22 desember 1897

Sigmund Freud, som savner sin venn Wilhelm Fliess, og gleder seg til han snart skal møte ham igjen, skriver til ham om nye oppdagelser han gjør som har å gjøre med masturbasjon, fnevroser, ortrengning og overgrep.

Han skriver (her gjengitt i engelsk oversettelse -- originalen er på tysk):

"Dear Wilhelm, I am in good spirits again and eagerly looking forward to Breslau, that is, to you and your beautiful novelties about life and its dependence on the course of the world. I have always been curious about it, but until now found no one who could give me an answer.

If there are now two people, one of whom can say what life is, and the other can say (almost) what the mind is -- and furthermore the two are very fond of each other -- it is only right that they should see and talk to each other more frequently.

I only want to jot down quickly a few novelties, so that I myself will not have to tell anything and will be able to listen undisturbed.

The insight has dawned on me that masturbation is the one major habit, the "primal addiction," and it is only as a substitute and replacement for it that the other addictions -- to alcohol, morphine, tobacco and the like -- come into existence.

The role played by this addiction in hysteria is enormous; and it is perhaps there that my major, still outstanding obstacle is to be found, wholly or in part.

And here, of course, doubt arises about whether an addiction of this sort is curable, or whether analysis and therapy must come to a halt at this point and content themselves with transforming hysteria into neurasthenia.

With regard to obsessional neurosis, I have found confirmation that the locality at which the repressed breaks through is the word presentation and not the concept attached to it. (More precisely, the word memory.)

Hence the most disparate things are readily united as an obsessional idea under a single word with multiple meanings.

The tendency toward breaking through makes use of these ambiguous words as though it were killing several flies at one blow.

Take, for example, the following case. A girl attending a sewing class that soon will come to an end is plagued by the obsessional idea: "No, you mustn't leave; you are not yet finished; you must still make more; you must still learn all sorts of things." Behind this lay childhood scenes in which she was put on the pot, did not want to remain there, and experienced the same compulsion: "You mustn't leave; you have not yet finished; you must still make more."

The word "make" permits the later situation to be brought together with the infantile one. Obsessional ideas are frequently clothed in a characteristic verbal vagueness in order to permit such multiple deployment.

If one takes a closer (conscious) look at it, one finds alongside it the expression "You must still learn more," which perhaps later becomes the fixed obsessional idea and arises through a mistaken interpretation of this kind on the part of the conscious.

All this is not entirely arbitrary. The word "make" has itself undergone an analogous transformation in meaning.

An old fantasy of mine, which I would like to recommend to your linguistic sagacity, deals with the derivation of our verbs from such originally coproerotic terms. I can scarcely detail for you all the things that resolve themselves into--excrement for me (a new Midas!).

It fits in completely with the theory of verbal stinking. Above all, money itself. I believe this proceeds via the word "dirty" for "miserly." In the same way, everything related to birth, miscarriage, [menstrual] period goes back to the toilet via the word Abort [toilet] (Abortus [abortion]).

This is really wild, but is entirely analogous to the process by which words take on a transferred meaning as soon as new concepts requiring a designation appear.

The intrinsic authenticity of infantile trauma is borne out by the following little incident which the patient claims to have observed as a three-year-old child. She goes into a dark room where her mother is carrying on [ihre Zustande abmacht] and eavesdrops. She has good reasons for identifiying herself with this mother.

The father belongs to the category of men who stab women, for whom bloody injuries are an erotic need. When she was two years old he brutally deflowered her and infected her with his gonorrhea, as a consequence of which she became ill and her life was endangered by the loss of blood and vaginitis.

The mother now stands in the room and shouts: "Rotten criminal, what do you want from me? I will have no part of that. Just whom do you think you have in front of you?" Then she tears the clothes from her body with one hand, while with the other hand she presses them against it, which creates a very peculiar impression. Then she stares at a certain spot in the room, her face contorted by rage, covers her genitals with one hand and pushes something away with the other. Then she raises both hands, claws at the air and bites it. Shouting and cursing, she bends over far backward, again covers her genitals with her hand, whereupon she falls over foreward, so that her head almost touches the floor; finally she quietly falls over backward onto the floor.

Afterward she wrings her hands, sits down in a corner, and with her features contorted with pain she weeps.

For the child the most conspicuous phase is when the mother, standing up, is bent over foreward. She sees that the mother keeps her toes strongly turned inward!

When the girl was six to seven months (!!) old, her mother was lying in bed, bleeding nearly to death from an injury inflicted by the father. At the age of sixteen she again saw her mother bleeding from the uterus (carcinoma), which brought on the beginning of her neurosis.

The latter breaks out a year later when she hears about a hemorrhoid operation.

Can one doubt that the father forces the mother to submit to anal intercourse? Can one not recognize in the mother's attack the separate phases of this assault: first the attempt to get at her from the front; then pressing her down from the back and penetrating between her legs, which forced her to turn her feet inward.

Finally, how does the patient know that in attacks one usually enacts both persons (self-injury, self-murder), as occurred here in that the woman tears off her clothes with one hand, like the assailant, and with the other holds onto them, as she herself did at the time?

Have you ever seen a foreign newspaper which passed Russian censorship at the frontier? Words, whole clauses and sentences are blocked out so that the rest becomes unintelligible.

A Russian censorship of that kind comes about in psychoses and produces the apparently meaningless deleria.

A new motto: "What has been done to you, poor child?" Enough of my smut. See you soon. Your Sigm.

I shall leave Saturday at eight o'clock as planned.

(Masson, 1985, s. 287-289)


Freud, S., et al. (1985). The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess : 1887-1904. Cambridge, Mass, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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