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©1998-2018 Maria Helena Rowell

from Dr. Sigmund Freud


1) "I think I am changing a great deal. I will tell you in detail what is affecting me. Charcot, who is one of the greatest physicians and a man whose common sense is touched by genius, is simply uprooting my aims and opinions. I sometimes come out of his lectures as though I were coming out of Notre Dame, with a new idea of perfection. But he exhausts me; when I come away from him I no longer have any desire to work at my own silly things; it is three whole days since I have done any work, and I have no feelings of guilt. My brain is sated, as if I had spent an evening at the theatre. Whether the seed will ever bear any fruit, I do not know; but what I do know is that no one else has ever affected me in the same way..."

From a letter he wrote to his future wife soon after his arrival in Paris (11.24.1885) [SE, III, 9]

2) "This book, with the new contribution to psychology which surprised the world when it was published (1900), remains essentially unaltered. It contains, even according to my present-day judgement, the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime." Vienna (03/15/1931)

From the Preface to the Third (Revised) English Edition [SE, IV, The Interpretation of Dreams, xxxii]

3) "If it is true that the causes of hysterical disorders are to be found in the intimacies of the patient's psychosexual life, and that hysterical symptoms are the expression of their most secret and repressed wishes, then the complete elucidation of a case of hysteria is bound to involve the revelation of those intimacies and the betrayal of those secrets."

From "Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria" (1905[1901]) [SE, VII, 7-8]

4) "...reports reach my ears that this or that colleague has arranged appointments with a patient in order to undertake a mental treatment of the case, though I am certain he knows nothing of the technique of any such therapy. His expectation must be therefore that the patient will make him a present of his secrets, or perhaps that he is looking for salvation in some sort of confession or confidence. I should not be surprised if a patient were injured rather than benefited by being treated in such a fashion. For it is not so easy to play upon the instrument of the mind. I am reminded on such occasions of the words of a world-famous neurotic - though it is true that he was never treated by a physician but existed only in a poet's imagination - Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The King has ordered two courtiers, Rosenkranz and Guildenstern, to follow him, to question him and drag the secret of his depression out of him. He wards them off. Then some recorders are brought on the stage and Hamlet, taking one of them, begs one of his tormentors to play upon it, telling him that it is as easy as lying. The courtier excuses himself, for he knows no touch of the instrument, and when he cannot be persuaded to try it, Hamlet finally breaks out with these words: 'Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ; yet you cannot make it speak.

'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.' (Act III, Scene 2)

From "On Psychotherapy" (1905[1904]) [SE, VII, 261-62]

5) "Is the subject of jokes worth so much trouble? There can, I think, be no doubt of it. Leaving on one side the personal motives which make me wish to gain an insight into the problems of jokes and which will come to light in the course of these studies, I can appeal to the fact that there is an intimate connection between all mental happenings - a fact which guarantees that a psychological discovery even in a remote field will be of an unpredictable value in other fields."

From "Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious" (1905) [SE, VIII, 15]

6) "A year later the war broke out and robbed the world of its beauties. It destroyed not only the beauty of the countrysides through which it passed and the works of art which it met in its path but also shattered our pride in the achievements of civilization, our admiration for many philosophers and artists and our hopes for a final triumph over the differences between nations and races. It tarnished the lofty impartiality of science, it revealed our instincts in all their nakedness and let loose the evil spirits within us which we thought had been tamed for ever by centuries of continuous education by the noblest minds. It made our country small again and made the rest of the world far remote. It robbed us of very much that we had loved, and showed us how ephemeral were many things that we regarded as changeless."

From "On Transience" (1916[1915]) [SE, XIV, 307 ]

7) "The attributes of life were at some time evoked in inanimate matter by the action of a force of whose nature we can form no conception. It may perhaps have been a process similar in type to that which later caused the development of consciousness in a particular stratum of living matter. The tension which then arose in what had hitherto been an inanimate substance endeavoured to cancel itself out. In this way the first instinct came into being: the instinct to return to the inanimate state. It was still an easy matter at that time for a living substance to die; the course of its life was probably only a brief one, whose direction was determined by the chemical structure of the young life. For a long time, perhaps, living substance was thus being constantly created afresh and easily dying, till decisive external influences altered in such a way as to oblige the still surviving substance to diverge ever more widely from its original course of life and to make ever more complicated détours before reaching its aim of death. These circuitous paths to death, faithfully kept to by the conservative instincts, would thus present us to-day with the picture of the phenomena of life."

From "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" (1920) [SE, XVIII, 38]

8) "Human civilization, by which I mean all those respects in which human life has raised itself above its animal status and differs from the life of beasts - and I scorn to distinguish between culture and civilization - , presents, as we know, two aspects to the observer. It includes on the one hand all the knowledge and capacity that men have acquired in order to control the forces of nature and extract its wealth for the satisfaction of human needs, and, on the other hand, all the regulations necessary in order to adjust the relations of men to one another and especially the distribution of the available wealth. The two trends of civilization are not independent of each other: firstly, because the mutual relations of men are profoundly influenced by the amount of instinctual satisfaction which the existing wealth makes possible; secondly, because an individual man can himself come to function as wealth in relation to another one, in so far as the other person makes use of his capacity for work, or chooses him as sexual object; and thirdly, moreover, because every individual is virtually an enemy of civilization, though civilization is supposed to be an object of universal human interest."

From "The Future of an Illusion" (1927) [SE, XXI, 5-6]

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