Letter: Freud's own fantasies were imposed on others

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The Independent Online
Sir: Judging by their letters (1 February) concerning Jerome Burne's article - which commented on Frederick Crews' attack on Freudian psychoanalysis in the New York Review of Books - John Forrester and Joseph Schwarz do not seem to appreciate that an adequate response must address the detailed critiques of Freud's work in two recently published books that Crews specifically cited. These contain much of the material on which Crews based his case - my own Seductive Mirage (1993) and Malcolm Macmillan's painstakingly scholarly Evaluating Freud (1991). These works, between them, address virtually all the points raised in their letters.

Dr Forrester asks (if it were conceded that psychoanalysis originated with false claims and deceptions, as Crews asserts): what were the sources for Freud's bizarre fantasies? And how did he convince so many others that they, too, had infantile fantasies like this? Both Mr Macmillan and I give accounts of the genesis of psychoanalysis that provide an answer to the first question. As to the second, it has to be appreciated that in Freudian theory the said fantasies are unconscious, and have to be divined by analytic inference (in other words, by interpretation).

How Freud convinced his patients (when he did) and others that his preconceived analytic constructions, based to a considerable extent on dream interpretation, represented genuine unconscious ideas in their own minds is explained by the fact that there are plenty of people around as credulous in the face of Freud's powerfully persuasive rhetoric, sophistry and deceptions as Dr Forrester.

Incidentally, a good many analysts have given up a literal belief in the Oedipal theory, so presumably their patients are no longer experiencing these particular unconscious infantile fantasies.

Yours faithfully,


London, W6

6 February