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The Cathartic Therapy

By Jean Chiriac

People that have endless trust in the creative capacity  of a genius are undoubtedly wrong. What is truly brilliant in the personality of exceptional people is their gift for synthesis - in the case of creators - and their art to allow themselves to be favored by fellows and  times - in the case of politicians. Freud seems to have merged both gifts.

Joseph Breuer
Dr. Breuer, one of the most influential scientists and physicians of his time, was a close relation of Freud, a support and the originator of cathartic procedure
Psychoanalysis is partly his own masterpiece. Its resources or the sources it has been feeding on are extremely diverse and chiefly  intertwined. Except for certain instances, it is nowadays impossible to say what belongs to Freud in the creation of psychoanalysis from what belongs to other medical, artistic, scientific and philosophical  personalities of the time. Freud had the knowledge to draw his inspiration from all directions and admitted so on several occasions.

But the most important influence on the emergence of psychoanalysis  belonged to the experiments Dr. Joseph Breuer in Vienna conducted with a young hysterical woman, whose clinical name was Anna O. Otherwise a renowned doctor of the time, Dr. Breuer was the first to realize that symptoms of hysteria completely disappeared when, under hypnosis, the patient would recall and at the same time relive emotional circumstances bringing about the symptoms. It was thus that cathartic therapy was born.

Having collaborated with Dr. Breuer for a while, Freud himself acknowledges the later's influence on the emergence of psychoanalysis. On his first conference at Clark University of the United States in September 1909, Freud would modestly declare:

    In the year 1909, when I was first  privileged to speak publicly on psychoanalysis in an American University,   fired by this momentous occasion for my endeavors, I declared that it was  not myself who brought psychoanalysis into existence. I said that it was  Joseph Breuer, who had merited this honor at a time when I  was a student  and busy working for my examinations (1880-1882). Since then,  well-intentioned friends have frequently repeated that I then expressed my  gratitude out of all due proportion. They  considered that, as on previous  occasions, I should have dignified Breuer's "cathartic  procedure" as merely preliminary to psychoanalysis, and should have  claimed that psychoanalysis itself  only began with my rejection of the  hypnotic technique and my introduction of free association.

    Now it is  really a matter of indifference whether the history of psychoanalysis be considered to have started with the cathartic method or only with my  modification of the same. I only enter into this uninteresting question  because some opponents of psychoanalysis are wont to recall, now and then, that the art of psychoanalysis did not originate with me at all, but with Breuer. Naturally, this only happens to be the case when their attitude  permits them to find in psychoanalysis something that is  noteworthy; on  the other hand when their repudiation of psychoanalysis is unlimited, then  psychoanalysis is always indisputably my creation. I have never yet heard  that Breuer's great part in  psychoanalysis has brought him an equal  measure of insult and reproach.

    As I have recognized long since that it is the inevitable fate of psychoanalysis to arouse opposition and to embitter  people,  I have come to the conclusion that I must surely be the originator  of all that characterizes psychoanalysis. I add, with satisfaction, that  none of the attempts to belittle my share in this much  disdained  psychoanalysis has ever come from Breuer himself, or could boast of his  support. (Translation by A.A.Brill, 1917).

Many people's view of Freud's acknowledgment was that it expressed his modesty, just as I previously suggested myself; in other words, Freud's confirmation  that Breuer was in fact the founder of psychoanalysis was just giving the later what he deserves.

Nevertheless, in 1909, psychoanalysis was not yet what it was to become later on, when the practice of abreaction was partly given up in favor of free associations and analysis of transference, elements that Freud himself had introduced into analytical practice.

Such as certain authors also previously remarked, the  more probable thing is that Freud's alleged modesty was in fact the cover for some simple reckoning: indicating Breuer as the creator of psychoanalysis meant transferring the charge ("blame") of its emergence to someone  else and not to just any person, as Breuer was an already well-known figure in the field of medical science.


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