The shared matrix of concern

Giles Fraser wrote at unherd.com today:

“…Joseph Schwartz, in his definitive history of psychoanalysis, Cassandra’s Daughter, sees this “sexualisation of the mother-son relationship” as “part of the dynamic of the Victorian patriarchal family”. He continues:

 “This family romance is dominated by an absent authoritarian father who, arriving home, asserts his own needs over his children’s by making overt or covert sexual demands on his wife. The wife, resentful of abandonment by her husband and of his authoritarian attitudes, lavishes attention on her son. And the son, perceiving rivalry for the mother’s affections expressed in sexual terms, responds in kind.”

It is hard to read these words and not be reminded of the relationship between Charles and Diana, a woman “resentful of abandonment by her husband and of his authoritarian attitudes [who] lavished attention on her son”…”

Robert S. Wallerstein wrote in American Imago Volume 58, Number 3, Fall 2001:

“Although Freud scholarship has become a substantial, even booming, industry, with a plethora of biographies ranging from the almost hagiographic all the way to the crudest of Freud-bashing–with the four by Didier Anzieu (1986), Peter Gay (1988), Ernest Jones (in three volumes, 1953, 1955, 1957), and Max Schur (1972) being the most comprehensively scholarly out of the eighty-one books in my own library about Freud, from seemingly every possible perspective–and with his voluminous exchanges of letters with so many of those most salient in the early history of psychoanalysis widely available in book form–I myself have the correspondence with Karl Abraham (1965), Sandor Ferenczi (1993, 1996), Wilhelm Fliess (1954, 1985), Ernest Jones (1995), Carl Jung (1974), Oskar Pfister (1963), Lou Andreas-Salomé (1972), Eduard Silberstein (1990), Arnold Zweig (1970), as well as a collection of Letters of Sigmund Freud (1960), mostly to his fiancée and then wife, Martha Bernays, as well as to other family members and other close friends, edited by his son Ernst–what has always been a surprising lacuna is the relative dearth of histories of psychoanalysis per se– as both a “movement” and an intellectual discipline.

It is therefore most welcome to note the appearance–in 1999–of a new effort at a comprehensive history of psychoanalysis, with the enigmatic title, Cassandra’s Daughter, but with the subtitle, A History of Psychoanalysis, by Joseph Schwartz, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, born and educated in the United States, but now living and working in London. It is indeed a noble effort, and I will adumbrate my sense of its accomplishments; but unhappily, for me it falls very far short of its avowed intent, and I will try to spell that out in some detail as well.

Firstly, the book does reflect a good deal of research scholarship, some of it quite new to me, especially on the early history of psychoanalysis, roughly up through its first half-century, namely the lifetime and the work of Sigmund Freud himself, and of his early followers, intimates, and intellectual “significant others.” In fact, this first half-century, which is, after all, already the best described part of psychoanalytic history–witness the detailed reference in my opening paragraph to the wealth of Freud scholarship; his own twenty-four volumes in the Standard Edition plus his other assorted writings including the prepsychoanalytic and neurological; his seemingly endless correspondence, not just with his psychoanalytic followers, but with the likes of Romain Rolland and Arnold Zweig; all the books about him, ranging from analyses of his literary style to the original reviews of his scientific writings as these emerged over his lifetime, etc.–takes up approximately two thirds of the entire volume, while all the explosive burgeoning of psychoanalysis over the world’s continents, and in all its theoretical diversity, or pluralism as we have come to call it, that has taken place in the second half of the now century-long history of psychoanalysis gets crammed–literally–into the final one third.

Within that earlier temporal half of the psychoanalytic history that I feel Schwartz covers quite comprehensively–and, incidentally, with a most felicitous writing style–the author explores in detail, and well, the relations with, and the roles in Freud’s intellectual development of, Breuer, Fliess, Adler, Jung, and also Ferenczi, Abraham, and Jones. He develops also the diverging contributions of both Melanie Klein and of Freud’s daughter Anna, as they arose out of the shared matrix of concern to extend the psychoanalytic purview to the world of childhood and child psychopathology, and he carries the Melanie Klein-Anna Freud scientific controversies (backed respectively by Ernest Jones and by her father) through the famous wartime Controversial Discussions, which have of course been comprehensively chronicled in the Pearl King and Riccardo Steiner volume (1991). Schwartz also documents, but indeed less intensively, the roles of Fairbairn, Winnicott, and Bowlby…”

Thomas Kennedy wrote at apadivisions.org in Summer 2003:

“…(Schwartz) offers with considerable clarity an understanding of Breuer’s inability to stay with the container of the scheduled analytic hour and his “naive” handling of transference-counter-transference, but also due to his presentation of the impact of the intimacy of the therapeutic relationship upon the analyst’s personal life, outside the consulting room. Shades of the film, Love Sick and the struggles depicted in the book, August.

The richness of the presentation of the struggles within Britain of the competition between the views of Melanie Klein and those of Anna Freud, and the richness in detail of the political / interpersonal struggles around these rivalries, that heightened the interpersonal difficulties that have permeated the history of psychoanalysis and its practitioners, “experts in human relationships”, is presented in an engrossing fashion.. In this regard, it would seem that the struggle depicted here is to determine who of these early women was to be “ Cassandra’s Daughter.”

Similarly, his description of the conflict between the goals of orthodox psychoanalysis. and those of the object relation orientation are clearly stated in his rejection of the “ Man Alone” concept. Schwartz clearly defines the emphasis upon independence, as evidenced in American culture, as reflecting a neurotic pursuit of isolation in an effort to avoid vulnerability.

Schwartz’s attempt to cover the history of psychoanalysis at times appears to lack sufficient focus. He covers considerable ground, sometimes seemingly too much, with resultant limitations in focus and depth. In reporting the conflicting views and theories, he seemed, at points, to emphasize interpersonal conflicts and personal needs, possibly underestimating other factors. For example, I wondered whether Freud and Jung suffered their differences, in part, due to their attempts to identify singular dynamics to explain the personalities of different populations. Particularly, their different views regarding the role of the therapist, the importance of exploring intimate sexual material, the management of transference/counter-transference reactions as well as the concept of working through unconscious conflicts may well be rooted then in their treating different patient populations. However, he does underscore in a most clear, and alive fashion how closed, tight, and incestuous the early analytic circle had been.”

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