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Esterson, A. (1999). ‘Getting in on the act: the hysterical solution’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(6):1237-1239.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(6):1237-1239

‘Getting in on the act: the hysterical solution’

Allen Esterson

Dear Sir,

According to the abstract, in his article ‘Getting in on the act: the hysterical solution’ (1999) Ronald Britton incorporates ‘additional information now available to us about Breuer's treatment of Bertha Pappenheim’, most notably that bearing on ‘the erotic transference … culminating in her hysterical pregnancy and labour’ (p. 1). In the article itself this event is treated as ‘knowledge’ that Freud possessed about Pappenheim, and hence legitimate material to incorporate into Britton's analysis of the case of Anna O. Now although Freud never published this material, in ‘On the history of the psychoanalytic movement’ he alludes to an ‘untoward event’ which led Breuer to break off ‘all further investigation’ of Pappenheim (1914p. 12), and writes that Breuer ‘never said this to me in so many words, but he told me enough at different times to justify this reconstruction of what happened’ (my italics). There is a similar allusion to the termination of the treatment in An Autobiographical Study (1925pp. 26-7), where Freud writes about how he ‘came to interpret the case correctly and to reconstruct, from some remarks which [Breuer] had made, the conclusion of his treatment of it’ (my italics).

The fact that on each occasion Freud states he reconstructed the ‘untoward event’ suggests that one should be cautious about assuming the authenticity of the phantom pregnancy.

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