Anti-Psychoanalytic Cultural Forces in the Development of Western Civilization
By Arieti, Silvano
Academic journal article from American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 50, No. 4
Beginning of article
Why did a Freud appear on the world stage at the end of the nineteenth century? Why did dynamic psychiatry originate in this period and not before or later?
An historian or a sociologist could attempt to solve this problem by the usual method; that is, by investigating what chains of events or what previous discoveries were necessary for the development of psychoanalysis. This method is best illustrated by examples from the field of mathematics and physics, where it is impossible, for instance, to conceive an Einstein without a previous Newton, a Newton without a Galileo, a Galileo without a Copernicus, and so on, backward to Euclid, Archimedes and Pythagoras.
However the situation of dynamic psychiatry is different from that of physics, or any other science, including every other branch of medicine. In other words, there is no series of previous necessary discoveries which made a Freud possible only at the end of the nineteenth century, and not, let us say, in the fifteenth or twelfth century, or even before the Christian Era.
I suspect that many readers may doubt the validity of this statement. They might think that there would be no psychoanalysis without hypnosis and its application to psychiatry by the French school. Others might feel that a Charcot was necessary to orient Freud toward the psychoneuroses. Still others might think that it is impossible to conceive of a Freud without a previous Darwin, because Freud’s thinking was so greatly influenced by Darwin’s evolutionary and genetic concepts.
As to hypnosis, it is true that it was, for the first time in Western history, officially accepted as a therapeutic method by the French medical schools of the nineteenth century, especially on account of the teachings of Mesmer, Braid and Bernheim. Actually, hypnosis has been practiced since ancient times. It is well known not only that the Babylonian soothsayers and the Hebrew physicians practiced hypnosis repeatedly, but that in Europe, too, throughout the Middle Ages, alchemists were concerned with it and officially accepted it in the scientific world of those times. Therefore, what is really strange is not that Freud and Breuer were able to observe that forgotten memories reappear under hypnosis, but that nobody else before them ever paid serious attention to these rescued memories.
As to Charcot, he undoubtedly influenced Freud’s thinking and career like many others did; but it is one thing to influence a man’s thinking and another to have the kind of effect without which no further growth is possible. Few people nowadays attribute to Charcot such a decisive influence for the development of psychoanalysis.
Darwin’s influence on Freud has to be considered more seriously. Horney, too, has discussed this influence in her book, New Ways in Psychoanalysis ( 1). Freud believed that stages of development are repetitions of phylogenetic stages, and such belief has influenced his theories of fixation and regression of the libido. However, these theories, conceived probably under Darwin’s influence, are not fundamental in psychoanalysis. Horney, in her school of thought, conceives and practices a psychoanalysis deprived of these Darwinian influences. Furthermore, similar ideas, similar comparisons about phylogenetic and ontogenetic developments had been formulated previously, but did not evolve into anything comparable to psychoanalysis. The philosopher Giambattista Vico (2), in the seventeenth century, compared primitive people to children, and studied myths and mores in a way which has great resemblance to the analytic method. Though his writings became part of the background of every philosopher, they did not hasten the development of psychoanalysis. In his writings Freud shows no evidence of having been influenced by Vico, either directly or through some other indirect source.
In my opinion it is not true that psychoanalysis could have been born only at the end of the nineteenth century and not before, because the state of knowledge and science prior to that period would have made it impossible. …
Linda Alexander. Clinical Hypnotherapy Glasgow. Contact: 0141 632 1440, 07875 493 358 and firstname.lastname@example.org
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