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Sigmund Freud

The International Psychoanalytic Movement: 1901–1909

The Seeds of Psychoanalysis: 1890–1901

Conflict and Controversy: 1910–1914

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.

Of all his new followers–most of whom were twenty years younger than Freud–Freud was most enthusiastic about Carl Jung. Jung had a vivacity that Freud lacked; he was witty and entertaining in social situations, and a notorious ladies man; and, more to the point, he was one of the most interesting and innovative of Freud's followers in his applications of psychoanalysis. Moreover, he was not Jewish. This appealed to Freud, who had begun to fear that psychoanalysis would remain an entirely Jewish affair.

In April of 1908, the first international congress of psychoanalysts took place in Salzburg. The meeting lasted for only one day, and Freud talked throughout the morning and into the afternoon about a single case study of a patient known as the "Rat Man." Several other talks were also given, and the meeting was deemed a success. In January of 1909, Jung was appointed editor of the new Yearbook of Psychosomatic and Psychopathological Investigations, known in German as the Jahrbuch. This was a journal that would be dedicated to the psychoanalytic articles that had so often been rejected from more mainstream medical journals.

In 1909, Freud traveled with Jung and Sandor Ferenczi to Clark University, in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Freud had been invited to give a series of lectures on psychoanalysis. Freud was kindly received there and in New York, where he spent a week, but he hated the United States. Despite Freud's distaste for America, it was obvious that psychoanalysis had taken great strides on the path to international prominence.

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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:

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:

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