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Spence, D.P. (2002). Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision: Louis Breger, New York: Wiley, 2000, 480 pp., $30.00.. Psychoanal. Psychol., 19(2):389-392.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 19(2):389-392

Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision: Louis Breger, New York: Wiley, 2000, 480 pp., $30.00.

Review by:
Donald P. Spence, Ph.D.

How does experience turn into explanation? How does the private life of the theorist become realized in his or her theory? A specific moment of disorder and early sorrow, viewed from the inside, may so sensitize the theorist to certain aspects of the human condition that he or she sees connections that the rest of us never discover. From these insights may come a plausible and useful theory. But the same private event may also bring with it a feeling of inevitability that becomes translated into theoretical rigidity and an intolerance for disagreement, discussion, or accommodation. Because it happened to me, goes the argument, it must happen to everyone, and I am the authority.

Louis Breger's new biography, Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision, brings us the clearest picture to date of these two sides of Freud's history. We see, in perhaps more detail than ever before, the bleak nature of his early childhood; can begin to sense how exposed he was to loss, to separation, and to unrelieved misery; and begin to understand how these early impressions may have sensitized him to certain developmental traumas that few others were aware of, making for a significantly different theory of the mind. But Breger also makes clear Freud's ruthless need to be right, to stifle argument and dissension and claim discovery of universal laws when, at best, he was only catching sight of a possible hypothesis.

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