Freud’s Seduction Theory Freuds Seduction Theory During 1895-1896 Sigmund Freud practiced psychoanalysis by listening to his women patients weave cryptic trails down memory lane, as well as trying to decipher them. What he uncovered was that something awful and violent lay in their past. The majority of psychiatrists in this era would have deemed their patient as a hysterical liar, dismissing their memories as fantasy. Freud strayed from the norm in the sense that he believed that these women were telling the truth. Illness did not befall these women due to their tainted families , but because of the atrocities they faced as children. During April of 1896 Freud scraped all the theories, case histories and experience from the depths of his consciousness and manipulated it into written form.
The presentation of his ideas met with silence from his colleagues. Despite the predictions of a tarnished reputation, Freud published his newfound theories in The Aetiology of Hysteria. Its title refers to Freuds theory that the basis of all neurosis stemmed from what Freud called infantile sex scenes. This namely became to be known as the seduction theory, the belief that these early childhood experiences were real, not fantasy created out of hysteria, and they had long lasting effects on the adult lives of those who suffered through them. The repercussions of his ideas, both innovative and perverse, earned Freud a seat in seclusion.
But as the story goes, Freud eventually came to his senses about the seduction theory and gave up his aberration by publicly retracting his study. The accepted notion is that he literally had to banish the theory from his consciousness in order to move on to his more accepted work. Joined by other physicians, over a three year span, Psychoanalysis earned respect as a therapy and science. How does an innovative idea , supported by spirit and experience , come to be a belief , and then a regret ? And in the answer, lie my intentions and hopes for this paper. I seek to prove that Freud was intrigued by cases involving child abuse, incest as well as other sexually related cases.
Upon turning the last page of this paper, the reader will understand that Freud did not develop the seduction theory overnight. Moreover, a gradual impact of his studies and surroundings eventually seeped through his skull and saturated the innermost cortexes of his brain, leaving his thoughts forever changed. Freud in Paris: The beginning of an obsession? Twenty-nine year old Freud ventured on a studious trip to Paris to wrap up his medical education while working under Frances leading neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893) at the renowned Salpetriere hospital. Freuds stay in Paris lasted from October 3, 1885 to February 28, 1896. During which, according to Jeffrey Masson, Freud was exposed to literature attesting to the reality and indeed the frequency of sexual abuse in early childhood (often occurring within the family); furthermore, in all probability witnessed autopsies at the Paris morgue performed on the young victims of such abuse (15). Freud has also made insinuations towards his studies in Paris have had a tremendous impact on his later works. Freuds mentor, Jean Charcot, in collaboration with Valentin Magnan, a well known French psychiatrist-produced an article in 1882 entitled The Inversion of the Genital Sense and other Sexual Perversions.
The article stresses that madness being taken into account as a factor in sexual accounts. Charcot is also said to have worked with Paul Brouardel on the study of rape in small children by adults. Their work, Les attentets aux moeurs, the last in his series, Cours de medicine legale de la Faculte de Paris, focused on the rapist, instead of the victim. (Masson, 34). The book contains several case histories, all full of horror. Brouardel also conducted autopsies at the Paris morgue.
Freud has written several letters expressing his enthusiasm for Brouardels work. Through examination of the following excerpt one is assured of Freuds participation in the autopsies. Freud writes: I abandoned my occasional attempts at attending other lectures after I have become convinced that all they had to offer were for the most part well constructed rhetorical performances. The only exceptions were Professor Brouardels forensic autopsies and lectures at the morgue, which I rarely missed. -(Studies in Paris,1886) There were several other men writing in regards to sexual/child abuse, which Freud was familiar with , according to Masson (38).
Freud was surrounded by the theoretical debate between Ambrose Tardieu and Alfred Fornier. Tardieu argued that these sexual traumas were all but too real, while Fournier argued that they were fantasies. Both shared the perspective that either way fantasy or fake, neither had lasting psychological effects. When Freud joined the debate, he joined on Tardieus side. But over the years adapted to Fourniers side, with the difference that he believed that fantasies themselves had pathogenic psychological consequences.(Masson, 58) It is obvious that Freuds time spent in Paris had a great effect on his thoughts, as well as his later work. Freud writes to Martha Bernays in regards to Paris, Whether the seed will one day bring forth fruit, I do not know.
Also, Freud named his first born son, Jean Martin, in Charcots honor.(Gay, Reading, p57) . Freud found himself submerged in a world fascinated by child abuse, both physical and sexual. The French pioneered in the realization that these horrid occurrences were real. Unfortunately, they did little other than uncover these truths. The toll that this environment took on Freud unleashed his unbridled curiosity in regards not only to the physical and sexual acts themselves, but also the deep rooted, psychological strings attached to these scenes. Seems as if Freud was swimming in a murky sea of insect, molestation and rape. It was inevitable that he would swallow some of it.
The Aeitiology of Hysteria: Frueds ticket to isolation Freshly returned from Paris , Freud began organizing his theories with his colleague, Josif Breur. He focused on the sexual abuse , over the physical abuse cases hed become so familiar with overseas . Freud began his writings by using a variety of words to describe these acts of violence: rape, abuse, seduction, attack, assault, aggression and traumas. Though, in later writings, Freud limited his adjectives mainly to seduction . Masson feels that the word seduction was a poor choice, seeing it implied some form of participation by the child. He assures us that there is no ambiguity in regards to what Freud meant by a seduction: a real sexual act forced on a young child who in no way desires or encourages it (5).
This is where the euphemism, The Seduction Theory, stemmed from. The Society for Psychiatry and Neurology in Vienna hosted a lecture, The Aetiology of Hysteria (Studies of Hysteria), by Freud on the evening of April 21, 1896. Freud felt that by announcing his newfound theories that he would become one of those who had disturbed the sleep of the world. (S.E., 3,p.199). The main focus of this paper pinpoints the origins of hysteria/neurosis in sexual traumas dealt with during childhood. Through a thorough dissection of The Aetiology of Hysteria the reader realizes that the article can be dichotomized into two parts. The first dealing with techniques for recovering repressed memories ,symbolism in the unconscious, as well as the significance of these memories.
The second part focused on Freuds connection between hysteria and sexual abuse directed towards a child, The Seduction Theory. Freud felt that repressed memories worked in a chain link , each one connected. If through probing, he uncovered a memory of vague significance, he would probe further and usually find a correlation betwixt the two memories . Hysteria, Freud affirmed, is the result of a presexual sexual shock, while obsessional neurosis is the consequence of presexual sexual pleasure. (Anzieu,1975/1986, p.161) Freud has eighteen cases supporting his theories .
Six men, twelve women ,all with hysterical symptoms and ,or obsession symptoms , led Freud on a journey through their unconsciously stored chains of repressed memories back to shocking sexual scenes in childhood. Freud was the first to believe these stories and label them as the cause of hysteria, rather that dismissing their stories as fantasy, a symptom of hysteria. Doug Davis observed that He [Freud] seems to have become concerned with the problems of child abuse in part because he saw reconstruction of the abusive history was evidence for a critical-period view of neurotic development: any genital stimulation of a very young child was almost certain to be traumatic because of the childs primitive emotional and cognitive resources and would give rise to psychological defenses (repression, reaction-formation, undoing) that would dispose the affected person to neurosis under even moderate adult stress. (P.3) The Reaction Freuds self proclaimed wisdom, fell upon deaf ears. His paper met with utter silence from the psychiatric community. The local paper in Vienna usually listed all lectures given, with a brief commentary.
Masson uncovered that the paper listed that Frueds lecture had occurred along with the date, yet no commentary was listed (6-7) . The following excerpt written to Fleiss (also excised from the edited version) tells of the reaction from the head of the Psychiatry Department at the University of Vienna , Baron Richard von Kraft-Ebing : A lecture on the aetiology of hysteria at the Psychiatric Society met with an icy reception from the asses, and from Kraft-Ebing the strange comment: It sounds like a scientific fairy tale. And this after one has demonstrated them to a solution to a more than a thousand year-old-problem, a source of the Nile! -(Schur, 104) Freud writes to Fleiss May 4,less than two weeks after his lecture. I am as isolated as you could wish me to be: the word has been given out to abandon me, and a void is forming arou …