Eckstein, Emma (1865-1924)

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ECKSTEIN, EMMA (1865-1924)

Between 1892 and 1893 Emma Eckstein was one Sigmund Freud's most important patients and, for a short period of time around 1897, became a psychoanalyst herself. She was born on January 28, 1865, in Vienna and died on July 30, 1924. Eckstein belonged to a family that the Freuds were friendly with. One of her brothers, Frederick, was a Sanskrit specialist; another, Gustav, was a leading member of Karl Kautsky's Austrian socialist party. Aside from some cryptic passages concerning her (1937c), Freud never published her case history. In his Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895), Freud presented her phobia of stores in the chapter "Hysterical Proton Pseudos," but the manuscript was never published during Freud's lifetime.

In early 1895, finding that analysis could not eliminate Eckstein's compulsion for masturbation, which resulted in dysmenorrhea and stomach pains, Freud turned to Wilhelm Fliess for help. Fliess, basing his thinking on his theory of a "nasal reflex neurosis," operated on her nasal concha but left fifty centimeters of gauze inside her nose. The error was repaired by Professor Rozanes in Vienna, but Fliess felt he had been wronged because Freud had called in another physician to attend to Eckstein's problem. Freud attributed the accident to Eckstein's hysteria (1985, letter 56 et seq.), but she remained disfigured. Freud resumed his analysis of her and provided some improvement, and this motivated her to become a psychoanalyst in 1897. In December Eckstein confirmed that she had been seduced by her father (1985, letter 150), which Freud had doubted as late as September of that year.

Freud continued his relationship with Eckstein. He was furious to learn that Eckstein, during an operation for a myoma, had undergone a hysterectomy. He refused to resume analysis in November 1905. Meanwhile, Eckstein had published a small book on the sexual education of children (1904), in which she does not mention Freud. She seems to return to a theory of ancillary seduction, and she viewed infantile sexuality from a constitutional point of view: sucking and masturbation. From this time on a relapse forced her to take to her bed, where she remained until her death nineteen years later.

Bertrand Vichyn

See also: Irma's injection, dream of.


Anzieu, Didier. (1986). Freud's Self-Analysis (Peter Graham, Trans.). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-analysis.

Eckstein, Emma. (1904). Die Sexualfrage in der Erziehung des Kindes. Leipzig, Germany: Modernes Verlagsbureau, Curt Wigand.

Freud, Sigmund. (1895). Project for a scientific psychology. SE, 1: 281-387.

. (1937c). Analysis terminable and interminable. SE, 23: 209-253.

. (1985). The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904 (Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press.

. (1987). A phylogenetic fantasy: Overview of the transference neuroses (Axel Hoffer and Peter T. Hoffer, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff. (1984). The assault on truth. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Schur, Max. (1972). Freud: Living and dying. New York: International Universities Press.