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Glenn, J. (1986). Freud, Dora, and the Maid: A Study of Countertransference. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 34:591-606.

(1986). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 34:591-606

Freud, Dora, and the Maid: A Study of Countertransference

Jules Glenn, M.D.


Early advances in psychoanalytic knowledge, profound though they were, were incomplete structures to be built upon, modified, and partially discarded. In addition to errors due to insufficient knowledge, Freud's difficulties with Dora stemmed from countertransference. Dora's transference included an identification with a governess/maid. Important oedipal role played by a nursemaid in Freud's life made him vulnerable to being left by Dora. The maid, Monika, "the prime originator" of Freud's neurosis, seduced him, chastised him, and taught him of hell. In his self-analysis she was associated with Freud's mother who left him when she gave birth to his sister. When he was two and a half years old, Monika was discharged and jailed for stealing.

I suggest that Freud's attraction to Dora revealed itself in his libidinal imagery of the treatment and his premature sexual interpretations, the effects of which he misjudged. Defending against his attraction, he pushed her away from him, did not act to keep her in analysis or allow her to reenter analysis later. In addition, since Dora had left him as he must have felt his childhood nursemaid had, he reacted as if she were that maid. Hurt, saddened, and angered, he used reversal and deserted her, thus damping his feelings.

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