Freud and His Followers
Freud: A Collection of Critical Essays
Social Amnesia: A Critique of Conformist Psychology from Adler to Laing
How It Begun
Robert Burton has set it down in Part. 1, Sect. 3, Memb. 2, Subs. 4 of his Anatomy, with respect to the melancholies of maids, nuns, and widows, in a way unimprovable, thus:
…the most ordinary symptoms be these, a beating about the back, which is almost perpetual, the skin is many times rough, squalid…. The midriff and heartstrings do burn and beat fearfully, and when this vapour or fume is stirred, flieth upward…their faces are inflamed, and red, they are dry, thirsty, suddenly hot, much troubled with wind, cannot sleep, &c. And from hence proceed a brutish kind of dotage, trouble-some sleep, terrible dreams in the night, a foolish kind of bashfulness to some, perverse conceits and opinions, dejection of mind, much discontent, preposterous judgement…now this, now that offends, they are weary of all; yet will not, cannot again tell how, where, or what offends them, though they be in great pain, agony, and frequently complain, grieving, sighing, weeping and discontented still, without any manifest cause….
And with such observations it may have begun: at Charcot’s clinical theater, Brücke’s Physiological Institute, Meynert’s neurological lab, whatever it was: a thought, a therapy, a theory of nervous diseases: in the consulting room, at the bedside, the dissecting table, where gradually whatever It was became Es and Id.
There was the case of Anna O for a start (she threw cushions); there was Frau Emmy von N, who emitted curious clacking sounds like those of the wood grouse, Fräulein Elisabeth von R, then, who slept in her father’s sickroom (the good doctors gave to each a discreet and ladylike letter of the alphabet, an altered place, and a rubbed out year); there was a Miss Lucy R too, one Katharina (otherwise letterless) whom Freud encountered on the summit of a mountain. Fräulein Rosalia H, Frau Cäcilie M, women whose illnesses now enliven patches of our modern faiths and fictions the way the peccadillos of the gods once did, whatever their troubles were.
Yes, whatever these troubles ultimately were, in lives full of sabbaths and sacrifice which nevertheless displayed all the menacing emptiness of abandoned buildings, they were tribulations marked and occasioned by severe anxieties, odd and naughty behavior, hallucinations, facial paralysis, a compulsive cough in some cases, leg pains, loss of breath in others, by unbearable disappointments in love, profound yet groundless feelings of unworthiness, perhaps the persistent odor of burned pudding or noises like Captain Hook’s ticking clock which followed the ear or nose about, embarrassing compulsions, irreparable losses, suspiciously many importunate uncles, frustrations like those of a fly abuzz in the pane of a window, constrictions of every kind, boredom beyond description; and as these symptoms accumulated like trash in a can and Freud waited for them to say where they came from or what they meant, he found among…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.