Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Freud's Paternity Crises

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Freud's Paternity Crises

Article excerpt


Freud revisited his birthplace of Freiberg only once - in 1872. He described the joys of staying with Emil Fluss's family and an infatuation he formed for Fluss's sister Gisella to his friend Eduard Silberstein. In 1873, Freud told Silberstein he wanted to revisit Freiberg but his father had barred him from doing so forever. He said Jacob's reasons were good but did not elaborate (Boelich, 1990, p. 29). Jacob's unexplained ban provokes curiosity over what Freud might have encountered had he returned.

In Screen Memories, Freud pleasantly recalled his early days in Freiberg and his adolescent infatuation. Yet when he wrote about Freiberg to Wilhelm Fliess, Freud associated it with trauma from losing his nursemaid at the time his sister Anna was born (Masson, 1985, p. 271). Freud publicly mentioned it in 1901, in a chapter of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life - 'Screen Memories and Childhood'. He returned to it again in 1924 when he associated the memory to a death wish against Anna and suspicions about his half-brother Philipp and his mother (Freud, 1901, p. 51 n. 2).

A great deal of attention has been paid to the roles of Freud's mother and half-brother in that story (e.g. KrUll, 1986). Yet Freud's intense dislike of his sister Anna gets short shrift, even in Appignanesi and Forrester's magisterial Freud's Women. They simply question Freud's claim that he remembered his infant brother Julius's birth but had no memory of Anna's birth. Since Freud's guilt over Julius was due to a death wish, and was a central part of his self-analysis, it is strange that they fail to note his obliteration of Anna's memory as the ultimate form of death wish. This omission stands out all the more since they do note that Freud excluded his mother from Screen Memories (Appignanesi and Forrester, 1992, pp. 19-20).

Freud's sister Anna reported that her earliest recollections were after they moved to Vienna. She wrote of Freiberg as a place she had heard about where her father was a handsome wealthy factory owner, who left after he honorably sold his business to cover debts incurred by the sons of his first marriage (Bernays, 2006, p. 98). There is no record of any of this having happened (Schröter and Tögel, 2007).

Freud had a very different view of his father and half-brothers that he expressed in Screen Memories. When he depicted his early days in Freiberg, he described how he played happily with his half-brother Emanuel's children. This point makes Anna's absence even more pronounced. Freud further emphasized his links with Emanuel in Screen Memories in describing a trip he took to England 3 years after his 1872 trip to Freiberg. Freud mentioned this trip again in 1901 in discussing an error in a story about antiSemitism where he identified himself with Hannibal. In it, he misidentified Hannibal's father as Hasdrubal - Hannibal's brother's name. Freud observed that this error equated Hannibal's brother with his father, and so reinforced his own sense of thinking of his half-brother Emmanuel as his father (1901, pp. 219-20).

The story about anti-Semitism was one Jacob Freud had told Freud when he was 10 or 12 years old about an event in Freiberg before Freud was born. Jacob was dressed up, walking on the Sabbath when a man suddenly knocked his hat into a muddy street, and shouted Jew and ordered him off the pavement (Freud, 1900b, p. 197). Freud asked what did he do? Jacob quietly said he stepped into the road and picked up his hat. Freud was shocked that someone so big had accepted abuse so meekly. He contrasted Jacob with Hannibal's father, who had passed his desire for eternal vengeance against Rome to his son. Freud decided to be Hannibal. However, when he retold the story, his error showed that he wanted to be his older brother's son.

Freud explained that Emanuel had changed his thinking about their father in England. He had told Freud to stop seeing himself as part of his father's second generation, but rather of his third. …

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