What did Sigmund Freud do completely wrong?

How dead is Sigmund Freud? Many of his theaters are now considered to be long outdated

The elementary school student Adolf suffers from recurring nightmares. The family doctor cannot help him. He recommends Klara Hitler to go to Vienna to see this Jewish neurologist. After a conversation at Berggasse 19, it was clear that little Hitler was tormented by the unresolved hatred of his brutal father Alois, who, as biographically documented, drunk used to beat his six children and felt particularly provoked by his fourth-born. Doctor Freud urgently advises the woman to stand in front of her son in this battle. Father Alois, to whom the progress of the visit is dutifully reported, forbids Klara to make further visits to Berggasse.

The question that hovers over the fictional play “Doctor Freud Will See You Now, Mr. Hitler” is: “Would world history have been different if Hitler had completed a psychoanalysis?” An answer that neither the British author duo Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks can give to anyone else. Because the mode of action of the procedure first mentioned by Sigmund Freud in 1886 - in the essay “On the Etiology of Neuroses” - is still not measurable. Despite the young research discipline of neuropsychoanalysis, “where attempts are made”, according to its co-founder, the South African Mark Solms, “to test the wonderful hypotheses of psychoanalysis with neuropsychological experiments”, the success and efficiency of the lengthy therapy method cannot be empirically proven.

Freud critics such as the British cultural historian Richard Webster attest the new discipline “to be carried by great wishful thinking, because 90 percent of his theories are pushed aside and not confirmed”. According to Webster flippantly, psychoanalysis would be nothing more than a religious community and should be treated as such.

This Wednesday is the 70th anniversary of Sigmund Freud's death. On September 23, 1939, the founder of psychoanalysis, who had been driven beyond the limits of bearable by 35 oral cavity operations, died in his exile in London from an overdose of morphine, which his family doctor Max Schur had given him at the patient's request in the presence of his daughter Anna.

In the meantime, the terms he coined, such as death instinct, penis envy or Oedipus complex, have become common parlance. Although the majority of his theories are now outdated or have been radically developed, he continues to rule in the collective perception as an irrevocable monument. A world fame that needs to be checked.

Revolutionary. There is no doubt that “Freud shook human sleep like no other,” according to his biographer Peter Gay. The main merit of Freud is, as he himself put it, "to prove to the ego that it is not even the master of the own house, but that it is dependent on scanty news of what is unconsciously going on in its mental life". His groundbreaking, educational achievement consisted in the realization that the personality of the human being is shaped by an interplay between the conscious and the unconscious and the inner life of the modern human being is organized by personal symbols and narratives that have no general societal meaning. In doing so, he clearly broke with the traditional notions of the self, which until then seemed primarily to have been shaped by external, fate-related circumstances.

"Freud's inestimable achievement lay in applying the knowledge of the unconscious, which were already found in Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, to medicine," said the now deceased historian of psychoanalysis, Ernst Federn. Federn, whose father Paul was Freud's right-hand man in the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association, said that Freud himself had doubts about the effectiveness of the psychoanalytic process as early as 1909: “Until then, he was convinced that he could cure a neurosis by interpreting it. But as early as 1909 he wrote to his later dissident C. G. Jung: 'We actually only heal through love. ‘"

In the meantime, psychoanalysis is one of 600 possible therapeutic procedures that arose from the original concept. Despite all of today's criticism of the method, which is extremely costly and time-consuming and, according to Federn, "can only be used on an adult, mature self," it symbolizes "the great, emancipatory promise of modernity," as Eli Zaretsky in “Freud's Century” writes, “of the self-determination of the individual”.

“It is undisputed that Freud did as much for soul research as Darwin did for biology or Einstein for physics,” states the US psychiatry professor and author of the Freud biography “Inventor of the Modern Mind”, “but his theories have now changed No longer a scientific consensus. In modern science, he is only upheld as the guardian of the Grail, largely out of date assumptions. Let us see him as a literary genius and pioneer and not as an eternal father. "

Red cloth. The Freud criticism of the present differs, however, from the mainly ideologically conditioned Freud bashing of the 1970s through scientific arguments. In the course of the student revolt, in which Mao, Marx and the sexual liberation theories of the obscure Freud dissident Wilhelm Reich were on the agenda, the navel gazing in Freud's spirit was dead territory because it propagated apolitical retreat into inwardness. Freud, who once called girls “these little beings without a penis”, was a red rag for feminism and rightly so to this day.

The psychoanalyst and institute director of the Sigmund Freud University, Felix de Mendelssohn, attributes the fact that Freud still enjoys monument status in Austria to “the self-loving, petty-bourgeois local patriotism and the appalling break caused by Nazi rule”. The expulsion of psychoanalysis after the Anschluss in 1938 "completely lost its further development here". The trauma of the “Third Reich” and the years of “inability to mourn”, according to the psychoanalyst Alexander Mitscherlich, caused an inhibition to bite that “froze psychoanalysis as if it had suddenly come to a standstill with Freud's disappearance”. From this point of view, according to de Mendelssohn, it is quite understandable that today it sounds “more like a church sect, philosophy school of thought and esoteric cult” than “an empirical science”.

Karl Popper, perhaps the best-known philosopher of the 20th century alongside Ludwig Wittgenstein, had already expressed a similar criticism in the 1950s. Psychoanalysis is based "solely on the formation of myths", for which the procedure is responsible for Sigmund Freud, "who only tried to confirm his theses instead of checking them critically and empirically". Nevertheless, Popper also expresses respect for Freud's power of vision; the lack of science is "not the death sentence for his ideas". Popper's rival Wittgenstein remarked to Freud as succinctly as laconically: “Freud is certainly very often wrong. As for his character, he's probably a pig or something like that. "

The method by which Freud came to his knowledge was controversial even during his lifetime. Even the first case story "Anna O.", which is considered to be the hour of birth of psychoanalysis in reception history, appears questionable. The pseudonym hides the future women's rights activist Bertha Pappenheim, daughter from a wealthy Jewish family, who was a hysteria patient of the then fashion doctor and Freud's mentor Josef Breuer. Using the case history of the woman, whom he had never met personally, but only from conversations with Breuer, Freud developed the procedure of a “speech cure” or “chimney sweep”, as the eloquent Pappenheim called it.

Disposal. Freud should proceed with Breuer in the same way as with many of his companions and idea generators: In the “Studies on Hysteria” published in 1895, Breuer was still a co-author. When he questioned Freud's thesis of sexual abuse as the sole cause of the hysteria, the radical egomaniac Freud disposed of his long-time promoter and patient mediator as the main obstetrician of psychoanalysis - on the grounds that he had shown him "an inappropriate expression of gratitude" for far too long . “He always had a real craving for people,” said his disciple Isidor Sadger, “whom he certainly rejected when they were used up.” The US science historian Frank Sulloway, who in his Freud analysis “Biologist of Mind” all Freud meticulously examined the case histories underlying the theories, sums up: “Freud interpreted his patients in the way that was most favorable for his theories. He was lying in wait like a detective until he came across an association that fit into the concept. "

For example, Ida Bauer, sister of the social democrat Otto Bauer and famous under the patient pseudonym Dora, left Berggasse at the age of 18 with billowing skirts, when Freud assumed she wanted a relationship with her father's lover, interpreted her cough as an imitation of her father's coitus noises and her irritated appendix as an expression of a childbirth fantasy. “The publications of the medical histories”, according to the Viennese historian Gudrun Wolfgruber, “primarily served to present the psychoanalysis conclusively.” The recurring dreams of threatening white wolves of the “Wolfman”, the cipher for the Russian Serguis Pankejeff, stirred loudly Freud, therefore, that as a little boy he had watched his parents coitus and put their white underwear into wolf skins. Pankejeff completed 1200 hours on the couch and still died impoverished and depressed in 1979 in Vienna. In general, Freud showed little interest in the healing of his patients; Rather, they were “objects of research” and “lucky animals” who had to make sacrifices in the service of his “conquistadorian temperament”. Freud's radical interpretations, in which he held the repression and suppression of instinctual life responsible for every neurotic misfortune, were the product of a sexually repressive and misogynistic era and should be seen in this context. The psychological unhappiness of the 21st century no longer occurs in the form of hysteria, but in narcissistic disorders, depression, the borderline syndrome or panic attacks. “Of course there are always fashions of diagnosis”, says Christine Diercks, former chairwoman of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association, “today a lot is borderline, at one time multiple personalities were chic.” At the same time, Freud's theories and often speculative findings are inseparable from his own biographical findings Connected experiences. At the age of four he saw his mother naked for the first time on a train ride from Vienna to Leipzig and, based on this experience, later developed the Oedipus complex. His mother's oversized love (“Sigi, mein Gold”) laid the foundation for a megalomania that was additionally nourished by years of cocaine consumption.

In his letters and notes, the declared atheist, who found analogies to obsessional neurosis in his religious practice, liked to speak of himself as “general”, “messiah” and “Moses”; He described his followers as "strict believers" and those who revolted against his dogmas as "heretics".

There is also a coherent explanation for his obsession with sexuality. After the birth of six children - his future heiress in the profession, Anna, was born last in 1895 - the sexual activities between the then 41-year-old "dear head" and his wife Martha are said to have come to a standstill. Freud noted about the “sexual malaise”, for whom no biographer could ever prove an affair: “Satisfactory sexual intercourse in marriage only lasts for a few years, then marriage fails insofar as it has promised the satisfaction of sexual needs.” And now: Freud's relevant theories in reality check.