Freud's Theory Analyzed -- A Report on Research Recent research on Freud finds his theory has been profoundly misunderstood

(O'Brien, 1989). The logic of this assertion follows. Reading may require concentration. Freud held that, through motives of defense, acts of repression caused censorship, omission, and distortion of one's "real" thoughts about an Oedipus complex. One's "conscious" thoughts would be unconsciously determined and distorted by what one had censored. One's conscious thoughts condensed, displaced, reversed, omitted, covertly alluded to, and disguised, by substitution of analogous symbols, one's "real" thoughts about an Oedipus complex (Freud, 1900). He applied his theory not only to dreams and hysterical symptoms, but to everyday actions including reading, writing, and speaking (Freud, 1901). Freud generalized his theory so broadly that it included his own conscious thoughts and thus his theory. In reading Freud's theory, therefore, one has to presume Freud's conscious thoughts--his theory--regarding an Oedipus complex represents not his real thoughts directly but his defensive condensations, displacements, reversals, omissions, distortions, etc., of his real thoughts. If one wishes to gain "insight" into his "real" thoughts regarding an Oedipus complex, one has to analyze and interpret the manifest content of his thought with these defenses in mind. According to Freud, one must use his method of analysis to overcome such defenses and resistances--the same method he used on hysterical symptoms, dreams, and activities of everyday life. The first rule of Freud's method was to reject the manifest content--the apparent meaning--of the dream, symptom, or activity as merely "a distorted substitute" for one's real thoughts. Because of this "complexity" of interaction of theory and defenses in Freud's thought, the following would seem to be true: 1) most people today who are familiar with Freud don't know what he really thought; 2) Freud's own theory contraindicates accepting its manifest content as his real thought; 3) there is no justification in Freud's thought for accepting the manifest content of his writing as his real thoughts. 4) There is no point in teaching Freud, quoting him, researching his theory, or imitating his therapy, since his words and actions, by his own testimony, conceal, distort, and obfuscate his genuine thoughts. With these observations as a starting point, my research went on to ask what thoughts _were_ on Freud's mind regarding an Oedipus complex. Freud himself warned these were unconscionable. I found this to be the case. His theory tells us his "real" thoughts would concern the same "elements" of thought manifest in his associations, but in a different relationship to each other. When Freud's method of analysis was systematically applied to the manifest content of his theory, an altogether new meaning emerged, quite as his theory predicted--a meaning awful to contemplate. My analysis found his thoughts concerned memories of a scene pertaining to an infant in which a father perversely and polymorphously sexually abused and "destroyed" ("infantile sexuality" and the "death" instinct) his male infant son (the "homosexual object" of his theory). Thereafter, unable to forget his awful memories and terrible self-reproaches, the father (Freud) developed hysterical symptoms, obsessional ideas,

obscure dreams, an infantile neurosis, obsessional rituals, and other actions--typically involving reading, writing, speaking, and making mistakes--which served to repeat his memories and self-reproaches in disguised and distorted forms. Analysis and interpretation of these products of his conscious thought and activity are thus required to obtain insight into the real meaning they had in his own mind. In short, my research found Freud's theory to have been true in his own case. As Freud himself reported, self-reproaches would automatically be projected onto others, forming a (delusional) theory of the nature of the external world. He himself suggested such theories were projections, and that reproaches against others should be interpreted as self-reproaches having the exact same content (Freud, 1905 [9901], p. 35]. When his theory is analyzed as a defense, it turns out to be not a theory, but a defense--a defense _disguised_ as a theory. Freud considered defenses to be characterized by a "dreamlike" confusion. He characterized such defenses as "hallucinatory confusion" when they caused one's real thoughts became lost to sight (Freud, 1984). This "insight" into Freud's theory affects our understanding of the entire manifest content of _The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, Volumes 1 - 24_. Conceptualizations since Freud that have been based upon his theory's manifest content have, according to Freud's way of thinking, been built upon a false foundation. Structures erected upon his manifest thought as their foundation stand upon a quicksand. Destruction of Freud's theory by Freud himself was neither accidental nor insignificant. Rather, Freud enacted a symbol of what he could not say openly. Acting out both the creation and destruction of a magnificent theory, senselessly destroying what he had created in its very first application or "earliest infancy," Freud acted out something analogous to what he remembered and could not forget, and could not say openly. An expression in one of his letters to Fliess, where he seems to equate his metapsychology with his "woebegone child," is telling (Freud, 1985, p. 216). And, of course, according to Freud, it would have been unconsciously determined by what he had repressed. Man's most basic motivation, he insisted so abstractly, was to both create (Eros) and destroy (Thanatos). The intent of this analysis is not to attack or denigrate Freud, or to attack his theory by attacking his personality. It is to _understand_ what his theory meant _to him_. It is to listen to and follow _his_ rules for interpretation of _his_ thought. It is by no means recommended that the thoughts of others can be analyzed in this way. It was Freud who insisted that one look backward in the history of the individual to just before a symptom, dream, or obsessional idea made its first appearance. There, he contended, one would always find an embarrassing sexual event that the individual was trying to forget. Freud, therefore, not the present author, in the first instance directs attention from one's thoughts to the case history of the individual, a kind of _a cogitationibus ad hominem_. The whole point of his theory is that he had self-reproaches he could not bear to contemplate or communicate directly.

Comments and responses are invited. References Freud, S. (1894). The neuro-psychoses of defence. Vol. 3_, pp. 45-61. London: Hogarth Press, 1962. _____ (1900). The interpretation of dreams. Vols. 4 - 5_. London: Hogarth Press, 1953. _Standard Edition,

_Standard Edition, _Standard

_____ (1901). The psychopathology of everyday life. Edition, Vol. 6_. London: Hogarth Press, 1960.

_____ (1905 [1901]). Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria. _Standard Edition, Vol. 7_, pp. 7-122. London: Hogarth Press, 1953. _____ (1985). _The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904_ (J. M. Masson, Ed. & Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press O'Brien, M. T. (1989). Freud's Oedipus complex: A reappraisal of its meaning, Volumes I and II. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms--Dissertation Information Service, No. 89-08560. - End ************************************************************* | Michael T. O'Brien | Phone: 617-643-6642 | | 146 Highland Ave. | | | Arlington, MA 02174 | Internet: mto@world.std.com | *************************************************************