On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement

views updated


On January 12, 1914, Sigmund Freud wrote to Karl Abraham: "I am writing the history of the psychoanalytic movement. The text will be very energetic and direct." On February 15 he wrote, "I have just finished, no more than an hour ago, the manuscript for 'On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement."' The text turned out to be a polemic he had "worked on in a rage" (January 12 letter to Sándor Ferenczi) and which Freud intended to use against Jung and the Zurich group. On several occasions he uses the term 'bomb,' reflecting the jittery state of Europe's nerves and the popular myth of the mad bomber anarchist on the eve of World War I. Moreover, Jung had given up his position as president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) on April 20 and the Zurich Group withdrew from the IPA in July, after Freud's text appeared in print.

Under the epigraph "Fluctuat nec mergitur," the text is divided into three chapters. In the first Freud explains the subjective nature of his contribution to the history of the psychoanalytic movement: "For psychoanalysis is my creation; for ten years I was the only one occupied with it. . . . Even today, when I am no longer the only psychoanalyst, I feel myself justified in assuming that none can know better than myself what psychoanalysis is." According to the method he again advocated in 1923, he began by relating the history of his discovery, especially that of the sexual etiology associated with infantile sexuality, an emphasis that was intended to counteract Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung's rejection of this aspect of his theory.

Chapter 2 describes the birth and development of the psychoanalytic movement but, to defend himself from accusations of intolerance, Freud emphasizes that "the self-reliance of intellectual workers, their early independence of their teacher, is always gratifying from a psychological point of view." He exposed the differences that existed between "experiments with association" and "free association," for a number of commentators, especially in France, confused the two. He also attempted, although in vain, to stifle interest in the theory of "complexes" by showing that it did not have "the value attributed to it by people outside psychoanalysis . . . it cannot be inserted naturally and logically into the existing group of psychoanalytic theories."

The geographic map of the movement's conquests followed: Northern Europe, America, India. But, "among European countries France has hitherto shown itself the least disposed to welcome psychoanalysis." Freud also provides a fairly complete picture of the relationship between psychoanalysis and the other branches of knowledge without, however, repeating the arguments he made in "Claims of Psycho-Analysis to Scientific Interest" (1913j), which had appeared the previous year.

The third chapter is the most directly political and polemic. Based on the advice of his first readers, Freud softened some of his comments, but he is addressing the crowd of followers who are still hesitating between Freud, Adler, Stekel, and, especially, Jung. The future of the movement depends on their decision. After reviewing the foundation of the IPA in 1910, Freud provides the background to the dissension that followed, specifying that while he is constrained to "make use of analysis," he will reduce its use to the minimum since "analysis is not suited, however, for polemical use; it presupposes the consent of the person who is being analyzed and a situation in which there is a superior and a subordinate."

Adler is the first to be discussed, for his theory constitutes a "system" and, although it makes a contribution to the psychology of the ego, it ignores unconscious motivations, especially sexuality. The "will to power" and "masculine protest" weaken repressed tendencies or the fears aroused by the threat of castration. But if Adler's claims are based on a theory of instincts, including aggressivity, the same cannot be said of Jung. Jung's ideas are confused, and dominated by desexualization and moralizing, which have denatured the discoveries of psychoanalysis to create an ethical-religious system. "The sexual libido was replaced by an abstract idea," the "Oedipus complex has been given a 'symbolic' sense," the only recognized conflict being that of the "life task" and "psychic inertia," and so on. "The truth is that these people have picked out a few cultural overtones from the symphony of life and have once more failed to hear the mighty and primordial melody of the instincts." This reflects the disastrous consequences of these transformations on a form of therapeutic practice that no longer recognizes either the past or the transference. And Freud concludes, "that the new teaching which aims at replacing psycho-analysis signifies an abandonment of analysis and a secession from it."

On February 8, 1914, Freud announced to Ernest Jones, "I have done with the first rogue today and hope I may finish the other next Sunday." On February 11 he wrote to Ferenczi, "I am writing very assiduously on the history of the Y-a movement, and I hope to have worked on Jung, and with that have finished it by Sunday."

Jones drew from this the conclusion that Freud should never be allowed to abandon "the fields of pure science in the positive sense. My desire has been to create around you a circle of men who will take care of the opposition while you continue your work; the perspective of an ideal situation of this type appears very promising" (letter of May 25, 1914). This was to be the birth of the secret committee.

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Anna O., case of; Complex; Jahrbuch der Psycho-analyse ; Jung, Carl Gustav.

Source Citation

Freud, Sigmund. (1914d) Zur Geschicte der psychoanalytischen Bewegung. Jahrbuch für Psychoanalyse, 6, 207-260; G.W., X, 43-113; On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement, SE, 14: 7-66.

About this article

On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article