Freud: A Critical Re-Evaluation of His Theories

By Reuben D. Fine | Go to book overview

Chapter X. THE REACTION TO FREUD

Freud's early work was almost completely ignored -- to such an extent that he later referred to "a ten-year period of splendid isolation." Of The Interpretation of Dreams, as has been noted, it took eight years to sell the six hundred copies that had been printed. Eighteen months after the publication of the book Freud wrote that not a single scientific periodical and only a few others had mentioned it. His other major work, Three Essays on Sexuality, fared slighly better: one thousand copies were printed and sold within four years. Obviously at this time the world was paying little attention to Freud.

The situation began to change during the first decade of the present century. By 1908 Freud had enough followers to call an informal meeting of the psychoanalytic association at Salzburg in Austria, and by 1910 there were enough psychoanalysts in the world to arrange a formal meeting at Nuremberg in Germany.

The theories of the unconscious and of infantile sexuality produced a fantastic storm of opposition and gross misunderstanding, which has by no means fully abated today, although it is far more subdued in tone. Jones in Volume II of his Freud biography has a whole chapter devoted to reports of the opposition. These can scarcely inspire one with respect for either the honesty or the competence of Freud's medical colleagues.

A few examples will serve to illustrate the irrational prejudice which greeted Freud. At a Congress of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists in Hamburg in 1910 Professor Wilhelm Weygandt, when Freud's theories were mentioned, banged his fist on the table and shouted: "This is not a topic for discussion at a scientific meeting; it is a matter for the police." When Ferenczi in 1911 read a

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