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The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory Paperback – September 30, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A Watergate of the psyche.”
The New York Times Book Review

With a new introduction by the author
“A LAVISHLY DOCUMENTED, CAREFULLY REASONED WORK, WRITTEN IN A STRAIGHTFORWARD, REASONABLE STYLE.”
The Nation



“INTRIGUING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING . . . A FASCINATING DETECTIVE-LIKE STORY.”
Sunday Times (London)

“MASSON’S SCHOLARSHIP IS IMPECCABLE.”
Los Angeles Times



More praise for Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
and The Assault on Truth

“One need not follow Masson’s rabid acceptance of a tightly construed [seduction] theory to regret, with him, Freud’s emotional withdrawal from social criticism. . . . Jeffrey Masson has raised important historical questions.”
The Washington Post Book World

“Newly revealed letters and long-secret documents offer further indications of Sigmund Freud’s anguish over his first major theory, new evidence of efforts to cover up that anguish, and provide new information about the life of the man himself.”
The New York Times Book Review

“When the furor subsides, Masson’s book will take its rightful place in the annals of psychoanalytic critique; not the bomb that destroyed the whole building, but part of the wave that is eroding the basic foundation.”
Ms.

“A solid expose that reads like a psychological detective thriller. . . . This brilliant, meticulously researched book probes what many see as the failure of psychoanalysis to confront the real world.”
–Publishers Weekly



“INTRIGUING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING . . . A FASCINATING DETECTIVE-LIKE STORY.”
Sunday Times (London)

“MASSON’S SCHOLARSHIP IS IMPECCABLE.”
Los Angeles Times

From the Inside Flap

In 1896, Sigmund Freud presented his revolutionary ?seduction theory,? arguing that acts of sexual abuse and violence inflicted on children are the direct cause of adult mental illness. Nine years later, Freud completely reversed his position, insisting that these sexual memories were actually fantasies that never happened. Why did Freud retract the seduction theory? And why has the psychoanalytic community gone to such lengths to conceal that retraction? In this landmark book, drawing on his unique access to formerly sealed and hidden papers, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson dares to uncover the truth about this critical turning point in Freud?s career and its enduring impact on the theory and practice of psychoanalysis.

The Assault on Truth reveals a reality that neither Freud nor his followers could bear to face. Bracing in its honesty, gripping its revelations, this is the book that prompted Masson?s break with the psychoanalytic community?and launched his subsequent brilliant career as an independent thinker and writer.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345452798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345452795
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Masson has had at least four lives: first as a boy raised to become a "spiritual leader" (see his denunciation of such a life in My Father's Guru). While in the middle of his disillusion, he became a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto. At the same time he trained to become a Freudian analyst. Upon graduation he became Projects Director of the Freud Archives, and was scheduled to move into Freud's house in London when fate intervened: Masson found documents which seemed to show that Freud was right in believing that many women had been sexually abused as children, and that he was wrong to give up this belief, perhaps impelled by societal displeasure at his discoveries. Saying this publicly turned Masson into a psychoanalytic pariah, and he gave up both his professorship and his analytic career to delve into the far more fascinating world of animal emotions. Two of his books, WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP and DOGS NEVER LIE ABOUT LOVE, were New York Times best-sellers. He became vegetarian as a result of his research, and later, when he looked into the feelings of farm animals, he became even stricter, and no longer eats or uses any animal product (vegan). Harpercollins published his most recent book: THE DOG WHO COULDN'T STOP LOVING: HOW DOGS HAVE CAPTURED OUR HEARTS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. He lives on a beach in New Zealand with his two sons, Ilan and Manu, and his German wife, Leila, a pediatrician who works with children on the autistic spectrum (using the bio-medical approach), Benjy, a golden lab, and three cats. They often travel to the States, Europe, and Australia. He is now fascinated in the "us/them" phenomenon, between humans but also between humans and animals.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert Johnson on April 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you have managed to work through the various reviews of this book, you are likely becoming aware that there must be something fairly controversial surrounding the nature of its subject matter. Masson was for a time, the curator of the Freud archives, and thus had access to many as yet unpublished, publicly sealed, or previously censored letters Freud wrote to friends. He also had access to Freud's personal copies of the important books and academic papers of the time. If anything, the level of scholarship involved in preparing this book goes beyond the simply impressive.

So...what's all the fuss ? After all, this book is over 20 years old now.

In a word : The seemingly never ending and often inexplicably volatile controversy surrounding adult memories of childhood sexual abuse. In April 1896 a young and knowingly courageous Freud read a paper before his colleges in Vienna setting forth in detail the then revolutionary position that such traumatic events actually took place, that they were common, and that they were at the root of later serious mental heath problems. This contention was enough to cause him to be almost instantaneously ostracized by every respected psychiatric luminary of the day. A generation later, one of his best friends and students made the same contentions, and suffered the same fate. As the nature of our own authors investigations became clear, he was fired from his position as curator of the Freud archives.

Freud himself then went on to abandon his contentions, and in a move which uncannily mirrors some current positions on the subject, changed his views a the stance in which all such adult memories were attributed to psychological fantasy or if from children, outright or manipulative lies.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By sarles@dorsai.org on February 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
Jeffrey Masson is a national treasure. I read this book in 1984 and I don't know why this book hasn't revolutionized the world's thinking about Freud and child abuse, but especially of Freud. Masson clearly lays out his argument against the validity of the Oedipus complex as a viable scientific concept. It is a quick, insightful and intelligent read for those interested in the subject of child abuse, and I hope that Masson resumes writing on this topic.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Valuable information on child abuse politics. The Assault On Truth exhumes Freud's original thesis on the origins of adult neurosis. That original paper, now buried, stated a much more practical, yet darker, cause of adult neurosis: child sexual abuse/incest. Masson explores the history of the original Freud theory and illustrates how diametrically opposed the emerging psychotherapy community was to the mere suggestion that child sex abuse and incest might be going on in households of all social strata. This is a sobering read as some of the original accounts are heart breaking. Sadly, "Assault" is a tragedy in that Freud, conceding to social pressures of the day, retracts this theory in spite of the evidence in favor of a more perpetrator friendly theory of child fantasy. Masson is meticulous to a fault in sourcing every point and claim presented. If you have worked with abused children, this theory will not come as a shock, but the behind-the-scenes efforts to subvert the truth will sicken you. I was not a huge fan of Freud when I started to read this, but by the time I was done I saw the man as having great insights but equally great moral cowardice.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Erik Rodenborg on April 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Jeffrey Massons "Assault on Truth" is probably one of the most important books of the 20th century. He shows in detail how Freud betrayed his female patients and how he finally ended up in denying the evidence of the widespread existence of child sexual abuse. Massons book is a forceful attack against the freudian movement, who even today build their whole theory about child sexuality and the oedipus complex on Freuds betrayal in 1897. But it is also a good refutation of these witness psychologists who today falsely claims that Freud implanted false memories of sexual abuse in his patients. For everyone interested in topics such as the foundation of psychoanalysis or the debate about child sexual abuse - just read it!
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29 of 43 people found the following review helpful By powellr@admin.gmcc.ab.ca on March 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
I just loved this book when I first read it several years ago. Freuds early notion that hysteria was caused by repressed memories of sexual abuse (known as the seduction theory) made so much more sense than his later notion that hysteria was caused by repressed memories of incestuous desires. Only later, when hearing that many therapists were carelessly implanting false memories of sexual abuse in their patients and that they had drawn inspiration for this type of therapy from Masson, did I look more closely at what he had written. What I found was enlightening.
For example, in describing Freuds approach toward his patients at the time of the seduction theory, Masson (1984) claimed that Freud listened and understood and gave them permission to remember and speak of these terrible events (p. 9). Compare this to how Freud really described his therapy around that time:
The work keeps on coming to a stop and they keep on maintaining that this time nothing has occurred to them. We must not believe what they say, we must always assume, and tell them, too, that they have kept something back because they thought it unimportant or found it distressing. We must insist on this, we must repeat the pressure and represent ourselves as infallible, till at last we are really told something. (from Studies on Hysteria).
Obviously, Freud did a bit more than just listen and understand and give them permission to remember and speak. Consider too, Massons claim in the postscript to the present edition that we do not at present possess, and probably never will, enough documentary evidence of how, precisely, Freud conducted his therapy in the early days, say between 1895 and 1900 (p. 321).
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