The Trauma of Freud: Controversies in Psychoanalysis (Book Review)

Author:  Roazen, Paul 
Publisher: Transaction Publishers 2002
Reviewed By: Martin Schulman, Fall 2003, pp. 61-63

I personally like Paul Roazen, and have great respect for his writings and studies of psychoanalysis as intellectual history. One might make the claim with a degree of confidence that indeed he originated a new field of scholarship. I admire his dedication to historical truth and not simply the word as presented from above as well as what seems to be his inherent gravitation to the “underdog”; namely those psychoanalysts who have been overshadowed, maligned or made into “non-persons” by the powers that be, i.e., Ferenczi, Tausk, Rado, Fromm, Erikson, and Jung. With that in mind, I must add that I have not always agreed with his conclusions or inferences but trust the motives underlying them. I do not categorize him with the “Freud bashers” and agree with his assessment of Freudian studies that “A sober assessment of what he accomplished may make less likely the kind of shallow polemical assaults on Freud that have become so fashionable lately” (p. 69). His feelings and evaluation of Freud are summarized by the following statement: “Along with being a great writer and psychologist, Freud was a revolutionary in the history of ideas, which means that he was also hard and a fighter. Freud sought to affront the pieties of his times, and sometimes even consciously identified with the devil in Western history” (p. 130). Not a bad legacy.

One criterion for judging a book is whether or not the author’s stated purpose is fulfilled. For Roazen, the desire was to “...lead others in the future to look on all such matters with more of the nuances that a serious historical subject deserves” (p. xii). Accepting this criterion, the book is a success, and hopefully this review will be seen as part of that unfolding discourse. The trauma of the book’s title is defined by Roazen as based on the fact that “ Freud succeeded in decisively transforming how we think about ourselves.... Freud shocked civilized readers, and reactions to his system of thought have seemed mandatory. It has recently been suggested, “one could say that the history of psychoanalysis consists of a continuous conversation with Fraud” (sic!) (p. xv), and much of this book deals with that transformation. I will not comment on the parapraxis that appears in the quote, other than to point out that perhaps it reflects Roazen’s desire to differentiate the real Freud from the one who has been handed down by sycophantic followers.

In a series of chapters, dealing both with controversies that have marked the still brief history of psychoanalysis, and often pungent reviews of books, written by scholars in the field, as well as advocates of specific positions and even academic poseurs, Roazen neatly ties together the trends and demonstrates how much of what previously appeared as truisms was not based on fact but mere hagiography. Roazen’s critique of Robert Caper can apply unfortunately to much of the literature in the field, “Clinicians such as Caper ought not to be able to think that they can proceed to bat out books about psychoanalysis without being called to account by the normal standards of everyday academic life”(p. 82). I agree and must add that the same intellectual standard should apply to Roazen, but more about that later.

This book reflects Roazen’s forty-plus years in studying, as well as interviewing the pioneers in psychoanalysis and his lifetime attempt to set the record straight. One must wonder, why after all this time, the psychoanalytic establishment still is leery about the truth of the field, and the early Freudians, as if an historically true representation would diminish the power of their contributions or the potency of psychoanalysis as a method of investigation. On a lighter note, but one of equal importance, the book is an engaging read, full of information, passion and the obvious love for the work to which the author has committed his professional life.

Now for my disagreements, queries, or nuanced reading of the topics Roazen discusses. As for the Jung chapter; Roazen is on target in pointing out the numerous contributions and foreshadowing of contemporary psychoanalysis that can be found in the Jungian canon. Not only training analysis, but the mutuality of treatment, the use of countertransference, the emphasis on the “self’ and the unfolding of developmental paths are all there in his writings and, as Roazen rightly points out, rarely mentioned in the standard psychoanalytic literature. Where I think Roazen underplayed the reason or at least one of the reasons for Jung’s relative neglect by the Freudian field is the question of Jung’s politics and how they might be reflected in his theory. I cannot discount Jung’s flirtation with Nazism as simply “unfortunate” (p. 31), “regrettable” (p. 32), or “naive, even stupid” (p. 40). The fact that the analytic establishment left a lot to be desired in their attempt to not have the Nazi movement impinge on the “sanctity” of the psychoanalytic endeavor, nor Freud’s inscription of “Why War?” to Mussolini cannot lead to an equation with Jung’s role in the therapeutic movement during the years of the Third Reich. It is also hard for me to reconcile within the same chapter the following two statements that appear, literally, on the same page “Linda Donn’s Freud and Jung: Years of Friendship, Years of Loss is not a scholar’s book” (p. 18), and, “even the most knowledgeable readers have things to learn from Donn’s careful research” (p. 18-19). Which one is it?

The question arises of the necessary background to be a psychoanalyst since at various points Roazen criticizes both Anna Freud (p. 105) as well as Melanie Klein (p. 80) for the absence of medical training and how that impinges on their therapeutic and diagnostic abilities. The same seems to apply to Freud who was indeed a neurologist as Roazen claims. Roazen states, “Those who are most familiar with Freud’s clinical practices have no doubt that his lack of psychiatric training was a handicap to his diagnostic abilities” (p. 132). Who? What are the sources for this statement? And, “A central inadequacy of Freud’s training was his lack of rounded psychiatric experience, for his practice tended to exclude cases of grave mental illness” (p. 140). Maybe. It should be remembered that psychoanalysis originally was a method of treatment for neurosis and Freud did differentiate between psychoneurosis and narcissistic neurosis.

Also we must question whether Freud was as removed from psychiatric training as Roazen infers. He did a “residency” with Meynart, did he not, and this is covered in Hirschmuller’s book Freud’s Encounter With Psychiatry (Editions Discord, 1990), which unfortunately has yet to be translated into English. Unlike 21st century Board certification, the case can be made that Freud’s familiarity with Kraepelin and Bleuler, as well as the work with Meynert, qualified him as a psychiatrist. It also should be recalled that the title Psychiatrist applied to state employees of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who worked in state asylums and in many ways was off limits to Jews, even “Godless” ones such as Freud. If I am wrong on these points I am sure Dr. Roazen will not hesitate to correct me. I must also wonder why the criticism of Klein who “...not only lacked medical training but never attained any kind of higher education...”(p. 83); whereas, Erikson, who matched Klein in the absence of credentials is seen in a positive light. “To the extent that Erikson continues to inspire new generations of analysts he will have succeeded in being a creative leader of the field” (p. 192). Perhaps Roazen is responding to factors other than training and academic degrees?

Roazen is quite correct in consistently challenging the standards of scholarship of much of the analytic literature. Indeed too much is shoddy, slipshod, and below academic publication standards. One requirement is that categorical statements be cited, substantiated or referenced. Here I have several questions for Roazen based on his own criteria. We find the following: “Even among the most ideologically emancipated contemporary psychoanalysts, relatively few are familiar with Jung’s clinical contributions” (p. 28). Where is the evidence for this? Within the last five years issues of The Psychoanalytic Review, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, and articles in Psychoanalytic Psychology appeared representing the clinical Jung. In regard to the British analyst, Karin Stephen, Roazen states: “I was authoritatively told that what kept her back was the emotional instability that eventually led to her suicide....” (p. 74). Having been instrumental in reintroducing Ferenczi to the analytic community, and exposing the attempt by Jones to smear him by diagnosis, a not uncommon characteristic within psychoanalysis for dissidents and renegades, Roazen presents the same argument, also unsubstantiated. Again, who is the source? On page 147 we find the following: “Although it is luckily not known abroad, one of American psychoanalysis’s unique contributions has been that journals publish partially ghost-written works with artificially concocted bibliographies.” A hell of an indictment. But, which journals? What again is the source for this assertion? As editor of a journal for the last fourteen years and a colleague of many fellow editors within the field, I have never heard of this, nor have I seen any evidence to substantiate this claim. On page 146 we find: “The death of Jones’s first wife (about which rumor has long had it that much more was to be unearthed)...” What are the rumors? Who passed them on? What was the underlying agenda? As it stands this statement is too much of a tease and needs emendation. And finally, “There is no way practitioners can function without unloading some of their problems on their spouses and professional colleagues, so confidentiality is, in any event, a relative phenomenon. There is also the problem of malicious gossip, which psychiatrists indulge in like other human beings. Once again maybe, however, are peer groups, supervision and consultations considered violations of confidence? As to the other comments, here too, they are declared by fiat rather than by any empirical evidence supporting them.

There are several points, stated as facts, which are really interpretations, with which I take issue. We find on page 156, “According to one of Freud’s loyal Swiss disciples, Ludwig Binswanger...” It is a bit of a stretch to see Binswanger, one of the founders of existential psychoanalysis, and certainly not part of the “loyal followers” as a disciple, loyal or otherwise of Freud’s. At best we can call him an admirer, but certainly his own person. In fact the case can be made that he was one of the few non-followers with whom Freud maintained a respectful and friendly correspondence. We find the following in regard to the Chicago psychoanalytic scene, “ In his lifetime, Alexander became highly controversial, and it is a sign of his impact in Chicago that ever since he left in 1956 analysts there have been so fearful of the charge of unorthodoxy that Alexander’s name almost never is cited by the people one might most expect” (p. 230). Fearful of being labeled “unorthodox”? Chicago? Is that not the base of Kohutian developments, and the “home” of self-psychology? Did Anna Freud not refer to Kohut as “antipsychoanalytic” (p. 97)? Indeed, Alexander has been largely and unjustifiably ignored. Is that the result of a fear of unorthodoxy, or perhaps other reasons?

This book continues the Roazen canon of exploration, with “no punches pulled” into the history of psychoanalysis. I can recommend it along with the rest of his writings for those readers committed to knowing what happened and not the sanitized version that is often presented in one’s training. For this alone Roazen deserves to be commended.

Reviewer Note

Martin A. Schulman is the editor of The Psychoanalytic Review and is currently serving as president of Section I. He is co-editor (with Charlotte Schwartz) of Sexual Faces and (with Joseph Reppen) of Failures in Psychoanalytic Treatment.

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