APPOINTMENT IN VIENNA: An American Psychoanalyst Recalls Her Student Days in Pre- War Austria by Esther Menaker

APPOINTMENT IN VIENNA: An American Psychoanalyst Recalls Her Student Days in Pre- War Austria

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Menaker (Clinical Psychology/N. Y.U.) wrote these recollections in response to student questions about her five years of training at the Viennese Psychoanalytic Institute in the early heyday of Freudianism. In the process, she dashes several buckets of cold water over expectations that she might confirm ""a myth that romanticizes Vienna and idealizes their psychoanalytic heroes."" Menaker and her new husband, Bill, were both altruistic, intellectually questing social workers when they left the US in 1930 for the famed institute. Expecting to imbibe knowledge at its dynamic font, they found themselves instead mired in dogma and doctrine. The legendary Vienna of music and laughter had deteriorated into a city of beggars and a cynical, class-obsessed bourgeoisie. The requisite year of analysis--Esther with Anna Freud, Bill with the institute's head-of-training, Helene Deutsch--proved frustrating. Freud interpreted Esther's desire for personal growth as a neurotic disturbance and her altruism as a ""compensation for suppressed hostility."" Attractive, outgoing Bill simply couldn't make the requisite transference of Deutsch into an all-wise authority figure. The Menakers sensed that inappropriate parenting and poor social conditions, rather than Oedipal conflicts, castration anxiety, and penis envy, might be the source of emotional problems; but so imbued were they with the ""Freudian mystique"" that they themselves employed the ""master's"" techniques when psychoanalyzing others. In later years, they drew inspiration from Otto Rank, Karen Horney, Melanie Kahn, and others who liberated psychoanalysis from its Freudian strait-jacket. Although laced with acrimony, a lode of knowledge about Viennese culture and its psychoanalytic community as Europe moved toward WW II.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's