Letter to Wilhelm Fliess of 25th May 1897 : known as Letter 63 : & Draft M Notes (II) Architecture of Hysteria : Sigmund Freud

by Julia Evans on May 25, 1897

1) Translated by Eric Mosbacher & James Strachey

Page 202-205 of The origins of psychoanalysis : Sigmund Freud’s Letters : Letters, Drafts and Notes to Wilhelm Fliess (1887 – 1902) , Edited by Marie Bonaparte, Anna Freud, Ernst Kris, Translated by Eric Mosbacher and James Strachey, Basic Books 1954

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2) Complete, unedited, version : Translated by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

p245-248 of ‘The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887-1904’ [NB ‘The Project’ is not included]: Translated and Edited by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: 1985

Available at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net /freud

James Strachey’s footnotes

P203 : The path followed by [analytic] work proceeds by a series of downward lines : first down to the scenes or to their neighbourhood, then a step further down from one of the symptoms, and then a step further still. : Footnote 1 p203 : The idea that “scenes are arranged according to increasing resistance” and that the work proceeds by a series of downward slants led subsequently to the views of the meaning of resistance stated in Freud’s technical writings and thus to the establishment of the psycho-analytic technique.

P203-204 : It is to be suspected that the essential repressed element is always femininity. This is confirmed by the fact that women no less than men admit more easily to experiences with women than with men. What men essentially repress is the pæderastic element. :

p204 Footnote 1 : The idea alluded to here is one which occupied Freud throughout his life (cf. Introduction, p39, Ernst Kris – see below or Introduction to ‘The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887-1904′ : 1950 : Ernst Kris or here). It led to the insight into the general significance of “the tendency to inversion in psychoneurotics” which Freud, according to a footnote in the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d) owed to a suggestion of Fliess’s ; then to an understanding of the general significance of latent homosexuality; and finally, in the last years of Freud’s working life, to an understanding of passivity in infantile life. :

p38-39 of Introduction to the ‘Origins of Psychoanalysis’ : 1950 : Ernst Kris : See here : Moreover, the conflict was not confined to this one question.
Freud’s advance from the study of dreams and parapraxes to the
further development of his sexual theory was facilitated by an idea
that he took over from Fliess. This was the significance of bisexuality. In the introduction to his 1897 monograph Fliess, after proclaiming the existence of both male and female periods, went on to develop the theme of constitutional bisexuality. This problem played an important role in the exchange of ideas between the two men. Freud was fascinated by it, and quickly adopted Fliess’s idea that the theory of bisexuality was capable of making an important contribution to the understanding of the neuroses. In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life : 1901[See The Psychopathology of Everyday Life : 1901 : Sigmund Freud, SE VI p8-12 : published by www.Freud2Lacan.com : available here] he describes as an example of motivated forgetfulness how the fact that he owed the idea to Fliess faded completely from his memory and only gradually re-emerged.[2] Then it came to developing the idea, however, differences arose which [p39] brought to the surface the whole latent conflict between the two men. It involved a problem with which Freud was concerned for decades. Twenty years later he stated and discussed it with unsurpassed clarity. [1] He described Fliess’s theory [2] as “attractive”, and praised its “magnificent simplicity”. According to Fliess, he said, “the dominant sex of the person, that which is the more strongly developed, has repressed the mental representation of the subordinated sex into the unconscious. Therefore the nucleus of the unconscious (that is to say, the repressed)is in each human being that side of him which belongs to the opposite sex”. Freud’s attitude to this idea, which he himself considered for a moment even before Fliess (Letters 52, 63) was at first hesitant (Letter 75 sqq.) but he ended by allowing the counter-arguments to prevail. “Such a theory as this can only have an intelligible meaning if we assume that a person’s sex is to be determined by his genitals.” [3] He rejected it with the words: “I do not think we are justified in sexualizing repression in this way – that is to say, in explaining it on a biological instead of a purely psychological basis”. [4] Freud rejected, not the validity of bisexuality as the explanation of many traits of human behaviour, but the claim that biological conditions excluded psychological explanations.

References : Letter from Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess: 6th December 1896 : Known as Letter 52 or here

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess of 14th November 1897 : known as Letter 75 or here

Footnote 2 : “In the summer of 1901 [1900] I one day said to a friend with whom I used to exchange scientific ideas: ‘These problems of the neuroses are only to be explained if we base ourselves firmly on the assumption of the initial bisexuality of the individual’. My friend replied: ‘That’s what I told you two-and-a-half years ago at Br., when we went for that evening walk. But you wouldn’t hear of it then!’ It is painful to have to surrender one’s originality in this way. I could not remember the conversation in question, or that my friend had made any statement of the sort. One of us must have been mistaken, and on the cui prodest? principle the one who was mistaken must have been myself. Indeed, in the course of the following week the whole conversation of which my friend had tried to remind me returned to my mind, and I remembered the answer that I had given him at the time. ‘I can’t accept that’, I had exclaimed. ‘I don’t believe it!’ But since that incident I have felt more tolerant when in reading medical literature I have come across any of the few ideas with which my name can be associated quoted without acknowledgment”

Footnote 1 : “A Child is being Beaten” (1919e). [Available ‘A child is being beaten’ a contribution to the study of the origin of sexual perversions : 1919 : Sigmund Freud : trans. J. Strachey, SE XVII, PFL Vol 10 : Published at http://www.freud2lacan.com  & available here]

Footnote 2 : Fliess’s name is not mentioned in the passage referred to, but when he discussed Fliess’s theories in one of his later works (see below) he referred back to this passage.

Footnote 3 : “A Child is being Beaten” (1919e).

Footnote 4 : This quotation from one of Freud’s last works (“Analysis Terminable and Interminable”, 1937c) [See Analysis Terminable & Interminable : 1937c : Sigmund Freud, SE XXIII p209-54,  Published at www.Freud2Lacan.com download  here]  summarizes the argument contained in several letters (Letters 85 and 146).

P204 : There may be a third wave of pressure and a third method of constructing symptoms – originating from impulses. : P204 Footnote 2 : [See the discussion of impulses below, p. 207 ff. (Draft N Notes III : 31st May 1897)]

P205 : It is not enough to take into account the repression between the preconscious and the unconscious; we must also consider the normal repression that occurs within the system of the unconscious itself. This is very important, but still very obscure. : p205 Footnote 1 : The progress of the idea hinted at here can be followed in Freud’s later thought; in the differentiation between what is instinctual and what is repressed in the id (“The Ego and the Id”, 1923 b) [See The Ego & the Id (‘Das Ich und das Es’) : 1920 [1923]: Sigmund Freud, SE XIX p12-63 : Published at www.Freud2Lacan.com and available here] and in the idea that the repressed may itself be worked off and made to disappear (“The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex” (1924 d).)[See The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex : 1924d : Sigmund Freud, SE XIX p173-179 : Published at www.Freud2Lacan.com see here]

P205 : One of our brightest hopes is that we may be able to determine the number and species of phantasies as well as we can those of the “scenes”. A romance of being a stranger (e.g., in the family) (.cf. paranoia) is found regularly, and serves as a means of bastardizing the relatives in question. : p205 Footnote 2 : The family romance, which is regarded here and in earlier passages in the letters as a distinguishing mark of paranoia, was later recognized by Freud to be a part of the normal phantasy life, developing under the pressure of the Oedipus complex. His first statement of this was in a passage contributed to Rank’s The Myth of the Birth of the Hero (Freud, 1909 c).


An increasing number of the texts whose links do not now work, are available on www.LacanianWorksExchange.net , if you still cannot find the text contact Julia Evans


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst,  London & Sandwich, Kent


Further texts

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