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social sciences

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Psychoanalysis and glbtq Concerns

The extensive use of psychoanalysis in gay, lesbian, and studies is all the more significant if one considers the ambiguities and uncertainties in the psychoanalytical assessment of homosexuality. Although Freud did not classify homosexuality as an illness, he did regard it as a "certain arrest of sexual development." Assuming Freud's views on heterosexual teleology, mainstream psychoanalysis has regarded homosexuality either as a sexual perversion not susceptible to psychoanalytical treatment or as a curable illness, with the assumption that the cure results in the patient's reorientation toward heterosexuality.

The Historiography of Psychoanalysis

To a large extent, the general perception of psychoanalysis has been determined by the way its main protagonists presented their official history. Freud himself published the first historical treatises on psychoanalysis. In Zur Geschichte der psychoanalytischen Bewegung (On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, 1915), Freud presented himself as the leader of the school of thought he created and as its protector against the dangers posed by the two main dissidents at the time, Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung.

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Ten years later, in Selbstdarstellung (An Autobiographical Study, 1925), Freud traced his intellectual development and emphasized that the invention of psychoanalysis represented a radical break with the unscientific worldview of the era he left behind.

Freud's self-idealizing tendencies were reinforced by the official historiography after World War II that began with the three-volume biography written by Ernest Jones. Despite its import as an indispensable source, the biography misrepresents, among other things, the role Wilhelm Fließ played in the early history of psychoanalysis and the issues related to the estrangement of Wilhelm Reich. Jones deployed his talent to substantiate the legend of Freud as the solitary, self-confident creator of psychoanalysis, who coped with the obscurantism of his age and the disloyalty of his most famous disciples.

In quite a different spirit, Henri F. Ellenberger analyzed the origins and development of psychoanalysis within the framework of the history of dynamic psychiatry. His book The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) marks the beginning of the "revisionist" historiography of psychoanalysis by exploring Freud's personal uncertainties and scientific ambivalences.

With a series of studies and monographs that appeared in the 1970s and eventually led to the publication of The Historiography of Psychoanalysis (2000), Paul Roazen inaugurated a clearly dissident version of the development of psychoanalysis that reevaluates the oral, non-official traditions of the movement as an integral part of its intellectual history.

Among other things, this new approach facilitates a more adequate understanding of the role that Anna Freud (1895-1982) played when her father's tolerant views on homosexuality were discarded by the psychoanalytical movement. If it is true, as some sources maintain, that she had a lesbian relation with her close friend Dorothy Burlingham, an unresolved psychological conflict might have influenced her view of homosexuality as a disease and her decision against admitting homosexuals as psychoanalysts.

The sometimes flagrant differences between the official and dissident versions of the history of psychoanalysis reflect the tensions caused by the disputes about the preservation of authentic Freudian doctrine in a movement constantly expanding its theoretical scope and geographic limits.

The First Dissidents

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), who became a member of the Wednesday Society in 1902 until his definitive separation from Freud in 1911, initiated the first great schism in the history of the psychoanalytic movement. Never having been Freud's disciple or an adherent of his main teachings, Adler soon began to develop the principles of his own individual psychology, which emphasized the importance of social relations and personal adaptation, and rejected the Freudian theses regarding the unconscious and the central role of sexuality.

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was not only the second great dissident in the history of psychoanalysis, but also the only Freud disciple whose originality and productivity could be compared to that of the founder. Although Freud suspected Jung to be anti-Semitic, he saw in him a possible successor who, on account of his Gentile extraction, could help psychoanalysis free itself from the charge of being a "Jewish science."

At the time of his first encounter with Freud in 1907, Jung already disagreed with the master's conception of child sexuality, the Oedipal complex, and the libido. After having tried in vain to convince Freud to downplay the role of sexuality, Jung parted with Freudian psychoanalysis by 1914.

After World War I, Jung began the elaboration of his own analytic psychology, the theoretical system on which his psychotherapeutic method is based. The most relevant concept in his theory is that of archetype, which designates an unconscious preexisting form that determines psychic life and originates the symbolic representations that appear in dreams, art, and religion. With his psychological sanction of the religious imagination, Jung rejected the Enlightenment spirit that pervades Freudian psychoanalysis.

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