Nineteenth Century Philosophy

Sigmund Freud

Did Sigmund Freud analyze himself?

Yes, he did, and several examples show that he aimed for complete disclosure. On his own Oedipus complex, he wrote a friend:

I have found, in my own case too, [the phenomenon of] being in love with my mother and jealous of my father, and I now consider it a universal event in early childhood, even if not so early as in children who have been made hysterical.

He was also just as willing to analyze literary characters and authorship; thus, he famously wrote about Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

Fleetingly the thought passed through my head that the same thing might be at the bottom of Hamlet as well. I am not thinking of Shakespeare’s conscious intention, but believe, rather, that a real event stimulated the poet to his representation, in that his unconscious understood the unconscious of his hero.

Freud also collected his own memory lapses, slips of the tongue, and dreams for analysis. In the 1936 article “A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis,” he explained why he felt doubtful and uneasy when he visited the Acropolis in Greece in 1904:

It must be that a sense of guilt was attached to the satisfaction in having gone such a long way: there was something about it that was wrong, that from earliest times had been forbidden. It was something to do with a child’s criticism of his father, with the undervaluation which took the place of the overvaluation of earlier childhood. It seems as though the essence of success was to have got further than one’s father, and as though to excel one’s father was still something forbidden.

Freud’s father had been too poor to make such a trip, and not educated enough to have been interested in the Acropolis.


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