Often referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis," Sigmund Freud championed the "talking cure" and charted the human unconscious. But though Freud compared himself to Copernicus and Darwin, his history as a physician is problematic. Historians have determined that Freud often misrepresented the course and outcome of his treatmentsso that the facts would match his theories. Today Freud's legacy is in dispute, his commentators polarized into two camps: one of defenders; the other, fierce detractors.
Peter D. Kramer, himself a practicing psychiatrist and a leading national authority on mental health, offers a new take on this controversial figure, one both critical and sympathetic. He recognizes that although much of Freud's thought is now archaic, the discipline he invented has become an inescapable part of our culture, transforming the way we see ourselves. Freud was a myth-maker, a storyteller, a writer whose books will survive among the classics of our literature. The result of Kramer's inquiry is nothing less than a new standard history of Freud by a modern master of his thought.
Discover More Eminent Lives
From Publishers Weekly
Looking closely at Freud's approach to specific patients and revisiting some of his lesser-known publications (including a vigorous campaign in support of cocaine as a mood-enhancer and anesthetic), Kramer finds in this irreverent biography a man who "displayed bad character in the service of bad science." Kramer's task is a difficult one, in large part because, in anticipation of his own legacy, Freud began destroying his personal documents at an early age. It's this kind of hubris ("as for the biographers ... we have no desire to make it too easy for them") which enabled him to hide the fact that he was "more devious and less original than he made himself out to be;" it also makes him a fascinating subject. Kramer is careful to give Freud's major contributions-including the recognition that symptoms can "reveal hints of thoughts and feelings pushed out of awareness" and that psychoanalysis's unfettered exploration of the subconscious can offer patients a haven for exploring otherwise repressed thoughts-their due. But he is unsparing in his assessment of Freud's errors in judgment: "there is a disturbing consistency in Freud's indifference to inconvenient facts. ... he bullied his patients and misrepresented his results." Kramer's study is a refreshing and thorough work that readers of all levels of familiarity with Freud's work can appreciate.
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