The director of Cornell’s Institute for the History of Psychiatry investigates his roots.
Makari (Psychiatry/Weill Medical Center and Rockefeller Univ.) opens in 1885 with 29-year-old Sigmund Freud down and out in Paris. Dejected, dismissed and destitute, Freud had fled to the City of Lights as a last resort. He had been forced to give up on his claims for cocaine as a new panacea, as well as his dreams of becoming a scholar and researcher. This was it: If Paris didn’t work, he would have to become a doctor. What happened next, as we all know, changed the course of Western intellectual history, popularized a struggling field of science and put 19th-century Europe’s bustle in a bunch. The author reveals the inner life of psychoanalysis through the discussions of Freud and his various disciples, most of whom broke ranks before the outbreak of World War II. Carl Jung, Mr. Collective Unconscious, declared that not every psychological disorder had its roots in sexual dysfunction. Anna Freud, the master’s daughter, made sense of the long-ignored ego (Papa preferred the id). The vivacious and often grating Melanie Klein challenged and deepened Freud’s ideas about childhood. Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi eventually came to believe that, contrary to Freudian thinking, his patients’ accounts of sexual abuse were true stories and not merely disguised desires. In its heyday, Freudian and Freudian-inspired inquiries about the nature of the human psyche lit up the airwaves, revolutionized the way people thought about what it meant to think at all, and injected phrases like oral fixation and penis envy into the lingua franca. Despite internal strife, Freud’s debated and sometimes dubious legacy remains powerful—and a fascinating topic for exploration in the hands of such a deft historian.
A thorough, exciting history of some very strange ideas.