Origins of Psychoanalysis and Psychology Part 1

About the origins of psychoanalysis, psychology, psychiatry, history of Anna O. and Dr. Josef Breuer, not Sigmund Freud.


WHEN: 1880-1882

HOW: It was not until 17 years after her death that the real identity of Anna O., the 1st person to be psychoanalyzed, was revealed to the world at large. Until then, it was a well-kept secret, and few people knew that the subject of the 1st psychoanalytic case history later became a prominent person in her own right. Her analyst was not Sigmund Freud, but a friend of his, Dr. Josef Breuer, a charming Viennese physician famous for his almost magical diagnostic skill and sympathetic bedside manner.

Late in December, 1880, Breuer was called to the apartment of a well-to-do family. There were 2 sick people in that apartment--a father dying of a tubercular lung abscess and a daughter who had, her mother said, a troublesome cough. It was the 21-year-old daughter that Breuer came to see.

The patient was lying in bed. Her dark eyes were glazed, almost unseeing. Almost immediately, Dr. Breuer saw that a cough was only one of her many symptoms. Her right arm and both legs were gripped in a paralysis for which neurologists had found no cause. She was mute. She had headaches. Her vision was poor. Often, she lay sleepless until the sun came up.

Breuer recognized a classic case of hysteria, a mysterious malady which had interested him for some time. In those days (and sometimes in these), doctors often thought that women with the disease were faking it to get attention. Breuer did not agree. He saw the disease as real, though inexplicable. Many cases of hysteria had been temporarily cured by hypnotic suggestion. Since the young patient was in a trancelike state anyway, Breuer decided to try hypnosis with her.

After she was "under," Breuer asked whether anything was bothering her. She shook her head in answer. He asked again. This time she spoke, but all that came from her mouth was incomprehensible gibberish. For some reason, Breuer decided not to make any hypnotic suggestions, as was the usual practice, but to return the following night and hypnotize her again.

When he did, he asked once more whether anything was bothering her. This time she answered, "Jamais acht nobody bella mio please lieboehn nuit," a meaningless sentence in 4 languages--French, German, English, and Italian. What was going on in the girl's head? It was as though she had 2 minds--one that was in control when she was awake and another that spoke when she was hypnotized. Breuer decided that the key to her illness lay in what that 2nd mind might say, not in hypnotic suggestion, and he embarked on what she later called "the talking cure." For the next year and a half, the doctor and patient together explored that other mind, her unconscious, in the 1st documented case of psychoanalysis.

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