which they have at other ages. In most instances, however, it is the inability to settle on an occupational identity which disturbs individual young people. To keep themselves together they temporarily overidentify, to the point of apparent complete loss of identity, with the heroes of cliques and crowds. This initiates the stage of "falling in love," which is by no means entirely, or even primarily, a sexual matter -except where the mores demand it. To a considerable extent adolescent love is an attempt to arrive at a definition of one's identity by projecting one's diffused ego another and by seeing it thus refected and gradually clarified. Thus is why so much of young love is conversation.
Young people can also remarkably clannish, and cruel in their exclusion of all those who are "different," in skin color or cultural background, in tastes and gifts, and often in such petty aspects of dress and gesture as have been temporarily selected as the signs of an in-grouper or out-grouper. It is important to understand (which does not mean condone or participate in) such intolerance as a defense against a sense of identity confusion. For adolescents not only help one another temporarily through much discomfort by forming cliques and by stereotyping themselves, their ideals, and their enemies; they also perversely test each other's capacity to pledge fidelity. The readiness for such testing also explains the appeal which simple and cruel totalitarian doctrines have on the minds of the youth of such countries and classes as have lost or are losing their group identities (feudal, agrarian, tribal, national) and face world-wide industrialization, emancipation, and wider communication.
The adolescent mind is essentially a mind of the moratorium, a psychosocial stage between childhood and. adulthood, and between the morality learned by the child, and the ethics to be developed , by the adult. It is an ideological mind--and, indeed, it is the ideological outlook of a society that speaks most clearly to the adolescent who is eager to be affirmed by his peers, and is ready to be confirmed by rituals, creeds, and programs which at the same time define what is evil, uncanny, and inimical. In searching for the social values which guide identity, one therefore confronts the problems of ideology and aristocracy, both in their widest possible sense which connotes that within a defined world image and a predestined course of history, the best people will come to rule and rule develops the best in people. In order not to become cynically or apathetically lost, young-people must somehow be able to convince themselves that those who succeed in their anticipated adult world thereby shoulder the obligation of being the best. We will discuss later the dangers which emanate from human ideals harnessed to the management of super-machines, be they guided by nationalistic or international, communist or capitalist ideologies. In the last part of this book we shall discuss the way in which the revolutions of our day attempt to solve and also to exploit the deep need of youth to redefine its identity in an industrialized world.
6. INTIMACY VS. ISOLATION
The strength acquired at any stage is tested by the necessity to transcend it in such a way that the individual can take chances in the next stage with what was most vulnerably precious in the previous one. Thus, the young adult, emerging from the search for and the insistence on identity, is eager and willing to fuse his identity with that of others. He is ready for intimacy, that is, the capacity to commit himself to concrete aaffiliations and partnerships and to develop the ethical strength to abide by such commitments, even though they may call for significant sacrifices and compromises. Body and ego must now be masters of the organ modes and of the nuclear conflicts, in order to be able to face the fear of ego loss in situations which call for self-abandon: in the solidarity of close affiliations, in orgasms and sexual unions, in close friendships and in physical combat, in experiences of inspiration by teachers and of intuition from the recesses of the self. The avoidance of such experiences because of a fear of ego loss may lead to a deep sense of isolation and consequent self-absorption.
The counterpart of intimacy is distantiation: the readiness to isolate and, if necessary, to destroy those forces and people whose essence seems dangerous to one's own, and whose "territory" seems to encroach on the extent of one's intimate relations. Prejudices thus developed (and utilized and exploited in politics and in war) are a more mature outgrowth of the blinder repudiations which during the struggle for identity differentiate sharply and cruelly between the familiar and the foreign. The danger of this stage is that intimate, competitive, and combative relations are experienced with and against the selfsame people. But as the areas of adult duty are delineated, and as the competitive encounter, and the sexual embrace, are differentiated, they eventually become subject to that ethical sense which is the mark of the adult.
Strictly speaking, it is only now that true genitality can fully develop; for much of the sex life proceding these commitments is of the identity-searching kind, or is dominated by phallic or vaginal strivings which make of sex-life a kind of genital combat. On the other hand, genitality is all too often described as a permanent state of reciprocal sexual bliss. This then, may be the place to complete our discussion of genitality.
For a basic orientation in the matter I shall quote what has come to me as Freud's shortest saying. It has often been claimed, and bad habits of conversation seem to sustain the claim, that psychoanalysis as a treatment attempts to convince the patient that before God and man he has only one obligation: to have good orgasms, with a fitting "object," and that regularly. This, of course, is not true. Freud was once asked what he thought a normal person should be able to do well. The questioner probably expected a complicated answer. But Freud, in the curt way of his old days, is reported to have said: "Lieben and arbeiten" (to love and to work). It pays to ponder on this simple formula; it gets deeper as you think about it. For when Freud said "love" he meant genital love, and genital love; when he said love and work, he meant a general work-productiveness which would not preoccupy the individual to the extent that he loses his right or capacity to be a genital and a loving being. Thus we may ponder, but we cannot improve on "the professor's" formula.
Genitality, then, consists in the unobstructed capacity to develop an orgastic potency so free of pregenital interferences that genital libido (not just the sex products discharged in Kinsey's "outlets") is expressed in heterosexual mutuality, with full sensitivity of both penis and vagina, and with a convulsion-like discharge of tension from the whole body. This is a rather concrete way of saying something about a process which we really do not understand. To put it more situationally: the total fact of finding, via the climactic turmoil of the orgasm, a supreme experience of the mutual regulation of two beings in some way takes the edge off the hostilities and potential rages caused by the oppositeness of male and female, of love and hate. Satisfactory sex relations thus make sex less obsessive, overcompensation less necessary, sadistic controls superfluous.
Preoccupied as it was with curative aspects, psychoanalysis often failed to formulate, the matter of genitality in a way significant for the processes of society in all classes, nations, and Levels of culture. The kind of mutuality in orgasm which psychoanalysis has in mind is apparently easily obtained in classes and cultures which happen to make a leisurely institution of it. In more complex societies this mutuality is interfered with by so many factors of health, of tradition, of opportunity, and of temperament, that the proper formulation of sexual health would be rather this: A human being should be potentially able to accomplish mutuality of genital orgasm, but he should also be so constituted as to bear a certain amount of frustration in the matter without undue regression wherever emotional preference or considerations of duty and loyalty call for it.
While psychoanalysis has on occasion gone too far in its emphasis on genitality as a universal cure for society and has thus provided a new addiction and a new commodity for many who wished to so interpret its teachings, it has not always indicated all the goals that genitality actually should and must imply. In order to be of lasting social significance, the utopia of genitality should include:
1. mutuality of orgasm
2. with a loved partner
3. of the other sex
4. with whom one is able and willing to share a mutual trust
5, and with whom one is able and willing to regulate the cycles of a. wgrk
6. so as to secure to the offspring, too, all the stages of a satisfactory development.
It is apparent that such utopian accomplishment on a large scale cannot be an individual or, indeed, a therapeutic task. Nor is it a purely sexual matter by any -means. It is integral to a culture's style of sexual selection, cooperation, and competition.
The danger of this stage is isolation, that is the avoidance of contacts which commit to intimacy. In psychopathology, this disturbance can lead to severe "character-problems." On the other hand, there are partnerships which amount to an isolation i deux, protecting both partners from the necessity to face the next critical development-that of generativity.
7. GENERATIVITY VS. STAGNATION
In this book the emphasis is on the childhood stages, otherwise the section on generativity would of necessity be the central one, for this term encompasses the evolutionary development which has made man the teaching and instituting as well as the learning animal. The fashionable insistence on dramatizing,the dependence of children on adults often blinds us to the dependnce of the older generation on the younger one. Mature man needs to be needed, and maturity needs guidance as well as encouragement from what has been produced and must be taken care of.
Generativity, then, is primarily the concern in establishing and guiding the next generation, although there are individuals who, through misfortune or because of special and genuine gifts in other directions, do not apply this drive to their own offspring. And indeed, the concept generativity is meant to include such more popular synonyms as productivity and creativity, which, however, cannot replace it.
It has taken psychoanalysis some time to realize that the ability to lose oneself in the meeting of bodies and minds leads to a gradual expansion of ego-interests and to a libidinal investment in that which is being generated. Generativity thus is an essential stage on the psychosexual as well as on the psychosocial schedule. Where such enrichment fails altogether, regression to an obsessive need for pseudo-intimacy takes place, often with a pervading sense of stagnation and personal impoverishment. Individuals, then, often begin to indulge themselves as if they were their own--or one another's--one and only child; and where conditions favor it, early invalidism, physical or psychological, becomes the vehicle of self-concern. The mere fact of having or even wanting children, however, does not "achieve" generativity. In fact, some young parents suffer, it seems, from the retardation of the ability to develop this stage. The reasons are often to be found in early childhood impressions; in excessive self-love based on a too strenuously self-made personality; and finally (and here we return to the beginnings) in the lack of some faith, some "belief in the species," which would make a child appear to be a welcome trust of the community.
As to the institutions which safeguard and reinforce generativity, one can only say that all institutions codify the ethics of generative succession. Even where philosophical and spiritual tradition suggests the renunciation of the right to procreate or to produce, such early turn to "ultimate concerns," wherever instituted in monastic movements, strives to settle at the same time the matter of its relationship to the Care for the creatures of this world and to the Charity which is felt to transcend it.
If this were a book on adulthood, it would be indispensable and profitable at this point to compare economic and psychological theories (beginning with the strange convergencies and divergencies of Marx and Freud) and to proceed to a discussion of man's relationship to his production as well as to his progeny.
8. EGO INTEGRITY VS. DESPAIR
Only in him who in some way has taken care of things and people and has adapted himself to the triumphs and disappointments adherent to being, the originator of others or the generator of products and ideas--only in him may gradually ripen the fruit of these seven stages. I know no better word for it than ego integrity. Lacking a clear definition, I shall point to a few constituents of this state of mind. It is the ego's accrued assurance of its proclivity for order and meaning. It is a post-narcissistic love of the human ego--not of the self--as an experience which conveys some world order and spiritual sense, no matter how dearly paid for. It is the acceptance of one's one and only life cycle as something that had to be and that, by necessity, permitted of no substitutions: it thus means a new, a different love of one's parents. It is a comradeship with the ordering ways of distant times and different pursuits, as expressed in the simple products and saying of such times and pursuits. Although aware of the relativity of all the various life styles which have given meaning to human striving, the possessor of integrity is ready to defend the dignity of his own life style against all physical and economic threats. For he knows that an individual. life is the accidental coincidence of but one life cycle with but one segment of history; and that for him all human integrity stands or falls with the one style of integrity of which he partakes. The style of integrity developed by his culture or civilization thus becomes the "patrimony of his soul," the seal of his moral paternity of himself (". . . pero el honor/Es patrimonio del alma": Calderon). In such final consolidation, death loses its sting.
The lack otloss of this accrued egomtegration is signified by fear of death: the one and the one and only life cycle is not accepted as the ultimate of life. Despair expresses the feeling that the time is now short, too short for the attempt to start another life and to try out alternate roads to integrity. Disgust hides despair, if often only in the form of "a thousand little disgusts" which do not add up to one big remorse: "mille petits degJuts de soi, dont le total ne fait pas un remords, mais un gene obscure." (Rostand)
Each individual, to become a mature adult, must to a sufficient degree develop all the ego qualities mentioned, so that a wise Indian, a true gentleman, ands a mature peasant share and recognize in one another the final stage of integrity. But each cultural entity, to develop the particular style of integrity suggested by its historical place, utilizes a particular combination of these conflicts, along with specific provocations and prohibitions of infantile sexuality. Infantile conflicts become creative only if sustained by the firm support of cultural institutions and of the special leader classes representing them. In order to approach or experience integrity, the individual must know how to be a follower of image bearers in religion and in politics, in the economic order and in technology, in aristocratic living and in the arts and sciences. Ego integrity, therefore, implies an emotional integration which permits participation by followership as well as acceptance of the responsibility of leadership.
Webster's dictionary is kind enough to help us complete this outline in a circular fashion. Trust (the first of our ego values) is here defined as "the assured reliance on another's integrity," the last of our values. I suspect that Webster had business in mind rather than babies, credit rather than faith. But the formulation stands. And it seems possible to further paraphrase the relation of adult integrity and infantile trust by saying that healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death.
9. AN EPIGENETIC CHART
In this book the emphasis is on the childhood stages. The foregoing conception of the life cycle, however, awaits systematic treatment. To prepare this, I shall conclude this chapter with a diagram. In this, as in the diagram of pregenital zones and modes, the diagonal represents the normative sequence of psychosocial gains made as at each stage one more nuclear conflict adds a new ego quality, a new criterion of accruing human strength. Below the diagonal there is space for the precursors of each of these solutions, all of which begin with the beginning; above the diagonal there is space for the designation of the derivatives of these gains and their transformations in the maturing and the mature personality.
The underlying assumptions for such charting are (1) that the human personality in principle develops according to steps predetermined in the growing person's readiness to be driven toward, to be aware of, and to interact with, a widening social radius; and (2) that society, in principle, tends to be so constituted as to meet and invite this succession of potentialities for interaction and attempts to safeguard and to encourage the proper rate and the proper sequence of their enfolding. This is the "maintenance of the human world."
But a chart is only a tool to think with, and cannot aspire to be a prescription to abide by, whether in the practice of childtraining, in psychotherapy, or in the methodology of child study. In the presentation of the psychosocial stages in the form of an epigenetic chart analogous to the one employed in Chapter 2 for an analysis of Freud's psychosexual stages, we have definite and delimited methodological steps in mind. It is one purpose of this work to facilitate the comparison of the stages first discerned by Freud as sexual to other schedules of development (physical, cognitive). But any one chart delimits one schedule only, and it must not be imputed that our outline of the psychosocial schedule is intended to imply obscure generalities concerning other aspects of development--or, indeed, of existence. If the chart, for example, lists a series of conflicts or crises, we do not consider all development a series of crises: we claim only that psychosocial development proceeds by critical steps--"critical" being a characteristic of turning points, of moments
of decision between progress and regression, integration and retardation.
It may be useful at this point to spell out the methodological implications of an epigenetic matrix. The more heavily-lined squares of the diagonal signify both a sequence of stages and a gradual development of component parts: in other words, the chart formalizes a progression through time of a differentiation of parts. This indicates. (1) that each critical item of psychosocial strenght discussed here is systematically related to all others and that they all depend on the proper development in the proper sequence of each item; and (2) that each item exists in some form before its critical time normally arrives.
If I say, for example, that a favorable ratio of basic trust over basic mistrust is the first step in psychosocial adaptation, a favorable ratio of autonomous will over shame and doubt, the second, the corresponding diagrammatic statement expresses a number of fundamental relations that exist between the two steps, as well as some facts fundamental to each. Each comes to its ascendance, meets its crisis, and finds its lasting solution during the stage indicated. But they all must exist from the beginning in some form, for every act calls for an integration. of all. Also, an infant may show something like "autonomy" from the beginning in the particular way in which he angrily tries to wriggle himself free when tightly held. However, under normal conditions, it is not until the second year that he begins to experience the whole critical opposition of being an autonomous creature and being a dependent one; and it is not until then that he is ready for a decisive encounter with his environment, an environment which, in turn, feels called upon to convey to him its particular ideas and concepts of autonomy and coercion in ways decisively contributing to the character and the health of his personality in his culture. It is this encounter, together with the resulting crisis, that we have tentatively described for each stage. As to the progression from one stage to the next, the diagonal indicates the sequence to be followed. However, it also makes room for variations in tempo and intensity.
An epigenetic diagram thus lists a system of stages dependent on each other; and while individual stages may have been explored more or less thoroughly or named more or less fittingly, the diagram suggests that their study be pursued always with the total configuration of stages in mind. All of this should make it clear that a chart of epigenesis suggests a global form of thinking and rethinking which leaves details of methodogy and terminology to further study.
To leave this matter truly open, certain misuses of the whole conception would have to be avoided. Among them is the assumption that the sense of trust(and all the other "positive" senses postulated) is an achievement, secured once and for all at a given state. In fact, some writers are so intent on making an achievement scale out of these stages that they blithely omit all the "negative" senses (basic mistrust, etc.) which are and remain the dynamic counterpart of the "positive" ones throughout life. The assumption that on each. stage a goodness is achieved which is impervious to new inner conflicts and to changing conditions is, I believe, a projection on child development of that success ideology which can so dangerously pervade our private and public daydreams and can make us inept in a heightened struggle for a meaningful existence in a new, industrial era of history. The personality is engaged with the hazards of existence continuously, even as the body's metabolism copes with decay. As we come to diagnose a state of relative strength and the symptoms of an impaired one, we face only more clearly the paradoxes and tragic potentials of human life.
The stripping of the stages of everything but their "achievements" has its counterpart in attempts to describe or test them as "traits" or "aspirations" without first building a systematic bridge between the conception advanced throughout this book and the favorite concepts of other investigators. If the foregoing sounds somewhat plaintive, it is not intended to gloss over the fact that in giving to these strengths the very designations by which in the past they have acquired countless connotations of superficial goodness, affected niceness, and all too strenuous virtue, I invited misunderstandings and misuses. However, I believe, that there is an intrinsic relationship between ego and language and that despite passing vicissitudes certain basic words retain essential meanings.
I have since attempted to formulate for Julian Huxley's Humanist Frame (Allen and Unwin, 1961; Harper and Brothers, 1962) a blueprint of essential strengths which evolution has built both into the ground plan of the life stages and into that of man's institutions. While I cannot discuss here the methodological problems involved (and aggravated by my use of the term "basic virtues"), I should append the list of these strengths because they are really the lasting outcome of the "favorable ratios" mentioned at every step of the chapter on psychosocial stages. Here they are:
Basic Trust vs. Basic Mistrust: Drive and Hope
Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt: Self-Control and Willpower
Initiative vs. Guilt: Direction and Purpose
Industry vs. Inferiority: Method and Competence
Identity vs. Role Confusion: Devotion and Fidelity
Intimacy vs. Isolation: Affiliation and Love
Generativity vs. Stagnation: Production and Care
Ego Integrity vs. Despair: Renunciation and Wisdom
The italicized words are called basic virtues because without them, and their re-emergence from generation to generation, all other and more changeable systems of human values lose their spirit and their relevance. Of this list, I have been able so far to give a more detailed account only for Fidelity (see Youth, Change and Challenge, E. H. Erikson, editor, Basic Books, 96;). But here again, the list represents a total conception within which there is much room for a discussion of terminology and methodology.