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The International Psychoanalytic Movement: 1901–1909

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In the first few years of 20th century, Freud was in a transitional period. His first two major psychoanalytic works had been published (The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899 and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life in 1901), but he had not yet received the recognition or support he was hoping for. He had alienated himself from his old mentor, colleague, and father figure Josef Breuer, and from the friend that came to replace Breuer, the speculative Berlin doctor Wilhelm Fliess.

Freud's position within the University of Vienna had remained tentative through the 1890s. In 1885, he had been awarded the title of Privatdozent, an honorary position that was usually the first step in a successful career. But Freud's Judaism, his choice of controversial research topics, and his emphasis on private practice, all prevented further advancement. It was only in 1902 that, with help from a former patient, Freud finally became an assistant professor at the university.

With the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud's writings gained a much wider audience than they had ever had before. Interested physicians attended Freud's lectures, and the more adventurous of these physicians actually started to use psychoanalysis with their patients. In 1902, the same year that he was promoted to assistant professor, Freud began hosting weekly discussion groups at his house on Wednesday evenings. At the beginning, the group was known as the "Wednesday Psychological Society," but in April of 1908 it would officially become the "Viennese Psycho-Analytic Society."

In 1904, Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist who ran a renowned mental hospital in Zurich, wrote Freud to tell him that he and his colleagues had been using psychoanalysis with their patients, and that it seemed to be a promising approach. Freud was thrilled to hear that a non-Viennese, non-Jewish psychiatrist as respected as Bleuler was embracing his work. Bleuler's support for psychoanalysis was not to last–he gave it up within a few years– but one of Bleuler's staff members was to play a crucial role in the early days of the International Psychoanalytic Assocation.

That staff member was Carl G. Jung. He was to become, for a few short years, the shining star of the psychoanalytic movement. Freud and Jung began to correspond in April 1906. When Jung visited Freud in Vienna on February 27, 1907, the two men had an immediate rapport. They spent hours talking. Jung was fascinated by Freud's theories and his evident confidence, and Freud was equally fascinated by Jung's youth, wit, and intelligence.

Around the same time, Freud began to assemble an international group of followers that provided him with support and validation in the short term, and innumerable difficulties in the long term. Karl Abrahams, a psychiatrist who had spent time in Zurich and then in Berlin, met Freud in December of 1907; Ernest Jones, the Englishman who later wrote the first, and still most comprehensive, biography of Freud, made Freud's acquaintance in 1908; Sandor Ferenczi, a Hungarian, met Freud in February of 1908. Without these supporters, the psychoanalytic movement would never have got off the ground. But with them, psychoanalysis became a complicated game of politics and personal conflicts, one that occasionally made Freud yearn for his days of isolation before the turn of the century.

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Civilization and Its Discontents

by MarieSnyder, January 11, 2014

I wrote an analysis of Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents with page references here:


4 out of 6 people found this helpful

Beyond the Pleasure Principle and Future of an Illusion

by MarieSnyder, January 11, 2014

I wrote an analysis of Beyond the Pleasure Principle here:

And I wrote an analysis of Future of an Illusion (not mentioned in the summary), a piece about Freud's understanding of God, published in 1927, here:

Hmm - out of date, or just innaccurate..?

by baldgrace, August 04, 2014

...I think you might need to update your review of the research consensus! Although it has developed a lot from Freud's original ideas, psychoanalytic theory - and practice - are still in use, and proving useful. It's been a while since the ideas you're describing here (either about psychodynamic or cognitive therapy) were part of the common psychological discourse about treatment or research methodology...

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