Category Archives: Freud, Sigmund

New ways of understanding youth

Dalrymple writes that Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was

sycophantically respectful of and grateful to Sigmund Fraud, which meant that, being the kind of man that he was, she remained in his good books. This was not the case with Freud’s daughter, Anna, who could not forgive her for having been the first to apply psychoanalysis to children, which is how she, Anna, wanted to be known. Pettiness and spite have always been the hallmarks of psychoanalysis, despite its claims to wisdom.

She was leading an arid existence, involving herself

in an arcane sect that contributed nothing to human understanding. Rather, the reverse: it erected elaborate screens of absurd theory between people and their proper self-reflection or self-examination.

She had an illegitimate elder half-sister, Antoine, who in 1906 gave birth to an illegitimate son called Rudolf. In 1924, Rudolf murdered Hermine brutally, shortly after publication of her book, Neue Wege zum Verständnis der Jugend: Psychoanalytische Vorlesungen für Eltern, Lehrer, Erzieher, Schulärzte, Kindergärtnerinnen und Fürsorgerinnen. It is hard, says Dalrymple,

to suppress a smile at the irony of it.

Deutscher’s convoluted abstractions and chilling impersonality

Dalrymple points out that Isaac Deutscher was, to put it mildly, deficient in intellectual probity. He

believed in something called the dialectic; and the dialectic is to moral and intellectual dishonesty what Freud said dreams were to the unconscious, namely the royal road.

Deutscher was

one of those Marxists who could not quite make up his mind whether mass murder in the right hands did or did not serve the long-term interests of humanity.

Dalrymple notes that Deutscher’s prose style

is the man himself: evasive, slippery, an equivocator with evil and with the soul of an NKVD apparatchik.

What Deutscher writes

is chillingly impersonal: if he had been writing of the extermination camps, he might have done so by reference to their carbon dioxide emissions. It was as if he believed that if you were cold-hearted and impersonal enough, you became scientific. He saw classes of men, not men. His convoluted abstractions were more real to him than anything as concrete or vulgar as a bullet in the back of someone’s head.

Freudulent poseur

The work of Sigmund Freud, writes Dalrymple, is

more like soothsaying than science.

This, he says, explains its popularity in the 20th century,

with its need for pagan mystics masquerading as rationalists.

Neither the plausibility nor the persuasiveness of Freud’s speculations

accounts for his influence on so many intelligent and well-educated people for so long; rather it was the convoluted implausibility of his speculations that attracted them. We like to be in on a secret not comprehensible to others.

No wonder Dr Johnson is not in fashion

Engraving from James Barry’s portrait (1778-80)

An incomparably greater psychologist than Freud, having no axe to grind and no sect to found

Samuel Johnson, writes Dalrymple,

  • contrived to be a moralist without moralising
  • was humane and charitable without sentimentality

This is a contrast to today, Dalrymple points out, for

we prefer mental contortions, self-justifications, evasions, rationalisations, and all the other methods of avoiding the truth about ourselves, to Dr Johnson’s discomfiting clarity of mind.

Johnson had a gift, Dalrymple notes, for saying things that were

both startling and obvious. As he himself put it, we have more often to be reminded than informed.

Johnson’s prose style

would no doubt strike many people (if they read it) as formal—we prefer expletives and the demotic now.

The literary equivalent of toothache

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 22.19.39Much psychoanalytical writing, writes Dalrymple,

has all the stylistic flair and intellectual excitement of a speech by the late Leonid Brezhnev.

While the founder of psychoanalysis was, Dalrymple says,

a brilliant author and may profitably be read by anyone, the writings of his followers are readable only as an act of religious devotion, even of contrition.

Indeed, psychoanalytical writing can be

painful to read, paragraph after paragraph conveying little or no sense, with no detectable difference in meaning when I convert affirmative sentences into their negatives.

Language is used

imprecisely and with little regard for aesthetic considerations. Style is often so barbarous that meaning can only be glimpsed, as through a glass darkly.

Notes on Freud

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 10.07.22Sigmund Freud, writes Dalrymple,

was to human self-understanding what Piltdown Man was to physical anthropology.

Dalrymple lists some of Freud’s attributes. The ‘father of psychoanalysis’ was

  • a habitual liar who falsified evidence in that way that Henry Ford made cars
  • a plagiarist who not only did not acknowledge, but actively denied, the sources of his ideas
  • credulous of evident absurdities, as his relations with Wilhelm Fließ prove
  • a self-aggrandising mythologist
  • a shameless manipulator of people
  • financially grasping and unscrupulous
  • the founder of a doctrinaire sect
  • a searcher-out and avenger of heresy who would brook no opposition or competition — he called down anathema on infidels as intolerantly as Mohammed

Use of psychoanalysts as paid companions

Dalrymple draws attention to one of the characters in Nigel Balchin's 1945 novel Mine Own Executioner (1945). Lady Maresfield is a rich, spoilt and lonely woman whose marriage is unsatisfactory and who uses Milne [a psychoanalyst and the main protagonist] merely as a shoulder to cry on, almost as a paid companion. Her name is surely significant: when Freud came to live in England, his address was Maresfield Gardens [pictured right]'

Dalrymple draws attention to one of the characters in Nigel Balchin’s 1945 novel Mine Own Executioner. Lady Maresfield is ‘a rich, spoilt and lonely woman whose marriage is unsatisfactory and who uses Milne [a psychoanalyst and the main protagonist] as a shoulder to cry on, almost as a paid companion. Her name is significant: when Freud came to live in England, his address was [20] Maresfield Gardens


Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 22.55.43Dalrymple points out that Sigmund Freud was no scientist. He was the founder of a religious sect rather than of a scientific discipline. This incestuous adulterer was

  • a money-grubbing charlatan oscillating between wishful thinking and outright lying
  • an unscrupulous manipulator who owed his success not to the truth but to the emptiness of his theories
  • a man avid for fame and fortune only too aware that he might not achieve them by more conventional means

His technique

was of no greater therapeutic value than exorcism, although much more expensive and a great deal less fun – except for those who desired to talk endlessly about themselves and were willing to pay someone else to listen to them or at least pretend to listen to them.

France and Argentina are

the last redoubt in the world of psychoanalysis (not that this prevents the French from being world-champion psychotropic medication swallowers as well, on the contrary); the bookshops are still full of volumes by psychoanalysts written in alchemical language that means something only to those who have entered their temple, and perhaps not even to them.

The exposure of Freud as a fraud

still comes as a shock in France, long after it has ceased to be such elsewhere in the Western world.

The question is

why theories so arcane, so preposterously speculative, so lacking in evidence in their favour and even in the possibility of there being any such evidence, should for a number of decades have conquered the most scientifically advanced regions.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 22.53.52

On Samuel Johnson

Screen Shot 2013-03-30 at 08.41.03Though ‘vastly more self-analytically honest and morally useful’ than anything Freud wrote, Johnson’s essays

do not appeal to an age that prefers psychobabble to true reflection, and in which self-exculpation is de rigueur.