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Forrester, J. (2009). Editorial. Psychoanal. Hist., 11(1):1-4.

(2009). Psychoanalysis and History, 11(1):1-4


John Forrester

From the moment in 1950 when Freud's letters to Fliess and the accompanying drafts and papers became available, a history of the development of psychoanalytic concepts and their intertwining with Freud's personal development became a real possibility, focused substantially on the period of the 1890s, the formative period of many psychoanalytic concepts, when Freud was intensely involved with Wilhelm Fliess. All histories of psychoanalysis since then have found the Fliess papers an inexhaustible resource. The discovery of the ‘Fliess period’ made clear to historians and biographers that Freud's most important period of intellectual development was inextricably linked to an intimate and passionate male friendship, so that his later famously intense professional relationships and equally intense differences of opinion — sometimes leading to the termination of all contact, as with Jung, with Adler, with Rank, even with Ferenczi—became more recognizably Freud's libidinal pattern. As Jones wrote of ‘the Fliess period’, this was ‘the only really extraordinary experience in Freud's life’ (Jones 1955, p. 316) — precisely because it expressed so much more fully than any other experience Freud's character (or, as modern psychoanalysts might put it, his entire world of internal objects). Jones intended to assert that this sole extraordinary experience was the act of Freud's freeing himself from Fliess ‘by following a path hitherto untrodden by any human being, by the heroic task of exploring his own unconscious mind’ — but the judgement has, ever since, left open the possibility that Freud's willing ‘subordination’ — again, the word is Jones's — to Fliess was something much more than just the necessary condition for his discovery of psychoanalysis.

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