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Brown, W. (1927). General: Charles S. Myers. Freudian Psychology: A Lecture given at the Institute of Pathology and Research, St. Mary's Hospital, on June 3, 1926. The Lancet, June 19, 1926.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 8:77-79.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: General: Charles S. Myers. Freudian Psychology: A Lecture given at the Institute of Pathology and Research, St. Mary's Hospital, on June 3, 1926. The Lancet, June 19, 1926.
(1927). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 8:77-79
The author wanted to form a more exact judgment of Freud's teachings. On the other hand he recognized that few had ever made this attempt in a spirit of impartiality or after adequate training in normal psychology. The reaction of nearly all Freud's followers had been an emotional one.
He then proceeds to display his spirit of impartiality first by dealing with Freud the man. He is not a trained psychologist, he ignores or despises current psychology, but contempt is often the cloak for ignorance. He suspects that Freud depicts 'the dim recesses of his own soul, ' within which affection conflicts with enmity, generosity with despotism, inferiority with ambition, and the volatile, volcanic temperament of the artist with the man of science.
As a boy no doubt he was subjected to all the indignity and contempt inseparable from an anti-Semitic atmosphere. In his followers, too, a lack of mental balance is notable, and at least three suicides (!) are on record within the narrow range of Freud's own psycho-analytic circle in Vienna.
Freud has founded a school of which he is the despotic, infallible, quasi-papal head. As a leader he has been compared to the leader of a herd who drives out any members who attempt to usurp his authority. This attitude his enemies ascribe to ambition and intolerance, his devotees to the necessity of protecting his teachings from charlatanry.
Quite dishonestly he then quotes a passage from Beyond the Pleasure Principle dealing with the deathinstinct which Freud specifically states is purely speculative, and gives to his hearers the impression that Freud is speaking of his whole teaching. Thus: 'I might be asked whether I am myself convinced of the views here set forward, and if so how far. My answer would be that I am neither convinced myself, nor am I seeking to arouse conviction in others. More accurately, I do not know how far I believe in them'.
In Freud's hands hypnosis did not prove uniformly successful; his experience was, it concealed the resistance and therefore only yielded incomplete information and transitory therapeutic success. This, however, was not the experience of others, who found in it a rapid method of psychological analysis during the war. But during a psycho-analysis the escape from the use of hypnosis is not so complete as at first sight it appears
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to be. The state of calm self-observation in which the patient is told to place himself is apt to pass into a condition of mild hypnosis.
The description of the transference is peculiarly distorted. We may well wonder how far psycho-analysis as practised by Freud owes its success to the resuscitation of repressed complexes, how far to the peculiar interpretation, almost invariably in terms of sexuality, which he gives to his patients, and how far to the extraordinarily suggestive influence which the analyst comes to exert over his patient because of this transference. Realizing the enormous power of suggestion and Freud's stress on the transference, can we from the therapeutic success of Freud's psycho-analysis justifiably infer the truth of his interpretations and of his view of the rôle of sexuality in the psychoneuroses?
Can we be sure that Freud is justified in his belief that every neurotic is homosexually inclined; that every neurotic shows in his symptoms substitutes for sexual gratification; that most dreams treat of sexual material and give expression to erotic wishes?
Freud's cardinal error is undue readiness for generalization. No one will deny the sexual causation of many dreams and neuroses, but he will refuse to accept this as a generalization. Again in slips of the tongue could anyone who has had experience of apraxia accept the generalization of Freud's theory of two different intentions interfering with one another? So again the Oedipus complex, in the sense of a special attachment of the child to its parent of the opposite sex, exists. But that it is universally present in the development of every individual is sheer generalization based on totally inadequate evidence and opposed by other competent observers.
In regard to sexuality there is always a risk of applying to normal persons the findings in abnormal cases. Therefore we are not justified in concluding that the perversions are latent in all or that the sexual instinct has a manifold source. We refuse to follow Freud in his conclusion that because infants perform the movements of suckling with no other object than that of obtaining pleasure one should therefore call these areas erotogenic zones and describe the pleasure as a sexual one.
The libido theory is a fantastic creation which the author is unable to understand. Sometimes it is obscurely described as the investment of energy directed by the ego, sometimes as inflating the ego with its own energy. Sometimes, as in anxiety, the ego is described as flying from its libido, and so on.
Speaking of the unconscious, he remarks that Freud has been forced to posit an ego-ideal or super-ego, a moral factor dominating the ego. The super-ego or conscience acquires its characteristics of authority and affection because it is created by the first relations of the libido of the 'Es', namely, towards the two parents, when introjected into the ego. Who
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but a blind follower, totally untrained in psychology, could adopt such a wild, useless farago of generalization? Freud sees sex everywhere, and attends to little else.
Referring to symbolism, it is stated there are few statements of Freud which are wholly untrue. But his lack of psychological training, his need to maintain his position as the head of a school and his own brilliant and erratic personality, combine to make his teachings ridiculous in the sight of all free-minded men. Nobody denies that symbolism often provides a welcome source of escape from unpleasant ideas. But look at the list of symbols given by Freud for the genital organs! Here follows a list of symbols.
Those who wish to see to what lengths Freud and his followers are prepared to go in bringing suggestion to play on their subjects should read his analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy. He seizes upon the fact that Freud had to abandon his theory of the infantile sexual trauma in favour of phantasies, and asks is it not possible that from this conviction, based on a few possible real instances, he has been led to suggest to his hysterical patients that they had been violated in early life?
Two dreams, with their interpretations, are taken from Freud's writings to illustrate the supposed absurdity of the symbolicinterpretation. He chides Freud for his familiarity with the unconscious and says he claims to know as much about the unconscious mind as the ordinary religious man claims to know about the mentality of God.
If only Freud had taken the trouble to define more adequately what he meant by wishes, by ideas—sexuality, instinct, anxiety, love—and had abided if only for a few consecutive years by these definitions, how different would have been the result. But then we should have exchanged the wild visionary, the inspired seer, for the duller and more temperate man of science.