Time and Space

“Let me take as one example of this presentism a sentence of Gay’s: “By 1905, in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, he had reached the point where he could criticize his fellow psychiatrists for assigning far too much importance to heredity.”6 Now, the general reader does not know that Freud was a neurologist and an outsider to psychiatry; even those who nominate books for awards cannot be expected to understand that Freud’s alienation from psychiatry is a key to his professional life in Vienna, as well as to why he later so much wanted the support of someone like Carl G. Jung, who was a psychiatrist. (Gay mixes things up more by erroneously referring to Julius Wagner von Jauregg, who was a psychiatrist, as “the great neurologist.” 7)

A historian not bent on writing “a life for our time” would feel no need to flatten out and assimilate the historical Freud into our practices today. And therefore students of history are required to help us understand what Freud originally meant by the concept of neurosis and what kind of patients he first thought he could account for by his original notion of “narcissistic neurosis”; and then it would also be important to describe the grounds on which Freud, later in the 1920s, first began to draw a distinction between neurosis and psychosis. 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; at the same time it also freed Freud from the traditionalistic restraint about how all patients were to be approached. Despite Gay’s smooth writing he has, however, given us a perspectiveless, chronicle-like account of Freud; the creator of psychoanalysis is not placed in proper perspective in both time and space, an omission that has to be misleading to serious readers who might want to rely on his book.”

Paul Roazen – Trauma of Freud

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