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von Freytag-Loringhoven, H. (2013). The Fiancée Letters: “Be mine as I envision you” [“Sei mein, wie ich mir's denke. Die Brautbriefe”], Vol. 1: June 1882-July 1883 by Sigmund Freud, Martha Bernays edited by Gerhard Fichtner, Ilse Grubrich-Simitis and Albrecht Hirschmüller Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 2011; 628 pp; €48. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 94(1):205-210.

(2013). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 94(1):205-210

The Fiancée Letters: “Be mine as I envision you” [“Sei mein, wie ich mir's denke. Die Brautbriefe”], Vol. 1: June 1882-July 1883 by Sigmund Freud, Martha Bernays edited by Gerhard Fichtner, Ilse Grubrich-Simitis and Albrecht Hirschmüller Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 2011; 628 pp; €48

Review by:
Hannsjörg von Freytag-Loringhoven

Curiosity for The Fiancée Letters was piqued decades ago by Ernest Jones in his biography of Freud and by Freud's son, Ernst. The first volume of the complete set of five (1882-1886) has just now been published in German. It was presented at the opening of the 47th International Psychoanalytic Association Congress in Mexico City, in honour of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the IPA, by one of the editors: psychoanalyst and Freud researcher, Ilse Grubrich-Simitis. It is her view that The Fiancée Letters describe the progress of a man who initially presented himself in the role of a radical paternal authority, but who then learned that his fiancée would accept this stance only on the condition that he accepted her as his peer. This hypothesis may provide some understanding of why Martha, even as his beloved, repeatedly referred to him by his doctor title, as if in jest. In actuality, this was not an act of submission! By addressing him in this manner, she was meeting the autonomy afforded him by his high academic standing with the equality of her own femininity. By doing so, she was unaware that she was also setting forth a basic tenet of later psychoanalysis.

It was precisely in this way that psychoanalysis differentiated itself from the other treatment methods of the day. This principle of equality which Martha Bernays implicitly introduced quite simply conveyed the understanding that an authentic human relationship can only come into being if the more powerful figure forgoes some of the use of his power.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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