Freud's Choice


First published in German in 1990, Klaus Theweleit's Object-Choice (All you need is love) was translated by Malcolm Green and published by Verso in 1994. 

Written between the first and second volumes of Theweleit's Book of Kings series, Object-Choice is a wide-ranging consideration of love-marriage and the categories of object choice Freud developed in the 1914 text "On Narcissism." "Freud names four types of female object-choice," Theweleit writes: 

which, on closer inspection, all amount to being of particular benefit to the man with whom they are associated. I say "the man" here deliberately, because I hope to show that Freud himself is this man. He devises a model of female love-choices which is tailored to the kinds of women with whom he was associated in the course of his private and institutional life. They are patients; they are women who became psychoanalysts under him; they are his wife and his sisters; and they are his daughters for whose psycho-sexual development Freud in 1914 devises this model (and it is his daughter Anna who will later be a match for this model). For each of these categories of women there is a specific sort of satisfaction resulting from the type of object-choice foreseen for them; and every type of choice contains something that is of benefit to Freud's life work, for the foundation and maintenance of the psychoanalytic state.

The book is divided into two sections. The first considers models of obejct choice generally and in relation to a variety of case studies. The second is a "Fragment of a Freud Biography," from which the excerpt below was drawn.  

Minna Bernays, Martha Bernays Freud, and Sigmund Freud, 1929.

In the beginning was — ? A sweet girl: Martha is mine, the sweet girl, of whom everyone speaks to me with great admiration, who captivated me from our first meeting, however much I resisted —

— the first meeting was two months earlier. It is June 1882, Martha Bernays and Sigmund Freud are newly engaged, but separated; the post travels back and forth between Vienna and Wandsbek near Hamburg. This is the fiancé's first letter, 19 June 1882, to be followed by fifteen hundred others until the process of “object-choice” is concluded in 1886.

In the beginning was — a resistance? A resistance, a bolt of lightning, captivation.

A chance acquaintanceship with Freud's 5 sisters led the bride to the groom's house, where Sigmund and Martha met for the first time, notes Ernst Freud, the 4th child and youngest son, born 10 years after the event, in his introduction to the edition of Freud's letters.

Object-finding, in accordance with the “sister's friend” model, is involved, then the “lightning flash,” which, two months later, has turned into ownership: Martha is mine, the sweet girl —

And more. Freud's sentence from his first letter to his bride continues (still referring to the “sweet girl”) as follows: whom I was afraid to court, and who, responding with generous trust, raised my belief in my intrinsic worth and gave me new hope and energy to work, just as I desperately needed them.

— “whom I was afraid to court” and the raising of his belief in his intrinsic worth allow the conclusion that a bride from a higher (social) stratum is being wooed; the first present that she has brought to this liaison is the increase in her loved one's work energy (something he desperately needed, as he says).

The forms found in social climbing marriages... object-choice as a symptom ("bolt of lightning”) ... choice of a sister's friend ... choice based on the bride's usefulness for the man's energies ... are all involved; that casts a curious light on a word in Ernst Freud's description, the little word chance before the word acquaintanceship.

In a case like this, chance is probably not the mother of attachment.

A young scientist in Vienna, neurologist, assistant at the Physiological Institute, 26 years old, very talented, on his way to a professorship or a private practice, coming from a poor (and somewhat dishonest) eastern Jewish trading family, wavering between Jewish orthodoxy and assimilation into the Western natural-scientific (= atheist) university world, is thinking of marriage around 1880 — what should his model-wife look like? She would have to be daughter of a doctor or some other professor, from a Jewish, Western-assimilated family, and the family wealthier than his own. Right?

Freud's choice is not very far removed. Martha Bernays, writes Ernst Freud, came from a not unimportant family from Wandbek near Hamburg. Her grandfather lsaac (Chacham) Bernays was an eminent rabbi in the city of Hamburg. Her two paternal uncles are important figures in German cultural history.

He is speaking here of two professors. One, Michael Bernays, was an important Goethe and Shakespeare scholar, the first ever professor of modern German literary history (at Munich University) and for a while reader to Ludwig II of Bavaria. The other, Jacob Bernays, professor of classical philology at Bonn University, was the first non-baptized Jewish professor at a German university. Martha's father was no longer alive when she met Freud; he was not a professor but a merchant, like Freud's father, if better placed, more assimilated to the West and not quite so dubious: Berman Bernays, in his last years, was assistant to the Viennese economist Lorenz von Stein. One of the uncles was also dead, Professor Jacob Bernays. He died one year before the engagement. The other uncle, Michael Bernays (the only one of the three brothers to abandon the Jewish faith, and who is, moreover, a Wagnerian), is alive and acts as the couple's father-in-law, together with Martha's brother Eli, who has supported the family after the father's death (and soon marries Freud's sister Anna). So even if Freud doesn't fall in love with a daughter-from-the-hand-of-a-professor, then at least he does so with a niece encoded with two professor uncles ... daughter from the realm which he himself wishes to enter, and a daughter from that type of family in which he wishes to climb/be converted, away from the Galician-orthodox tradesman's world of his own.

All that could still be a result of Ernst Freud's “chance” or the theory of probabilities. The importance of this constellation for Freud's love affect would be quite undemonstrable were it not for Freud's own game with it; and this contains a number of surprises of a very special kind.

The reason for this is that the uncles were very special professors. One was a Goethe and Shakespeare specialist; the other a classical philologist and specialist in Aristotle — neither of them professors of medicine, but it was Freud's intention to become not a simple professor of medicine, but, rather, something which both these uncles stand for.

Uncle Jacob Bernays had devoted particular attention to Aristotle's concept of catharsis, and published on it between 1852 and 1880. Freud's biographer Sulloway remarks:

in Vienna, as elsewhere, this whole subject was much discussed among scholars and in the salons and even assumed for a time the proportions of a craze. According to Hirschmüller, by 1880 Bernays's ideas had inspired some seventy German-language publications on catharsis, a number that more than doubled by 1890.

Naturally this will ring a bell among readers of Freud's early works: “cathartic method” is the first term Freud gave to what he later called the psychoanalytic method. The term came from his essay “On Hysteria” (1895), and was elucidated in his description of the treatment of Anna O., who herself referred to it loosely as chimney sweeping. Sulloway concludes, it seems very possible that an intelligent girl like Anna O. might have been acquainted with the subject andunconsciously have incorporated this knowledge into the dramatic plot of her illness — the only objection to which might be that there is a somewhat ineradicable tendency among psychoanalytic authors to attribute the knowledge and procedures of “intelligent” girls to the unconscious. If in the case of the intelligent Anna O. — i.e. Bertha Pappenheim, a friend of Martha's — the cathartic method came, as Sulloway suggests, directly (even if unconsciously) from Martha's uncle Jacob, then it has to be said in favour of Freud, who not did not merely know his uncle's works unconsciously, that, together with Breuer, he chose to refer his 1895 publication to, among others, this uncle and to present himself to the public within this particular genealogy as the heir to the catharsis specialist Jacob Bernays and as the husband of his niece Martha.1

After 1895, Freud's collaboration with Breuer cornes to an end, as does his hope of emancipating the talking cure, catharsis, and turning it into psychoanalysis. (Instead of which, Freud discovered the sexual abuse of daughters as the cause of hysteria; a truth which is, however, a hindrance to the development of psychoanalysis.)

When in 1897 he begins to elevate the interpretation of dreams to the “royal road to the unconscious” and shift it to the centre of the psychoanalytic method, he shows his debt to Martha's other uncle, the Goethe/Shakespeare Bernays, by littering the description of his breakthrough to dream interpretation with quotes from Goethe and Shakespeare. In Freud's writing of October 1897, Hamlet and Oedipus are still contesting the principal role in the psychoanalytic scenario. And Freud describes the importance of dreams — as the store room of one's personal history — with three lines from a poem by Goethe.2

The references to the works of Professors Jacob and Michael Bernays are a notable component of Freud's publications and writings up to 1899. Chance? Game? Bows to Martha? Proof that he really does belong in the “new family” ? How better to emphasize this than by linking one's own work with that of the famous uncles. Freud, like all founding heroes, is busy providing himself with a new history; creating his own self anew, but in a way different to that adopted by his own parents. The woman who is chosen for marriage is always of special importance for this revision of the husband's origins and history; she leads him to other historical worlds; is intended to lead him to them. Martha seems well suited to play a special part in this. Freud told her the part she was to be assigned just four weeks after their engagement; a programme for Martha.

Hamburg, July 1882. While looking for a printer for writing paper which was to bear a personal monogram, Freud stumbles across the tracks of another Bernays, Martha's grandfather Isaac; a gift of providence (or result of shrewd researches) which Freud, in a letter to Martha dated 23 July 1882, uses to masterful effect. It is a letter and yet it is not a letter. As is later often the case when Freud chooses to elaborate one of his case-novellas, the letter adopts a literary pose. He does not address it to My dearest or Martha, as otherwise in his letters; it lacks both an opening address and a signature, but talks of Martha, a character in a tale, in the third person. Martha, literized, reads the following:

My girl came from a scholarly family and wrote — at first just letters — with an untiring hand, spending her small amount of money on stationery, Consequently I needed paper for this sweet, industrious child to write on, and chose some which she could use only to write to me. An intimately entwined M and S, such as only the magnanimity of the engravers could grant, made the sheets of paper unusable for any other purpose than the correspondence between little Martha and me. The man from whom I ordered this despotic paper one Friday did not want to deliver it before Sunday, because we're not here Saturdays, he said. it's an old custom of our's. Oh, how well I know these old customs....

— like her learned uncles, Martha is to develop from letter writing to literary work, and this M. & S headed note paper is for practice (just as he himself is once again practising at being a writer in this letter); after this first part of his hopes for the programme, the text moves on to the figure of the old engraver who feeds Freud with Jewish adages, which Freud translates into more germane words of wisdom, interlaced with phrases from love letters: Jerusalem has been destroyed and little Martha and I are alive and happy... which are then turned into philosophy of history: if Jerusalem had not been destroyed, the Jews would have been wiped out like so many peoples before and after us. Only with the collapse of the visible temple did the invisible construction of Judaism become possible. After this convoluted introduction comes the heart of the story, the “unheard of event”; the old man's narration:

We owe our education to one man. In earlier years Hamburg and Altona formed a single Jewish community; which later divided; teaching was performed by subordinate teachers until the introduction of the reform in Germany. People then acknowledged that something had to be done, and called upon a certain Bernays who was made a “Chacham.” This man educated us all. He wanted to tell me about all that he had accomplished, but I was more interested in the man himself. Did he come from Hamburg? No, he came from Würzburg, where Napoleon had permitted him to study. (O how the peoples spin their legends) [O how Freud spins his legend while reconstructing his history!] He came here as a very young man, and still lived here thirty years ago. Did you know his family? “I grew up with his sons you know.” I now mentioned two names, Michael Bernays in Munich, and Jacob Bernays in Bonn. That's them, he confirmed, and there was also a third son who lived and died in Vienna. I also knew something about this third son, whose nameremained in the shadow of the other brothers. [Berman Bernays, Martha's father whose name Freud likewise doesn't mention in his story.] The father's bountiful nature was shared among the sons. The father was a philologist, exegetist, and left important children behind him. One of the children stayed with language, which provided him with enough material to occupy him for the length of his academic career, the other still teaches respect for the fine taste and wisdom shown in the writings of our great poets and teachers. The third, an earnest, withdrawn man, had an even deeper comprehension of life than that provided by either art or science; he was simply a model of humanity and created new treasures [= daughters] instead of interpreting the old ones. All honour to the remembrance that little Martha has given me of him.

If only this old Jew, who now began to speak enthusiastically of his master's teachings, had suspected that his customer, ostensibly one Dr Wahle from Prague, had that morning kissed the grand-daughter of this man he admired so much. He related more memories from his youth, and now assumed something of the character of Nathan the Wise.

This is something like a whim (whim on a knife edge), presenting himself to the old engraver (and the reader of the letter) as “Dr Wahle: friend of Freud and a former admirer of Martha, Ernst Freud mentions in a note. A game with identities and with the figure of the victor in courting the bride; and not only does Napoleon have to be included in the genealogy, but also Nathan the Wise and Lessing 3, whose monument in Gänsemarkt in Hamburg is alluded to at the beginning of the letter, continuing anold game with Lessing. On the day of their engagement, 17 June 1882, Martha had presented him with her father's ring. Freud, who wore the ring on his little finger, had a smaller version of it made for her, declaring it to be the real ring (the parable of the ring) because everyone loved her so. Everything is made to point to the author of this history, the one and only suitable wooer for the granddaughter of the old exegetist, of whom Freud sets out to be the inheritor (as of the other uncles as well) in July 1882. And now the message from the ancestor, Isaac B.:

The Jew, he said, is the highest pinnacle of humanity and created for pleasure. He despises all who are unable to enjoy things. (I had to think of what Eli [Martha's brother whom the prudent Freud never forgets] betrayed of his world view — to his credit, while intoxicated: Homo sum.) The law requires that the Jew takes delight in even the smallest pleasures, speaks the broche [= blessing] over every fruit, which reminds him of the connection with the beautiful world in which it has grown. The Jew upholds joy, and joy is made for the Jew. The teacher explained this with reference to the climax of the celebrations...

— that is the law for the male Jew. Freud assures his bride that Freud 4 is also good for the female Jew and precisely this female Jew for him.

A customer came and Nathan was the salesman once more. I bade farewell with more emotion than the old Jew could have suspected. If he happens to visit Prague he will grant himself the pleasure of paying me a visit. He won't find me in Prague, but by way of substitute I shall—

he hasn't invented this old man. The old man who helps him devise the door-sign that is to hang above the entrance to the marriage between Bernays and Freud. Closing sentence:

And when it comes to the two of us I think: even if the form in which the old Jews once felt content no longer provides us with shelter, something of its core, the essence of intelligent and cheerful Judaism, will not leave our house.

— a pretty door sign for love, no question about it. The joy given by the orthodox religion is to merge with the couple's worldly pleasure; and this generous letter is anything but miserly with the literal meaning of its author's name: there are not many texts in which Freud emblazoned the missing “e” so clearly.

Emblazoned on the coat of arms for M & S. The letters continue for four years. They talk about everything that takes Freud's interest and use Martha as the focus for a body of writing which is on its way to finding itself and which does find itself. In writing the letters to his bride, Freud becomes an author, as did Kafka in his letters to Felice Bauer. They are the record of Freud's first attempts at psychoanalysis.

Drawing on Ernst Kris, the first editor of and commentator on Freud's later letters to Fliess, it has been frequently asserted that Fliess, as the recipient of these letters, had the function for Freud of an analyst from afar. What in the analytic situation was later termed “transference” developed here between Freud and Flies.

Fliess strikes me as something else: as that second partner who, as part of a productive “male couple,” was necessary to the development of psychoanalysis; a couple in which, after a period of collaboration, Freud gained the upper hand and then consciously pressed home a victory. But it is my belief that the letters written to Martha Bernays during their engagement had just such a function for Freud; at any rate, while reading them they struck me as the earliest (and sometimes surprisingly far-reaching) stage of the method of “psychoanalysis.”

I would like to refer especially to the long letter to Martha of 2 February 1886 — it is too long to quote here — in which Freud analysed himself to Martha; the letter is very similar to what later will be called the record of an analytic session.

I think it is of significance for both Freud the person and the development of psychoanalysis that its earliest discovery occurs — as it were — in a love letter.

In this letter Freud reveals to Martha, among other things, that the “mild neurasthenia” from which he constantly suffers always disappeared as if by magic when I was with you.

Martha, his love for Martha, his letters about his love for Martha, becomes a means for Freud to eliminate neurotic traits; writing to one's bride about one's love for her heals neuroses, says Freud.

The letter also mentions the sexual abstinence which Freud seems to have maintained during these years (which later corresponds with his wish that the patient should forgo “sexual enactment,” which disrupts analytic work).

Freud was working, especially in his letters from Paris, at transforming the engagement into a psychoanalysis, at transforming the stream of letters into the nascent form of self-analysis with the help of his fiancée as transference figure.

Martha becomes the preliminary sketch of an analytic authority without realizing. It would be exaggerated perhaps to say that Freud fulfilled his wish of marrying his analyst (before analysts existed, and thus rules to prevent this from happening), but it is not completely senseless.

The programme he sketched out for Martha and himself in his letters provides first of all for a substitution for his own family history, its improvement through Martha's relatives: these are quite different paternal uncles to the jailbird Uncle Josef with his forged roubles (as he keeps appearing, in cryptic form, in the Interpretation of Dreams); a different brother, Eli, who looks after the Bernays family more reputably than his own older brothers, with their dubious deals in Manchester, who also take care of “the family” but do so probably with forged money and credit papers. An ideal brother, ideal uncle, just as one's heart desires: useful for both writing strategies and developing one's own person.

Second, Martha's father is a more upstanding businessman than his own father Jacob; a father, moreover, who is no longer alive: the position of father of the Bernays family is semi-vacant (offers room for personal expansion) but, perhaps even more important, it offers what may paradoxically be termed “the missing handicap.” It is one thing to receive a wife from a father's hand and another to conquer her while side-stepping such a position of power. Freud frequently describes himself in his letters to Martha as a rebellious pupil, as the type of person who opposes the most various authorities. Now an adventurous gambler or revolutionary always becomes apparent (at least in the eyes of fathers with daughters to give away) in rebellious sons (-in-law), whom one may entrust with everything “in life” (except just one thing): responsibility. But this is involved in giving away daughters.

In all probability object-choice on the basis that the bride's father is missing quite often plays a role in intensifying the affects of the man who has fallen in love.

Third, there is also the old Jew Isaac/Nathan Bernays, through whom Freud can draw on a kind of Jewish scholarly tradition which has been abandoned in his own family, or was never present in that way; in addition there is the link between this tradition and Western-Hamburg rationalism à la Lessing.5

That's a nicely wrapped bundle to dangle in front of the donkey in oneself and ensure that it takes a few steps, moves a bit more briskly, for Freud constantly has the feeling that he isn't working enough; of being rather a lazy person: he is already 26 and so remote from the marble bust he pictured of himself since the age of 16 or 17; he needs fire. This object-choice provides a lot of fire, and it keeps burning for a long time.

Incidentally, there can never be enough determinations: the maiden name of Martha’s mother, Emmeline Bernays, is Philipp; so apart from everything else, Martha is also a legitimate Philipp daughter. Freud had two older brothers from the first marriage of his father Jacob. They were both of marriageable age when Freud was a child. One of them, Philipp, lived unmarried in Jacob's household; he was the same age as Amalia, Freud's mother, and the father/husband Jacob Freud was often away from home for months on end (conveying textiles from Galicia to Bohemia). In the Interpretation of Dreams and many of Freud's letters his sister Anna appears as a Philipp daughter (not Jacob daughter). Curious birds from the Philippson's Bible, from which Sigmund Freud had learned to read as a child, appear (in Freud's dreams, which he reports and analyses) by night in his home and visit his mother Amalia . . .

Presumably as a child Freud had seen his older brother Philipp with his mother (to whom the latter was not related). The rupture in the Freud family in 1860 — the older brothers went to England, the rest of the family to Vienna - probably resulted from this constellation (as is suggested by research like that of Marianne Krull into Freud's childhood in Freiberg). This break and move to Vienna was decisive for the path Freud was later to take, on which he grants himself the pleasure, as we may put it, of finding a legitimate Philipp daughter and so inventing a further suitable constellation for eliminating a blemish in Freud's family novel. Martha is a very fruitful bride for diverse aspects of Freud's life plans.

Later the psychoanalyst Freud coins a term for such multiple interwoven and secured chains; overdetermination. Overdetermination in the development of symptoms, in the encoding of dream images... in the construction of the loved one. Martha Bernays is married like an overdetermined symptom: symptom of a restoration of the groom's “ability to work and love,” guarantor of a re-editing of his personal history, overdetermined helper in a process of growth.

Freud's planning eye, which devises the Martha of his desires out of his need for a particular “Martha,” does not fall short of the magnanimity of the engraver in the entwinement of the M & S sign. His letters are addressed equally to the imaginary location of this mutual entwinement and the woman whom he sees at the side of the person he will one day become, as to the (more substantial) fiancée Martha and analyst Martha.

At this point we should stop at least briefly to remember the actual mother of the invention the letters to the bride: Emmeline Philipp-Bernays, Martha's mother. She was against the marriage between her daughter and the callow university doctor and abducted the former to Wandsbek until the latter attained the (economic) eligibility for marriage (and had perhaps forgotten the bride). But he did not “forget” her in the least.

It seems that the process functions as love just as long as all options remain open; as long as Martha seems to be the woman who one day will exchange the notepaper for the paper of literary (or analytic) manuscripts; as long as something can be found in her replies (to Freudian inventions) that is necessary to the functioning of an “analytic ear”; as long as there is written communication with ideal uncles, etc.

Freud writes programmatic letters “to the bride” so that she will join in the game of his desire to (mutually) invent a woman who will wish to take active part (not only in the forthcoming production of children) in his work, his designs, his transformation from Freud into FREUD. The artistically entwined monogram of their initials should be seen less as the anticipation of child-producing love than as that other sort of LOVE which wishes to produce, give birth to something out of one's own wife, in this case a “woman author” (in other cases another medial woman).

Freud's choice is tactical and strategic, as if it had been taken from a book (the Book of Kings in this case). It is executed with great circumspection and elegance, and makes some very skilled object-choice strategists look pretty pale by comparison.

There is a lovely passage in Freud's letters to Martha in which he emphasizes, during a masterly digression on an other possible object-choice, how familiar he is with the interlacing of love-choice and strategic calculation. In 1886, the last year of their engagement, Freud attended Charcot's lectures in Paris in order to learn his methods for treating hysterics. He was invited on several occasions to Charcot's home, and wrote to Martha on 20 January about the latter's family:

Madame is small, chubby, lively, has white powdered hair, is warmhearted and not particularly distinguished in appearance. Their wealth comes from her, Charcot was a poor devil whilst her father apparently has countless millions. Mlle Jeanne Charcot is quite different, also small, quite buxom and almost comically similar in appearance to her ingenious father, and consequently so interesting, that one cannot stop to think whether she is pretty or not. She is about twenty, very natural and sociable. I hardly spoke with her because I remained with the old men, but R. talked to her a lot. Apparently she understands English and German. Just imagine: what a great temptation that would be if I were not already in love and otherwise an out-and-out adventurer. For nothing is more dangerous than a young woman who has the characteristics of a man one admires. I would be laughed at and thrown out, and be richer by a fine adventure. But it is better the way it is...

Martha must have written a few jealous words in response to this playfully presented version of the object-choice “boss's daughter” (and she's rich too ...), i.e. she played along; after a further visit to the Charcots, Freud brings the matter to a conclusion on 2 February with the words:

Mile, who was wearing a Grecian costume and actually looked rather fetching — I can tell you this because your jealousy won't have lasted that long — shook me by the hand as I arrived but otherwise did not speak a word to me.

— but the word that one cannot stop to consider — whether daughters who come from the right men's hands are “pretty” or not — has been spoken. The attractiveness of the bride is, in the right circumstances, a function of encoding male hands. We have already seen the work Sigmund did to equip Martha with the correct codes. Impressive.


Later on, Martha Freud did not fulfil, or only partly, Freud's desire to make something different of her than what she probably was. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Freud no longer recalls, or wishes to recall, his own particular type of object-choice 30 years later, when he is considering the mechanisms of falling in love. His love-choice of Martha Bernays was accompanied by disappoint

She has neither become the writer he wanted (which is also hardly conceivable, given the 6 children she brought to the world during the first 9 years of marriage), nor, which is more serious for the development of their relationship, does she seem to have shown any lasting interest in the progress of Freud's work, “psychoanalysis.”

This is apparent from various comments made by Freud, most noticeably in a letter to Fliess dated 8 February 1897. Freud would like to know whether Fliess has noted at what point little children begin to feel revulsion, and whether there is a period when they are very small in which they are free of revulsion. Why don't I myself go into the nursery and ... perform experiments? Because I don't have the time for it, what with working 12 1/2 hours every day and the lack of support the womenfolk give me in my research.

The womenfolk are Martha Freud and her sister Minna Bernays, 4 years her junior, who, after the dissolution of her engagement with Ignaz Schönberg (a friend of Freud's who was dying of tuberculosis) by the latter himself, had moved into the Freuds’ home during the 1890s and now helps Martha rear the many children.

At some stage of her life with Sigmund, Martha must have withdrawn her interest in Freud's “analysing”: not with the children, dear Sigmund; — a division of the spheres of influence in the home at Berggasse 19 between Freud-womenfolk and Freud-husband.

So Sigmund Freud, father of 6 (Anna, the youngest, is just 15 months old), has to ask Wilhelm Fliess in Berlin, father of 2, whose wife Ida shares his enthusiasm for observing children, about child behaviour. That is bitterly disappointing for a theoretician of early childhood sexuality, especially because there was no possibility of relying on any other clinical research.

Love in institutes (2): the intellectual sequences.

Freud did not simply resign himself to the withdrawal of interest in his researches from the women with whom he lived; other women took over this task, as and when this was possible; this was in some respects very simple, in others very difficult. Easy because, for instance, the female patients who came to him and remained generally had a burning interest in his system of treating neuroses with beautiful words; for an approach to their mental afflictions and finer mental points which had more to do with literature and play than conventional medicine. Obviously this exerted an enormous attraction and it is not difficult to imagine how Freud managed in this way to create an increasing number of female analysts; managing to turn the treatment into a training method and patients into informants and helpers in the expansion of psychoanalysis.

His relations with these women, who were rather like counterparts to his own wife at home, were difficult, however, because they could be nothing but close — and how was was he to deal with that?

Freud solved the problem in the long term by means of institutionalization: by setting up certain rules for relations between men and women who become members of the Psychoanalytic Association.

On the personal level this led to something akin to a sequence (a sequence that is very similar to the one I have described for art producers and their respective “medial women”).

These women, says Jones, had no erotic attraction for Freud. That is certainly not the case: it would be more correct to say that the erotic attraction was transformed, consciously and with great effort, into another form of affect, into a love of the collaboration on the development and establishment of psychoanalysis.

The most important was first of all his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays [says Jones; but that was true, if at all, for only a short period], then in chronological order: Emma Eckstein, Loe Kann, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Joan Riviere, Marie Bonaparte.

The list is not complete, nor is that important here. What is important is the character of the “sequence”. (Also interesting is the origin of this sequence; in all probability it does not go back to a woman [sister or mother] from Freud's own family, but rather to his nanny, Monika Zajic, that ugly but clever old woman who taught young Sigmund to have a “high opinion of himself” and whose resurrection in Freud's dreams in 1897 paved the way for the decisive step in developing the interpretation of dreams into an analytic procedure.)

One could say that during 1897, Shakespeare, Goethe, the railway, Freud's mother “nudam” and Monika Zajic all competed fiercely in Freud's dreams over who would provide the decisive impulse for the “interpretation of dreams,” and that Monika Zajic won. (That just by the way.)

“Leaning” on her, on this cleverer-than-the-mother-was nanny, not only did an analytic interpretative procedure come into being but so, too, did a sequence-forming type of object-choice which clearly differed from the love-choice “Martha.”

So do the numerous souls within one breast each develop their own object-choice? Apart from the type of man who falls in love with the “same” woman, loses and finds her once again 20 times over, is there also a type who seeks another (or different sort of) lover for each of his egos or partial egos? (Which does not necessarily mean that one sort is “relinquished” for the other.) A great deal depends on successful institutionalization.


All quotes from Freud's correspondence are taken from Sigmund Freud, Briefe 1873–1939, ed. and introduced by Ernst Freud, Frankfurt am Main 1968. Ernst Freud's introduction to this volume is also quoted. The quotes from Frank J. Sulloway are taken from Freud: Biologist of the Mind, Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend, London 1979. The quotes from Ernest Jones are from The Life and Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and abridged by Lionel Trilling and Steven Marcus, Harmondsworth 1976. 

1. In addition to this comes Freud's own involvement with Aristotle. Freud wrote a text entitled “On the Means/Media which Poets Are Accustomed to Use in Matters of Love” that drew on Aristotle and was published eight years before his engagement to Martha when he was studying under the Aristotle specialist Franz Brentano in Vienna. (“De mediis, quibus in amoribius efficendis utuntur poetae.”) The Aristotelian influence Freud received from Bretano made him waver seriously in 1874 between doing his doctorate in medicine or in philosophy. The double doctorate (which he had always wished for) was given a new lease of life by his bride, who was linked with Aristotle, but who was only first initiated into this and more in Freud's letters during the following years.

2. See the letters to Wilhelm Fliess of September and October 1897.

3. Gottfried Lessing (1729-1781): German playwright whose liberal humanitarianism was given foremost expression in his play Nathan the Wise. The “ring parable” that Nathan relates in act three is one of religious tolerance and understanding: a man from the East possessed a ring that empowered its owner to appear pleasing to God and man alike. Aware that death is approaching, he allows two copies to be made of the ring, so that each of his three sons may inherit one. The three rings prove to be so alike that no one can say which is the real one, just as no one can say which religion (Christianity, Judaism, or Islam) is the true one. (Trans.)

4. By adding an 'e', the name Freud becomes the German word for joy. (Trans.)

5. Old Isaac Bernays certainly did have something of Nathan about him. After studying the Talmud, he read philosophy at the University of Wirzburg; instead of the title “Rabbi” he assumed the Portuguese title “Chacam” (wise man), and he was the first orthodox Jew in Hamburg to preach in German (at the Kohlhöfen synagogue, until his death in 1849).


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