Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision

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Wiley, Sep 26, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 480 pages
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Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, plunged into the dark regions of the human psyche-including his own-to reveal the truth about sexuality, neurosis, and the unconscious. Or so the legend has it. In this perceptive biography, Louis Breger presents a striking new portrait of one of the great figures of the twentieth century, showing how Freud systematically obscured the truth about his life to create a heroic image of himself that was a blend of fact and fantasy.

In his youth, Freud's family lived on the edge of poverty in anti-Semitic Vienna. His mother was a demanding and controlling woman and his father a weak and failed man. Young Sigmund escaped from all these unbearable conditions into the world of books and his imagination, where he sought solace and consolation in fantasies of the ancient world. He was drawn to powerful conquerors-Oedipus, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Napoléon-and longed for the day when he could achieve fame and power, when he could become, in his own words, a "hero." The boy who had lived in a fantasy world became an impressive prose stylist, capable of presenting his often controversial ideas in compelling ways. He used his formidable skills to shape both his personal legend and the history of the psychoanalytic movement. Out of his self-analysis and work with patients came his seminal contributions: the unconscious, the significance of dreams, the formative influence of early emotional experience, and psychoanalysis as a form of therapy.

But he could see only so much about himself, and his blindness to the pain, fear, and helplessness of his early years led him to create a myth about his childhood-centered on the Oedipus complex-that obscured the sources of his adult anxiety, symptoms, and addictions. From this came the overblown theories, the neglect of trauma and real-life experience, the distorted views of women, and the authoritarian form of treatment, all of which have plagued psychoanalysis since its inception. Breger's insightful portrait reveals Freud as a man of striking contradictions, someone whose startling originality coexisted with a rigid adherence to dogma, a person who spent his life immersed in the most intimate details of other people's lives yet remained wrapped up in himself and curiously remote from others, a man of deep insights who was also blind to the effect he had on other people. In demythologizing Freud, Breger penetrates to the "darkness" behind one of the brightest minds of the twentieth century.

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Freud: darkness in the midst of vision

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Psychoanalysis ia a clumsy tool, not the scalpel Freud envisioned. In this masterly biography and cultural history, psychologist and psychoanalyst Breger (emeritus, California Inst. of Technology ... Read full review


The Development of the Hero
The First Thirty Years
A Traumatic Infancy

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About the author (2000)

LOUIS BREGER is Professor of Psychoanalytic Studies, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology and founding President of the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He has been a practicing psychotherapist/psychoanalyst for over thirty-five years and has published numerous scholarly articles and books dealing with dreams, personality development, literary interpretation, and psychoanalytic theory.

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