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Sigmund Freud
The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis

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"...we men, with the high claims of our civilization and under the pressure of our repressions, find reality generally quite unsatisfactory"

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INTRODUCTION TO The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis

Freud was born in Freiburg, Moravia (now Pribor in the Czech Republic). He studied medicine in Vienna and was a member of the team that discovered the local anaesthetic effect of cocaine. He learned hypnosis in Paris under the physiologist Charcot and later in Nancy among Charcot's opponents. His research into hysteria began with the Viennese physician Josef Breuer, and, from 1886 on, through Freud's private practice in Vienna, where he abandoned hypnosis in favour of 'psychoanalysis' by free association on his patients- mainly upper-middle-class, middle-aged women. Here he developed the ideas that unconscious forces influence people's thoughts and actions, that repression of infantile sexuality and aggression can be the root of adult neuroses. He tried to interpret dreams and drew a comparison between the symbolism of dreams and of mythology and religion, stating that religion was an infantile and neurotic projection of repressed wishes.

He was controversial in his time, and controversial now. Nonetheless, his theories have changed the way people think about human nature and brought about a much more open approach to sexual matters. Irrationality, crime, love, hate and fear are now seen as, at least in part, the product of unconscious drives. It is this view which has had such a wide influence, not only on the science and medicine of the mind (where it remains highly questioned), but on art, literature, philosophy and, indeed, on everyday thinking about the way we humans are.

Following the Nazi occupation of Austria in 1938, Freud left for London, where he died.

The terminology of psychology, much of it coined by Freud, has not passed into popular usage without distortion. Here are some of the terms used by him and his successors, but with no guarantee that every authority will agree to this choice of definition.
Affect: Observable behaviour that represents an emotional state.
Anal stage: The period of psychosexual development associated with the 1st to 3rd years, in which there is special interest in defecation.
Autoeroticism: Sensual self-gratification; genital play, masturbation, fantasy.
Catharsis: The healthful release of ideas, the freeing into awareness of repressed material from the unconscious.
Ego: The personality; the visible result of mediation between primitive instinctual drives (the id), and social prohibitions (the superego).
Ego ideal: The self's aspirations.
Ego-dystonic: Referring to aspects of the self which are self-viewed as repugnant.
Free association: Spontaneous, uncensored verbalisation of whatever comes to mind.
Id: The unconscious source of desires and drives.
Intellectualisation: Excessive abstract thinking to avoid confrontation with disturbing feelings.
Libido: The sexual instinct, in the broad sense of pleasure and love-object seeking.
Magical thinking: The conviction that thinking equates with doing.
Oral stage: The first year's psychosexual development, consisting of the oral erotic (sucking) and the oral sadistic (biting). Addiction, depression and character traits such as pessimism have been traced to failure to resolve these conflicting predispositions.
Psychosis: Widely-used and poorly-defined term, generally taken to indicate psychological impairment, commonly with delusions or hallucinations.
Reality principle: The ability to evaluate the external world and to differentiate between it and the internal world.
Secondary gain: The advantage derived from an illness, such as attention and release from responsibilities.
Structural theory: Freud's division of the mind into id, ego, and superego.
Sublimation: An unconscious mechanism whereby undesired instinctive drives are diverted into the socially acceptable.
Superego: The part of the personality associated with ethics, standards, and self-criticism, generally formed from an early role-model.
Transitional object: An object chosen by an infant for self-soothing and anxiety-reduction.
Unconscious: That part of the mind, which rarely, or never, enters awareness.
Wernicke's Aphasia: Loss of linguistic ability.
Word-salad: Jumbled words, common in schizophrenia.
Zeitgeist: The general intellectual and cultural tastes of an era.


The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis was delivered as five of lectures by Freud at Clark University in September 1909 and later published in the The American Journal of Psychology. This Squashed Edition reduces the original to a readable 6,800 words.


Sigmund Freud, 1910
The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis

"...we men, with the high claims of our civilization and under the pressure of our repressions, find reality generally quite unsatisfactory"

I did not create psychoanalysis. My colleague, Dr Joseph Breuer, first applied this method to the case of a hysterical girl who had developed paralysis, impairment of vision, speech disorders, "absences," and altered personality. Physician's can't understand hysteria, and tend to blame the patient. Dr. Breuer offered sympathy, and tried hypnosis, repeating back to the girl words she mumbled while in her 'absences'. This 'talking cure' helped her remember the traumatic incidents that had led to her condition, all associated with the time she spent caring for her dying father. When she was allowed to vigorously express long-restrained emotion from each memory, the symptom vanished permanently. Breuer found that almost all hysterical symptoms are remnants of traumatic experiences. P Janet of Paris had proposed that hysteria is a mental weakness, but this does not accord with observation. I could not hypnotise many of my patients, so worked with them in their normal state, encouraging them to tell me about past experiences. When they declared they knew nothing more, I would assert that the memory would emerge as I laid my hand on their forehead. It seemed that wishes had been aroused, which was incompatible with the "ego" of the patient. His ethical and other pretensions were preventing the wish being expressed, and so causing trauma. To discover a repressed complex, we let the patient speak as he desires, assuming that all he says is of value. The interpretation of dreams is the surest ground of psychoanalysis. We usually reject and forget dreams, especially when they carry immoral longings. The dreams of young children are of the fulfillment of wishes from previous experiences. Adult dreams are more disguised, preventing repressed wishes from entering consciousness, but betray the importance of experiences from early childhood. There are also those bungling acts of forgetting and confusion which are normally ignored, but can betray the most intimate secrets of psychic life. Psychoanalysis often traces symptoms back to early childhood wishes, which are generally sexual. It is not easy to accept that the child has sexual impulses from the beginning. But the child enjoys auto-excitation of the genitals, and begins to develop a libido with a second person as its object. The disposition to neuroses can arise from impaired development of the sex life, though I use the word "sexuality" in a very wide sense. The child takes his parents as objects of erotic desire, he begins to investigate where children come from. You may regard psychoanalytic treatment as a continued education for the overcoming of childhood-remnants. One is afraid of doing harm by psychoanalysis, of calling up repressed impulses, but experience shows that a wish made conscious is weakened. We do not wish to destroy sexuality, for without a certain ration of oats, no work could be expected from any animal.

The Squashed Philosophers Edition of...

The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud
Squashed version edited by Glyn Hughes © 2011


Ladies and Gentlemen: I assume that you have invited me to talk of psychoanalysis. So, I shall attempt to give you a brief history of this new method of research and cure.

If creating psychoanalysis is a merit, it is not my merit. I was a busy student, when another Viennese physician, Joseph Breuer, first applied this method to the case of a hysterical girl, which we outlined in 1882 in "Studien über Hysterie." I notice with pleasure that most here do not belong to the medical profession, for we will accompany the doctors a little way, but then follow Dr. Breuer alone.

Dr. Breuer's patient was an intelligent girl of twenty one, who had developed paralysis of her extremities, impairment of vision, intense Tussis nervosa, nausea on trying to take nourishment, and, at one time, an inability to drink. She lost speech and was subject to "absences," delirium, and alteration of her whole personality.

There is clearly an injury here, probably to the brain. As her vital organs seemed normal, physicians will expect that there is a state of hysteria, known since the ancient Greeks. We should know that the illness first appeared while she was caring for her beloved dying father.

The physician, who has learned much anatomy and physiology and pathology, can understand alterations of the brain in apoplexy or dementia, but he cannot understand hysteria. He is reduced to the layman's position, which is very disagreeable to one who sets a high value on his own knowledge. Hystericals, accordingly, tend to lose his sympathy; he blames them for exaggerations, deceit and "simulation," and punishes them by withdrawing his interest.

Now Dr. Breuer did offer sympathy and interest. He noticed that in her states of "absence," she mumbled words to herself. He used a sort of hypnosis in which he repeated these words, in order to bring up any associations that they might have.

The patient yielded up certain fancies, deeply sad, often poetically beautiful, daydreams, commonly centered on a girl beside her father's sickbed. In relating them, she seemed to be freed and restored to normal mental life, until the next day a new "absence" arose, which was removed in the same way. The patient herself, who strangely enough understood and spoke only English, called this "the talking cure," or jokingly, "chimney sweeping." Symptoms would disappear when, in hypnosis, she could be made to remember the situation under which they first appeared, provided free vent was given to the emotions that they aroused.

It was a hot summer, yet the patient developed an extreme fear of drinking water, eating only fruit to relieve her tormenting thirst. After about six weeks, she was talking in hypnosis of how she had once met with her despised English governess, to find that lady's dog had drunk out of a glass. After she had energetically expressed her restrained anger, she was easily able to drink. The symptom thereupon vanished permanently. Breuer found that almost all symptoms originated as remnants, as precipitates, of affectively toned experiences, which we came to call "psychic traumata."

There was one curiosity; it was usually several experiences which seemed to co-operate in bringing about the trauma, and it was impossible to reach the first and most essential one, without first clearing away those coming later.

When I began to use Breuer's methods, my experiences coincided with his. There was the case of a woman who developed a peculiar smacking tic whenever she was excited. It had its origin in two experiences where she had tried to suppress all sound, once in putting her sick child to sleep, and once in trying to remain calm during a thunderstorm. To generalize: Hysterical patients suffer from symptoms which are the remnants of traumatic experiences.

A comparison with other sorts of memory symbols may help us understand this. In London there is an ornate Gothic pillar called Charing Cross, a memory of the last sad journey of the coffin of Eleanor, wife of one of the Plantagenant kings. But what would you say to a Londoner who today stood sadly before Queen Eleanor's cross, instead of rejoicing with the young queen of his own heart? Now hystericals and neurotics behave like this unpractical Londoner, they cannot escape from painful experiences of the past.

In the experience with the governess' dog, our patient suppressed disgust through regard for convention. When she reproduced the same scenes before the physician, the suppressed emotion burst out, reaching its greatest intensity while the doctor was striving to revive the memory, and vanished after it had been fully exposed. Experience shows that reproducing the scene without emotional release brings no cure. We must conclude that the patient fell ill because "imprisoned" (dingeklemmt) emotions underwent a series of abnormal changes.

We are now on the way to a purely psychological theory of hysteria. A further observation by Breuer will compel us to ascribe much of the disease to an altered condition of consciousness.

Our patient was normally quite unaware of her "absences," and alteration of character, which were only revealed under hypnosis. It is through the study of hypnotic phenomena that we have come to see that in the same individual several mental groupings are possible. Cases of such spit consciousness, known as "double personality" ("double conscience"), occasionally appear spontaneously. Where consciousness remains constantly bound up with one of the two states, this is called the conscious mental state, and the other the unconscious. Breuer concluded that hysterical symptoms originated in such a mental state, which he called "hypnoidal state." Emotional experiences during such hypnoidal states easily become pathogenic, since such states do not allow for a normal draining off of emotion. Consequently, the products of the exciting process are projected as symptoms, like a foreign body, into the normal state, which then has no conception of their significance. Where a symptom arises, we also find amnesia, a memory gap, and the filling of this gap includes the removal of the conditions under which the symptom originated.

So far, it may seem that our knowledge in this field is not very far advanced. Indeed, Breuer's idea of the hypnoidal states has been shown to hinder further investigation. But complete theories do not fall from Heaven. Indeed, to present a perfectly rounded explanation from the beginning could only be seen as the child of speculation and not the fruit of unprejudiced investigation of the facts


Ladies and Gentlemen: At about the same time Breuer was using the "talking cure", M. Charcot in Paris began researches with the hystericals of the Salpetriére. It was his student, P.Janet, who first proposed a theory of hysteria, looking on it as a degeneration of the nervous system, in which the patient is incapable of correlating and unifying his manifold mental processes, leading to mental dissociation.

If you will permit me to use a banal but clear illustration, Janet's hysterical reminds one of a weak woman returning from shopping, laden with packages and bundles. She cannot manage them all, and soon drops one. When she stoops to pick this up, another breaks loose, and so it goes on

But this theory of mental weakness does not accord with observation of hystericals, where some partial increase in mental function can sometimes be observed. Breuer's patient, for instance, showed a great improvement in her ability to speak English. When I began to follow-on from Breuer's investigations, I soon came to a different view of the origin of hysterical dissociation (or splitting of consciousness). It was inevitable that my views should differ, as my point of departure was not, like Janet's, laboratory researches, but attempts at therapy. Practical needs urged me on. Breuer's cathartic treatment required deep hypnosis. But I came to dislike that fanciful, almost mystical, aid, when I discovered that I could not hypnotize by any means all of my patients.

Since I could not alter the psychic state of most of my patients, I directed my efforts to working with them in their normal state. This seems at first sight to be a particularly senseless undertaking. The problem was this: to find out something from the patient that the doctor did not know and the patient himself did not know. I was helped by recalling Bernheim's experience at his clinic at Nancy. He found that persons put in a condition of hypnotic somnambulism, stated afterwards that they had no memory of their experiences during somnambulism, but if he persisted, urged and assured them that they did know, then every time the forgotten memory came back

Accordingly, I did this with my patients. When I had reached with them a point at which they declared that they knew nothing more, I would assure them that they did know, asserting that the memory would emerge at the moment that I laid my hand on the patient's forehead. This was an exhausting procedure, but it substantiated the fact that the forgotten memories were ready to emerge, but hindered from becoming conscious by some resisting forces.

But what were those forces? It seemed that a wish had been aroused, which was incompatibility with the "ego" of the patient. His ethical and other pretensions were the repressing forces. The mental pain of incompatible wishes was avoided by repression.

I will give you the history of a single one of my cases. It is that of a young girl, deeply attached to her father, who, like Breuer's patient. When her older sister married, the girl grew to feel a peculiar sympathy for her new brother-in-law, which easily passed with her for family tenderness. But the sister fell ill and died, and our patient found herself by the deathbed with thoughts that might be summed up as "Now he is free to marry me." This love, of which she had not been conscious, was rapidly repressed by her revolted feelings. The girl fell ill with severe hysterical symptoms, and, when I came to treat her, she had entirely forgotten that scene at her sister's bedside and the unnatural, egoistic desire which had arisen in her. She remembered it during the treatment, reproduced the pathogenic moment with every sign of intense emotional excitement, and was cured. I can make this process of repression more concrete by a rough illustration.

Suppose that here in this hall and in this audience, whose exemplary stillness and attention I cannot sufficiently commend, an individual is creating a disturbance. I explain that I cannot go on with my lecture, whereupon several strong men get up, and eject the troublemaker from the hall

He is now "repressed," and I can continue my lecture. But in order that the disturbance may not be repeated, those strong men take their chairs to the door and establish themselves as a "resistance," to keep up the repression. Now, if you call this "consciousness," and the outside the "unconscious," you have a tolerably good illustration of the process of repression.

You will see that we do not, as Janet did, ascribe psychic fission to a congenital lack of capacity, but explain it dynamically as the result of a striving of mental complexes against the other.

New questions at once arise in great number from our theory. Attempts by the ego to defend itself from painful memories can be observed everywhere, yet the result is not mental fission. We must conclude dissociation requires still other conditions. I willingly concede that with the assumption of "repression" we stand, not at the end, but at the very beginning of a psychological theory.

It is not at first evident how we can get from the repression to the creation of the symptoms Instead of giving a complicated theoretical derivation, I will return to my illustration.

Remember that with the ejection of the rowdy and the establishment of the watchers before the door, the affair is not necessarily ended. It may very well happen that the repressed man, now embittered and quite careless of consequences, makes a terrible uproar outside, and interferes with my lecture even more. Perhaps our honored president, Dr. Stanley Hall, might take upon himself the role of peacemaker and mediator. He would speak with the rowdy on the outside, and then turn to us with the recommendation that we let him in again, provided he would guarantee to behave himself better. On Dr. Hall's authority we decide to stop the repression, and peace reigns again. This is a fairly good presentation of the task of psychoanalytic therapy. In driving matters out of consciousness and out of memory, a great amount of psychic pain is saved. But the suppressed wish still exists, only waiting for its chance to become active, and finally succeeds in sending into consciousness, instead of the repressed idea, a disguised and unrecognizable surrogate creation (Ersatzbildung). The psychic conflict which then arises, is made capable of a happier termination, under the guidance of the physician, than is offered by repression. Either the personality of the patient may be convinced to wholly or partly accept the pathogenic wish; or this wish may be directed to a less objectionable goal, by what is called sublimation (Sublimierung); or the rejection may be recognized as rightly motivated, and the automatic and therefore insufficient mechanism of repression be reinforced by the higher, more characteristically human mental faculties, the patient succeeds in mastering his wishes by conscious thought.


Ladies and Gentlemen: It is not always easy to tell the truth, but I must correct a statement that I made in my last lecture. I told you how when I gave up hypnosis I pressed my patients to remember what they had apparently forgotten. But, often, ideas emerged which could not be the right ones. In this state of perplexity, I clung to a prejudice, which was later proved by my friend Dr. Jung of Zürich to have a scientific justification. I must confess that it is often of great advantage to have prejudices. I could not believe that any idea occurring to the patient could be quite arbitrary and out of all relation to the idea we sought. In my patients there were two opposing forces: the conscious striving to drag up forgotten experience; and on the other hand the resistance to the emergence of the suppressed idea. When resistance was slight or non-existent, the forgotten material could become conscious without disguise (Enstellung). When there was greater resistance, the thoughts which broke into the patient's consciousness were accordingly made up just like symptoms; they were new, artificial, ephemeral surrogates for the repressed ideas. These surrogates must, however, show a certain similarity with the ideas which are the object of our search. They must be related to the repressed thought as a sort of allusion, as a statement of the same thing in indirect terms

We know of analogous situations in ordinary experience, such as instances of wit. I will give one example.

The anecdote runs: Two unscrupulous businessmen had made large fortunes, and began trying to break into good society. To this end, they had their portraits painted by a famous and expensive artist. The paintings were first shown at a great soirée, to elicit the admiring judgement of a noted critic. The critic looked for a long time, and then merely asked, pointing out the vacant space between the two pictures; "And where is the Saviour?" I see that you are all laughing over this good example of wit, which we will now attempt to analyse. We understand that the critic means; "You are a couple of malefactors, like those crucified beside the Saviour." But he does not say this; he expresses himself instead through an allusion, a surrogate, to the insult. Why? Because, in addition to his desire to say it straight out, he is actuated by strong opposite motives. It is dangerous to offend one's hosts, especially those who can call sturdy servants to their aid. So, the critic does not express the insult directly. The same constellation comes into play, according to our hypothesis, when our patient produces the irruptive idea as a surrogate for the forgotten idea which is the object of the quest.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Zürich School of Bleuler, Jung and others usefully designate a group of ideas belonging together and having a common emotive tone, as a "complex." We have every prospect of discovering a repressed complex, if only the patient will communicate a sufficient number of the ideas which come into his head. So we let the patient speak as he desires, and cling to the hypothesis that nothing can occur to him except what has some indirect bearing on the complex we are seeking. If this method of discovering the repressed complexes seems too circumstantial, I can assure you that it is the only available one.

One is further bothered by the fact that the patient often arrives at a point where he considers that he has nothing more to say. Such an apparent halt appears only when the patient holds back or rejects ideas. He must be encouraged to lay aside any critical choice, although he may think his ideas irrelevant, nonsensical, or especially unpleasant. In this way, we secure the material which sets us on the track of the repressed complex

These irruptive ideas, which the patient himself values little, are for the psychologist like the ore, which by interpretation, he reduces to valuable metal. If one desires to gain rapidly a preliminary knowledge of the patient's repressed complexes, association experiments may be used, as Jung and his pupils have done so well. This procedure is to the psychologist what qualitative analysis is to the chemist.

This method of work with whatever comes into the patient's head is not our only means of widening of consciousness. Two other methods are available, the interpretation of dreams and the evaluation of acts which he bungles or does without intending to (Fehl und Zufallshandlungen).

The interpretation of dreams, old-fashioned as it seems, is in fact the via regia to the interpretation of the unconscious, the surest ground of psychoanalysis. If I were asked how one could become a psychoanalyst, I should answer, through the study of one's own dreams.

You must remember that our nightly dream productions show the greatest outer similarity to the creations of the insane, yet are compatible with full health during waking life. Follow me now on a brief excursion through the field of dream problems.

In our waking state, we usually reject dreams, we forget them quickly, and consider them foreign to our personality. Our rejection derives support from the unrestrained shamelessness and immoral longings in many dreams. Yet, antiquity, and still today the lower classes of our people, value dreams highly, expecting from them some revelation of the future. Yet, dreams are wonderful enough, without having to hypothesize any prophetic nature.

Consider the dreams of young children from the age of a year and a half on. They always present the fulfillment of wishes aroused from the previous day's experiences.

Now it would be a most satisfactory solution of the dream riddle, if adult dreams consisted likewise of wish fulfillments. This is actually the case, as analysis of the dream can show. But adult dreams generally have an incomprehensible content; they have become disguised, so that we must differentiate between the manifest dream content and the latent dream-thoughts, whose presence in the unconscious we must assume. This distortion of the dream (Traumentstellung) is the same process which has been revealed to you in the investigations of hysterical subjects.

This disguising, the work of the defensive forces of the ego, prevents repressed wishes from entering consciousness during waking life, and even in the relaxation of sleep. The dreamer knows just as little of the sense of his dream as the hysterical knows of the significance of his symptoms. Discovering, through analysis, the relation between the manifest and latent dream-content is exactly the technique of psychoanalysis.

From the manifest dream and from the irruptive ideas arising through free association the latent dream thoughts may be discovered. From the latent dream thoughts which you will find in this way, you will see how thoroughly justified one is in interpreting the dreams of adults by the same rubrics as those of children. We discover that the manifest dream, which we remember after waking, may then be described as a disguised fulfillment of repressed wishes

Through this "dream-work" (Traumarbeit) it is possible to get some insight into the process which has brought about the disguise of unconscious thoughts. This deserves our fullest theoretical interest, since here as nowhere else we can study the process separating the conscious and the unconscious. Among these newly discovered psychic processes, two, condensation (Verdichtung) and displacement or transvaluation, change of psychic accent (Verschiebung), stand out most prominently.

You will furthermore discover in dreams, especially your own, the unsuspected importance of experiences from early childhood. In the dream life, the child, as it were, continues his existence in the man. With irresistible might it will be impressed on you by what processes of development, of repression, of sublimation and reaction there arises out of the child the so-called normal man, the bearer and partly the victim of our painfully acquired civilization. We have also discovered from the analysis of dreams that the unconscious makes use of a symbolism, especially in presenting sexual complexes. This symbolism partly varies with the individual, but is partly is of a typical nature, and seems to be identical with the symbolism of our myths and legends.

Finally, I must remind you that the occurrence of anxiety-dreams (Angsttraüme) does not contradict our idea of dreams as a wish fulfillment. Anxiety is just one of the ways in which the ego relieves itself of repressed wishes.

You can now easily understand how the interpretation of dreams can lead to knowledge of concealed and repressed wishes. I may now pass to a group of everyday mental phenomena whose study has become a technical help for psychoanalysis.

These are the bungling of acts (Feldhandlungen) among normal men as well as among neurotics, to which no significance is ordinarily attached; the forgetting of things (such as proper names); mistakes in speaking (Versprechen), which occur so frequently; mistakes in writing (Verschreiben) and in reading (Verlesen), the automatic execution of purposive acts in wrong situations (Vergreifen) and the loss or breaking of objects, etc.

These trifles have passed unchallenged as chance consequences of absent-minded inattention. Likewise playing with objects, humming melodies, handling one's person and clothing and the like are not chance, but meaningful acts. That meaning is generally easy and sure to interpret from the situation in which they occur, and their observation, like that of dreams, can reveal hidden complexes in the psychic life. With their help, one will usually betray the most intimate of secrets

Where these occur among people in health, with whom repression has succeeded well, this is due to their insignificance. But they can lay claim to high theoretic value, proving the existence of repression even in health. For the psychoanalyst there is in the expressions of the psyche nothing trifling, nothing arbitrary and lawless, he expects everywhere a clear psychic motivation.

Seeing our ability to discover repressed things in the soul life, you will come with me to the conclusion that our technique can show how pathogenic psychic material enters into consciousness, and so to do away with the suffering brought on by surrogate symptoms.

You may have gained the impression that psychoanalysis is peculiarly difficult On the contrary, once learned, its is easy. But it must be learned, just as much as histological or surgical techniques. You may surprised to learn that in Europe there have been frequently judgements passed on psychoanalysis by persons who knew nothing of its technique and had never practiced it. Some of those critics are acquainted with scientific methods; they would not reject the result of a microscopical research because it cannot be confirmed with the naked eye. But in matters of psychoanalysis, circumstances are less favorable.

It is not difficult to substantiate in our opponents the same impairment of intelligence produced by emotivity which we may observe every day with our patients. The arrogance of that consciousness which, for example, rejects dreams so lightly, generally belongs to the strongest protective apparatus which guards us against the breaking through of unconscious complexes. Consequently, it is hard to convince people of the reality of the unconscious, and to teach them anew, what their conscious knowledge contradicts.


Ladies and Gentlemen, at this point you will be asking what the psychoanalysis has taught us of the nature of repressed wishes. One thing in particular is surprising; the regularity of impressions from the sexual life in both men and women.

I know that this assertion will not willingly be credited. Some think that I overestimate sexuality, and ask why other mental excitations should not equally lead to the phenomena of repression and surrogate-creation. I can only answer that experience has clearly shown it so. You will find that my co-workers were equally sceptical, until their own analytic labors forced them to the same conclusion.

The conduct of the patients does not make it any easier to convince one's self of the correctness of this view. Instead of willingly giving us information concerning their sexual life, they wear a thick overcoat, a fabric of lies, as though it were bad weather in the world of sex. And they are not wrong; sun and wind are not favorable in our civilized society to any demonstration of sex life. But when your patients are assured that they may disregard conventional restraints, they lay aside this veil of lies, and leave you in a position to formulate a judgment. Unfortunately, physicians are not favored above the rest of the children of men in questions of the sex life. Many of them are under that ban of prudery and lasciviousness which determines the behaviour of most Kulturmenschen in affairs of sex.

Now to proceed with the communication of our results. It is true that psychoanalysis often traces the symptoms back not to the sexual, but to banal traumatic experiences. But the distinction loses its significance through other circumstances. It is only in recovering the wishes of adolescence and early childhood that we hit upon the circumstances which determine the later sickness. These mighty wishes of childhood are very generally sexual.

Now I can be sure of your astonishment. You ask, is not childhood distinguished by the lack of the sexual impulse? No, gentlemen, it is not at all true that the sexual impulse enters the child at puberty, as the biblical devils entered the swine. The child has sexual impulses and activities from the beginning, and from these the so-called normal sexuality of adults emerges. As fate would have it, I am in a position to call a witness from your own midst; Dr. Sanford Bell, a fellow of Clark University, the same institution within whose walls we now stand. In his "A Preliminary Study of the Emotion of Love between the Sexes", supported by no less than 2,500 positive observations over fifteen years, he says, "The emotion of sex love does not make its appearance for the first time at the period of adolescence" and "The unprejudiced mind, in observing these manifestations in hundreds of couples of children, cannot escape referring them to sex origin."

It would not be surprising if you should believe the observations of a fellow-countryman rather than my own. Fortunately a short time ago from the analysis of a five-year-old boy who was suffering from anxiety, an analysis undertaken with correct technique by his own father, I succeeded in getting a fairly complete picture of the bodily expressions of an early stage of childish sexual life. My friend, Dr. Jung, read to you a few hours ago in this room an observation on a still younger girl who from the same cause as my patient, the birth of a little child in the family, presented almost the same complex-creation. Accordingly, I hope that you may feel this idea of infantile sexuality not so strange. If it is true that most men do not want to know anything about the sexual life of the child, a fact which is explained all too easily.

They have repressed their own infantile sexual activity under the pressure of civilization. Lay aside your doubts and let us evaluate this sexuality. The sexual impulse of the child is complex, and entirely disconnected from reproduction. It permits the child to gain different sorts of pleasure sensations, notably in the auto-excitation of the genitals, the rectum, the opening of the urinary canal, the skin and other sensory surfaces. We call this early phase after a word coined by Havelock Ellis, "auto-eroticism." The parts of the body significant in giving sexual pleasure we call "erogenous zones." The passionate sucking of very young children has been correctly interpreted by Dr Lindner of Budapest, as sexual satisfaction. Another sexual satisfaction of this time of life is masturbation, which has such a great significance for later life and, in many individuals, is never fully overcome. Besides auto-erotic manifestations, we see very early in the child the impulse-components of sexual pleasure, of the libido, which presupposes a second person as its object. These impulses appear in opposed pairs, as active and passive, most importantly as pleasure in inflicting pain (sadism) with its passive opposite (masochism).

There is also the active and passive exhibition pleasure, the active part of which later forms the curiosity for knowledge, and the passive part, the impulse toward artistic and theatrical representation. Other sexual manifestations of the child can be regarded from the view-point of object-choice, in which the second person plays the prominent part. The difference between the sexes plays, however, no very great rôle so that one may attribute to every child, without wronging him, a bit of the homosexual disposition.

The sexual life of the child, rich, but dissociated, in which each single impulse goes about the business of arousing pleasure independently of every other, is later correlated and organized in two general directions. The single impulses subordinate themselves to the overlordship of the genital zone, so that the whole sexual life is taken over into the service of procreation. On the other hand, object-choice prevails over auto-erotism, so that the sexual impulse can be satisfied in the loved person. But not all the original impulse components are given a share in the final shaping of the sexual life. Even before puberty certain impulses undergo energetic repression under the impulse of education, and mental forces like shame, disgust and morality are developed, which, like sentinels, keep the repressed wishes in subjection. When there comes, in puberty, the high tide of sexual desire it finds dams in this creation of reactions and resistances. These guide the outflow into the so-called normal channels, and make it impossible to revivify the impulses which have undergone repression. The most important of these repressed impulses are koprophilism, that is, taking pleasure in excrement; and, further, the tendencies attaching themselves to the persons of the primitive object-choice.

Gentlemen, every process of development brings with it the germ of pathological dispositions as far as it may be inhibited, delayed, or incompletely carried out. The development of the sexual function is not always smoothly completed, and may leave behind either abnormalities or disposition to later diseases. It may happen that not all the partial impulses subordinate themselves to the rule of the genital zone, bringing about what we call a perversion, as when the auto-erotism is not fully overcome. The originally equal value of both sexes as sexual objects may be maintained and give rise to exclusive homosexuality.

The disposition to neuroses can also be derived from an injury to the development of the sex life. The neuroses are related to the perversions as the negative to the positive. They have been repressed, but still maintain themselves in the unconscious. If the exercise of the normal sexual function meets with hindrances in later life, this repression, dating from the time of development, is broken through at just that point at which the infantile fixation took place.

I will concede that I use the word "sexuality" in a very much wider sense than usual. But using the word solely with reference to procreation sacrifices an understanding of the connection between perversion, neurosis and normal sexual life. The psychoanalyst understands sexuality in that full sense to which he is led by the evaluation of infantile sexuality.

Now we turn again to the sexual development of the child. The primitive object-choice of the child, which is derived from his need of help, at first attaches to all familiar persons, but gives way in favor of his parents. This relation is, as both observation of the child and analysis of adults shows, not at all free from a sexual component. The child takes both parents, and especially one, as an object of his erotic wishes. Usually this follows the stimulus given by his parents, whose tenderness has the character of a sex manifestation, though inhibited. As a rule, the father prefers the daughter, the mother the son. The child reacts to this situation, since, as son, he wishes himself in the place of his father, as daughter, in the place of the mother. The complex built up in this way is quickly repressed, but still exerts a great and lasting effect from the unconscious. We must express the opinion that this presents the nuclear complex of every neurosis. The myth of King Oedipus, who kills his father and wins his mother as a wife, or Shakespere's Hamlet, are only a slightly altered presentations of these infantile wishes.

At the time when the child is still ruled by the unrepressed nuclear complex, he begins to investigate where children come from, an investigation usually awakened by the birth of a rival child in the family. He arrives at a number of "infantile sexual theories"; that the same male genitals belong to both sexes, that children are conceived by eating and born through the opening of the intestine, and that sexual intercourse is to be regarded as an inimical act, a sort of overpowering.

But the unfinished nature of his sexual constitution and the gaps in his knowledge about by the hidden feminine sexual canal, cause the infant investigator to abandon his search. The invention of infant sex theories are of determinative significance in building the child's character, and in the content of his later neuroses.

It is quite normal that the child should make his parents his first object-choice. But his libido must not remain fixed on them, it is merely a prototype for a transfer to other persons in a process of definite object-choice. The breaking loose (Ablösung) of the child from his parents is necessary if the social virtue of the young individual is not to be impaired. This presents a great task for education, which at present certainly does not always solve it in the most intelligent way.

Gentlemen, do not think that with these explanations of the sexual development of the child we have too far departed from psychoanalysis and the cure of neurotic disturbances. If you like, you may regard psychoanalytic treatment only as a continued education for the overcoming of childhood-remnants (Kindheitsresten).


Ladies and Gentlemen: With the discovery that neurotic symptoms can be traced to infantile erotic impulse-components, we see that the individual falls ill when outer hindrances, or inner lack of adaptability, deny the satisfaction of erotic needs. But, not only does the ego of the patient strive against the abandoning repressions, but the sexual impulses may not renounce their surrogate satisfaction unless they can be offered something better.

The flight from unsatisfying reality into disease involves regression to earlier, more satisfying, phases of sexual life.

The deeper you investigate neurotic diseases, the more the relation of neuroses to normal mentality becomes apparent. You will be reminded that we men, with the high claims of our civilization and under the pressure of our repressions, find reality generally quite unsatisfactory, and so keep up a life of fancy to compensate for what is lacking. These phantasies often contain much of the essence of personality, repressed in real life. The successful man is he who can transform his wish-fancies into reality. Under favorable conditions, he may find another link between fancies and reality, as where those with artistic talent, (still psychologically puzzling) can transform fancies into artistic creations. Where this is not possible, the neurosis replaces the ancient cloister, where those who felt themselves weak or exposed found refuge. Let me give at this point the main result of the psychoanalytic investigation of neurotics, namely, that neuroses have no peculiar psychic content which is not also found in healthy states; or, as Jung has expressed it, neurotics fall ill of the same complexes with which we sound people struggle.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have withheld from you the most remarkable experience which corroborates our assumptions of the sexual impulse-forces of neurotics. Whenever we treat a neurotic psychoanalytically, there occurs the phenomenon of transfer (Uebertragung), where the patient applies to the physician much tender emotion, often mixed with enmity, which has no foundation in any real relation, and must be derived from unconscious wish-fancies. Every fragment of his emotive life, which cannot be called back into memory, is lived over by the patient in his relation to the physician, and only by such a living of them over in the "transfer" is he convinced of the existence and the power of these unconscious sexual excitations. The symptoms, to use a simile from chemistry, are the precipitates of earlier love experiences (in the widest sense), and can only be dissolved in the higher temperature of the experience of transfer into other psychic products. The physician plays in this reaction, to use an excellent expression of S. Ferenczi, the rôle of a catalyst, which temporarily attracts to itself the affect which has become free by the process.

The study of transfer can also give you the key to understanding hypnotic suggestion, which we had earlier used as a means of investigating the unconscious. Hypnosis showed itself to be a therapeutic help, but a hindrance to the scientific knowledge, since it cleared away some psychic resistances, only to pile them up in an unscalable wall. The transfer arises spontaneously in all human relations. Psychoanalysis does not create this transfer, it merely discloses it to consciousness. I know that all my adherents were first convinced of the correctness of my views through their experience with transfer, a conviction which arises from direct experience of the work of psychoanalysis.

One is afraid of doing harm by psychoanalysis, of calling up repressed sexual impulses. One can see that the patient has sore places in his soul life, but one is afraid to touch them, lest his suffering be increased. But nobody thinks of blaming the surgeon for temporarily making a condition worse on the way to restoring lasting health. The consequence which is feared, the disturbance of the cultural character, is wholly impossible. Our experience has shown that the power of a wish is incomparably stronger when it is unconscious than when it is conscious. By being made conscious, it can only be weakened.

Now what is the fate of the wishes which have been freed by psychoanalysis? Generally, the wish is consumed by those better tendencies which oppose it. This is possible, since for the most part we have to abolish only the effects of earlier developmental stages of the ego. The individual only repressed the useless impulse, because he was himself still incompletely organized and weak; in his maturity and strength he can, perhaps, conquer that which is hostile to him.

A second issue of the work of psychoanalysis may be that the revealed unconscious impulses can now arrive at those useful applications which, in the case of undisturbed development, they would have found earlier. The banishment of the infantile wishes is not at all the ideal aim of development.

The neurotic has lost, by his repressions, many valuable sources of mental energy. The components of the sexual instinct, in particular, have a capacity for sublimation into ones more socially valuable. The mental energy won in such a way has probably had the highest cultural consequences.

However, a certain part of the suppressed libidinous excitation deserves satisfaction. We should remember that individual happiness ought to be one of the aims of our culture. If the narrowing of sexuality is pushed too far it will have all the evil effects of a robbery.

Perhaps you regard that exhortation as presumptuous? Consider the old tale of the citizens of Schilda who tried to make their horse work without fodder, only to be amazed when it died. Without a certain ration of oats, no work could be expected from any animal.

I thank you for calling me here to speak, and for your attention.

Sigmund Freud
Feud's ashes at Golders Green Crematorium, London, England

ISBN 9781326806781
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