Freud: A Critical Re-Evaluation of His Theories

By Reuben D. Fine | Go to book overview

Chapter III. SELF-ANALYSIS -- 1895-1899

The few publications from Freud's pen in the period from the Studies on Hysteria ( 1895) to the Interpretation of Dreams ( 1900) were primarily reformulations of positions already established. What he was preoccupied with instead was, as we now know from biographical and autobiographical data, his own self-analysis. It was his analysis of himself that brought about the decisive change in his interest from neurology to psychology, and created a whole new science, psychoanalysis.

The role that Freud's own analysis played in the history of the science can scarcely be overestimated. It established the precedent for the contemporary training analysis, still the most essential part of the preparation of any psychoanalyst. It showed that the difference between the neurotic and the normal is a quantitative one of degree, not a qualitative one of kind. Freud had always had an inkling that this must be so. In 1882 he had written to his fiancée: "I always find it uncanny when I can't understand someone in terms of myself."17 Now he was to prove his hunch.

Appreciation of the role that self-analysis played in Freud's development has come only gradually and late. He himself made but few allusions to it in his published writings, and in these he attached no real importance to what he had done. After his death in 1939 some scattered references to autobiographical data were brought to light and commented upon. Then his letters to Fliess, to which reference has already been made, were discovered and published in 1950.

Wilhelm Fliess was a Berlin physician who was a close friend of Freud's from 1887 to 1902. The two often met to discuss scientific matters and engaged in a lively correspondence. Fliess kept Freud's letters. After Fliess's death his widow sold them to a Berlin book-

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