Freud's Self-Analysis

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Although Didier Anzieu's doctoral thesis (1975; trans. 1986) treated Freud's self-analysis, he had already published a briefer, more general text: L'auto-analyse: Son rôle dans la découverte de la psychanalyse par Freud, sa fonction en psychanalyse (Self-analysis: its role in the discovery of psychoanalysis by Freud and its function in psychoanalysis; 1959). There one finds, in addition to research on the self-analysis of the young Freud, a study of self-analysis in general, both in literature (the surrealists) and in the clinic, before and after treatment.

Freud's Self-analysis (1986) dropped the study of self-analysis in general and featured an epistemological and historical approach to Freud's self-analysis, primarily as revealed in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), in relation to the discovery of psychoanalysis.

Anzieu avoided classic biography (such as the one by Ernest Jones [1953-1957]) in order to apply the psychoanalytic method to its creator. His work is supported by a thorough chronological inventory of the documents of the self-analysis (dreams, screen memories, slips, instances of forgetting, and parapraxes) from 1895 to 1902, the date of the break with Wilhelm Fliess and the foundation of the Psychoanalytic Society of Vienna. A chronological list of the inventory itself is appended at the end of the work.

The central focus of the book is essentially an investigation into the subjective conditions that led Freud to create psychoanalysis. This focus is also part of a major preoccupation of Anzieu's, the psychoanalysis of creative genius (1974).

Especially notable in Freud's Self-Analysis are the creative subject's masochism, the mother's favoritism for the future genius, Freud's mentally active attitude in relation to the primal scene, the creative subject's "heroic identifications," and also the castration anxiety that tends to paralyze or destroy creativity. In this regard Anzieu emphasizes the supportive role played by Fliess, remarking along the way that there is no serious self-analysis if it is not spoken to someone.

At a time when the history of psychoanalysis still captured only limited interest in France, Didier Anzieu produced both a reference work for researchers and a valuable example of the inseparability of psychoanalytic theory from the history of the discovery of its concepts, and thus from its authors.

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Anzieu, Didier; Self-analysis.

Source Citation

Anzieu, Didier. (1986). Freud's self-analysis (Peter Graham, Trans.). Madison, CT: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1975)


Anzieu, Didier. (1959). L'auto-analyse: Son rôle dans la découverte de la psychanalyse par Freud, sa fonction en psychanalyse. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

. (1974). Vers une métapsychologie de la création. In Didier Anzieu (Ed.), Psychanalyse du génie créateur (pp. 1-30). Paris: Dunod.

Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. SE, 4: 1-338; 5: 339-625.

Jones, Ernest. (1953-1957). Sigmund Freud: Life and work. London: Hogarth.

Mellor-Picaut, Sophie. (1977). Le travail de la création dans "L'autoanalyse de Freud et la découverte de la psychanalyse" par Didier Anzieu. Psychanalyse à l'université. 2 (8), 707-724.