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

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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: #1,375,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Author Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason has written other books such as Against Therapy, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, etc. He wrote in the Introduction to this 1992 book, "In 1895 and 1896 Freud, in listening to his women patients, learned that something dreadful and violent lay in their past. The psychiatrists who had heard these stories before Freud had accused their patients of being hysterical liars and had dismissed their memories as fantasy. Freud was the first psychiatrist who believed his patients were telling the truth. These women were sick... because something terrible and secret had been done to them as children." (Pg. xxx)

He begins by stating, "On the evening of April 21, 1986, Sigmund Freud gave a paper before his colleagues... The address presented... Freud's new theory that the origin of neurosis lay in early sexual traumas ... This is what later came to be called the 'seduction theory'---namely, the belief that these early experiences were real, not fantasies, and had a damaging and lasting effect on the later lives of the children who suffered them. Freud uses various words to describe these 'infantile sex scenes'... All of these words explicitly state something about the violence being directed against the child expressed in the sexuality of the adult, with the exception of the word 'seduction,' which was an unfortunate choice, since it implies some form of participation by the child... In Freud's later theories... this ambiguity inherent in the word is exploited. The implication is that the ...
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