Origins of Psychoanalysis and Psychology Part 3

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


WHEN: 1880-1882

If Breuer had not told his friend Sigmund Freud about the case, Freud might not have come up with the great theories which revolutionized concepts of the human mind. But Breuer did tell him. At 1st Freud was only mildly curious because his professional interests lay elsewhere. By 1886, however, women suffering from hysteria comprised a large part of his medical practice. Conventional methods of treatment were not too successful. He remembered the case of Anna O., and he tried Breuer's "talking cure" on one of his patients. Freudian analysis was born.

It was Breuer who 1st identified the unconscious mind, the mind that held thoughts "not admissible to consciousness," thoughts so terrible they could not be allowed to surface. It was he who saw that bringing these ideas to light could cure the symptoms of hysteria. But it was Freud who developed these rudimentary ideas into a theory. It was Freud who saw the elements of sexuality that lay behind much mental illness. (He always felt that Breuer had made a mistake in not facing the sexuality in the case of Anna O.) It was Freud who saw that the patient "transferred" her love-hate feelings to the analyst. It was, finally, Freud who fathered psychoanalysis.

Anna O. was, in reality, Bertha Pappenheim--a writer, feminist, and crusader against white slavery who devoted her life to helping others. The time between her treatment by Breuer and the beginnings of her career is largely a blank.

When she was 29, she became interested in helping the Jews left homeless by the pogroms of Eastern Europe. She was then living in Frankfurt, Germany, with her mother. Soon she was running an orphanage for Jewish children and had formed a local and a national organization for Jewish women volunteer workers.

At the time, there was extensive white slave trafficking in poor Jewish girls from the ghettos. When Bertha Pappenheim discovered this, she began a one-woman campaign against it--writing pamphlets, giving lectures, and starting a home for delinquent and feeble-minded young women.

Through it all, she found time to write--stories for children (much like those from her "private theater"), plays, and translations of feminist literature.

In spite of all she did for others, she was lonely. She enjoyed few real friendships and, as far as we know, no lovers at all. Once she wrote in a letter, "I have often thought that if one had nothing to love, to hate something is a good substitute."

On May 28, 1936, she died, an old woman in her 70s, bravely making jokes about how the color of some yellow roses matched her complexion.

Years later, Dr. Ernest Jones revealed the link between Anna O. and Bertha Pappenheim in a biography of Freud.

Questions remain. What caused Bertha Pappenheim's illness? Since several of her relatives had been mentally ill, can it be said that she was genetically predisposed to it? What would she have become if she had been able to continue treatment? Would she still have followed a career of helping others or would she have become a happier, but less socially productive, wife and mother?

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