Thursday, May 31, 2012

"The Freud Files"

As many of you know, I learned about Freud the hard way. That is, I learned about Freud from true-believing Freudians.

Thus, I was taught the hagiography, the story that psychoanalysts, their enablers, and their fellow travelers wanted to be told.

Those of us who are or were part of the Freudian movement shamelessly sold this story to the public.

I have long since taken my leave of Freudian mind control. If you have read some of the reaction to some of my recent posts about psychoanalysis and autism you know that true-believing Freudians are sorely upset about it.

When I was learning about Freud, no Freudian thought to question the great story that was Freudian psychoanalysis. We absorbed the theory, that is, the story. Facts could wait for later.

At the same time a new industry had sprung up to debunk the specious and spurious claims that Freud and his followers had been making.

Most Freudians tried to ignore the naysayers and critics. From a psychoanalytic perspective only those who have been psychoanalyzed really understood. The unanalyzed masses were incapable of grasping the higher Freudian truth.

It was like saying that only true-believers, the indoctrinated and the brainwashed had a right to an opinion about Freud.

Among the best critics of the Freudian enterprise has been University of Washington professor Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen.

Over the years Borch-Jacobsen has written a number of acclaimed books in which he has extensively documented the extent of the Freudian intellectual fraud.

It feels harsh to see it in those terms, but no other terms do it justice. Freud lied about his patients and he lied about his treatment successes. His followers lied about his life.

Freud was creating a supreme fiction, a hagiography about himself. It had more in common with scientology than with science.

However well I am now apprised of the great Freudian fraud it still comes as a shock to read Borch-Jacobsen’s latest book, The Freud Files, which he co-authored with Sonu Shamdasani.

Borch-Jacobsen shows that, from the beginning, Freud was making grandiose claims that his medical colleagues knew to be nonsense.

They knew that psychoanalysis was not producing clinical results. They knew that Freud’s case studies were more literature than science.

Somehow or other, it did not matter. Borch-Jacobsen poses exactly the right question. How did it happen that such a manifest fraud become so powerful and influential?

Was it the force of Freud’s personality, the brilliance of his writing, the strength of his conviction or the will of his followers that made Freud a household name?

How did ideas masquerading as science come to be accepted as science when most scientists knew that they were anything but?

How did it happen that Freud alone, of all the psychiatrists and psychologists who have worked in the mental health field created an international cult dedicated to propagating and disseminating his ideas?

In his book Borch-Jacobsen addresses these crucial issues. He does so clearly and concisely, with extensive documentation, and writes so well that the book is a joy to read.

Naturally, the few remaining members of the Freudian cult are very upset about the book, but then again, it does not take too much to upset them.

If you are tempted to think that Borch-Jacobsen is exaggerating or that the Freud bashers have taken leave of reality, I recommend that you read a less detailed but more first-hand expose of the Freudian myth factory in Peter Drucker’s chapter about Freud in his book, Adventures of a Bystander.

Drucker was born in Vienna. He lived in Vienna when Freud was practicing. But, when it comes to psychoanalysis he has no skin in the game.

If you read Drucker's account you will see that he concludes that Freud’s greatest genius was in creating a set of myths and persuading the world to take them as historical and even scientific facts.


n.n said...

Of God, men, and those who would presume to play the first.

It's ironic that individuals who reject a divine God, willingly and needfully submit to mortal gods. I suppose people need to believe in something, preferably tangible or a reasonable facsimile, and who promises them instant gratification not in their post-mortem but during their mortal existence.

I'm certain this is the basis for the progressive dysfunction which afflicts first-world societies, including a need to temper reality with consumption of psychotropic drugs. When delusions inevitably confront and conflict with reality, there is a need to dissociate in order to moderate the resulting dissonance.

Perhaps this is the reason for a renewed interest in rejoining a natural environment. Perhaps our artificial world is incompatible with some or many individuals' requirements. I think people should rejoin and immerse themselves in the natural world periodically. It really is a sanctuary for our minds.

Anonymous said...


As an economist, I can't say that I know much about Freud and psychoanalysis. A number of friends, however, have pointed me to Phillip Rieff's "Triumph of the Therapeutic" as a rather stinging critique of his ideas and influence. What are your thoughts on Rieff's book?

Thank you for your fascinating blog!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the kind words. It's been quite some time since I've read Rieff and I had only read his book, Freud, the Mind of the Moralist, but, upon reading the reviews of the book you mention, I will say that I am in complete agreement with what he has to say.

I very much appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

David Foster said...

"Adventures of a Bystander" is a wonderful book, highly recommended (although I'm convinced Drucker occasionally exaggerates to make a point).

David Foster