Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Was Freud a Fraud?

What with Frederick Crews’ new book debunking—yet again, the reputation of Sigmund Freud, the press has regaled us with a series of serious reviews of the work of the Austrian con artist. I have reported on as many as I have seen.

Most of the articles have taken some issue with Crews for his hostile rejection of Freud. They have tried to strike a balance between someone whose theories have been very largely shown to be of no help in understanding mental illness or much of anything else and whose practice is notable only as a failure to treat the conditions it pretends to understand.

Now, like a breath of fresh air, Kyle Smith reviews the Crews book for the National Review. He concludes, simply and directly, that Freud was a fraud.

He explains in this choice paragraph:

On another occasion, referring to a cartoon in which a yawning lion grumbles, “Twelve o’clock and no negroes,” he [Freud] wrote, “The worries begin again whether some negroes will turn up at the right time to still the lion’s appetite.” That appetite, as Frederick Crews makes clear in his exhaustive, reputation-pulverizing book Freud: The Making of an Illusion,was from an early age for fame and riches, which Freud relentlessly pursued by championing one faddish quack remedy after another, backing away when justified criticism made his position untenable, covering his tracks with misleading or even completely false claims about what he’d been up to, then bustling on to the next gold mine.

So, a con artist, but a very intelligent con artist. Smith continues:

The case for Freud’s misogyny is ludicrously easy to make. After his cocaine frenzy, Freud headed to Paris to study with Jean-Martin Charcot, who oversaw an insane asylum full of women upon whom he freely experimented and operated under the assumption that they were suffering from “hysteria,” an almost exclusively feminine phenomenon in which sex organs supposedly caused otherwise unexplained behavior and bodily disorders. Freud would carry the concept of hysteria to breathtaking extremes in his private practice: Leg pain? Morphine addiction? Asthma? Freud treated patients with these disorders under the working theory that they were suffering from hysteria, which among his mostly female clientele morphed into an assumption that the origin story of all neurosis was a childhood sexual trauma, which he called the “seduction theory” and which Crews relabels “molestation theory,” since a small child who has suffered a sexual assault is not actually a seducer.

If the patient couldn’t remember any childhood sexual trauma, Freud would “reconstruct” it by coaching her to devise one. Despite claiming in a typically grandiose but evidence-free 1896 lecture that his psychoanalysis had helped unveil and repair childhood sexual trauma in 18 patients — the speech was so devoid of clinical standards that a senior scientist, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, said, “It sounds like a scientific fairy tale” — Freud later revealed in a letter to Fliess that he hadn’t cured even one person.

Not even one person. Put that in your pipe and puff on it for a minute. The stories of Freud’s miracle cure for hysteria were all lies, fabrications and fairy tales.

Smith concludes, dismissively:

Today Freud barely exists in scientific literature, which has rejected his dodgy claims and outlandish boasts. In his more honest moments, he admitted his work did little to advance the cause of his supposed métier. “I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker,” he wrote Fliess. “I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador — an adventurer, if you want it translated — with all the curiosity, daring and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort.” If Sigmund Freud had a genius for anything, it was for chutzpah. That, and public relations.

For those who wish to understand Freud’s place in intellectual history I recommend my book, The Last Psychoanalyst. It makes a perfect Holiday gift for your therapist.


Ares Olympus said...

Smith: If Sigmund Freud had a genius for anything, it was for chutzpah. That, and public relations.

Public relations is certainly a good reminder, invented to replace the word propaganda, which is the center to almost everything that exists in the modern world. So if Freud was a fraud, then we can consider the entire modern world a fraud, built up on positive thinking that often can "create its own reality" until another reality catches up.

Adam Curtis's documentary "The Century of Self" explores how Freud and his nephew Edward Bernay came to America to sell the new psychology to business for fun and profit, giving the example how there was a taboo against women smoking, so Bernay connected the women's liberation movement with the freedom to smoke, and it worked perfected - women are indeed as stupid as men when it comes to symbols of imaginary power. The Century of the Self (Full Documentary)

trigger warning said...

I apply Hanlon's Razor: never assume malice when simple stupidity will suffice.

My Animus made me say that. Although Animus is identifying as female today.

OT: For collectors everywhere, Rachel Dolezal is hawking a 2018 cheesecake calendar on her website. If you ever wondered what deranged people look like semi-naked, this is your shot.

Anonymous said...
I just wonder what Freud would say about this picture. Further it would be interesting as to his take on the fact that a large percentage of the male commenters on thought that she was just the cutest person they have seen. Also of interest would be the obvious love that is demonstrated in this family. This little girl reminds me of what it was like to be a father and a grandfather. That little smile that says "thats my daddy and mommy.? Must be sexual?
How did we ever allow this type of claptrap to ever be part of our thinking?