Freud in Australia

Prof. Reg Martin (Reprinted from the Scientific Proceedings of the Australian Psychoanalytical Society Issue 14, 1988)

In his biography of Freud, Ernest Jones reports a number of events that accord Australia a significant place in the early history of Psychoanalysis. In 1909 Freud reported having received a letter from Sydney telling him there was a group eagerly studying his work. A Dr Donald Cameron had established a little group and had lectured many times before various Societies on Psychoanalysis. Before acquiring a medical qualification in 1907 he had been a minister of the Presbyterian Church but had had to resign his position on account of his "Freudian Views". Jones notes this as "the first instance, but far from being the last of such victimization."

Two years later at the request of Dr Andrew Davidson, Freud, Jung and Havelock Ellis were invited to read papers on Psychoanalysis before the Australian Medical Congress in Sydney in 1911. Freud's paper "On Psychoanalysis" was read before that Congress and is printed, for the first time in this issue of "Scientific Proceedings". This is the only place it has been published, apart from appearing in the Proceedings of Australian Medical Congress.


Prof. Sigm. Freud, Vienna

At the friendly request of the secretary of your section of neurology and psychiatry, I take the liberty of directing the attention of this Congress to the subject of psychoanalysis, which at the present moment is being extensively studied by neurologists and psychiatrists in Europe and America.

Psychoanalysis is a remarkable combination, which includes not only a method of examination of the neuroses, but also a method of treatment based on the aetiology thus discovered. I may say, to begin with, that psychoanalysis is not a child of speculation but the result of experience, and for this reason, like every new product of science, is unfinished. Everyone is invited to convince himself by his own investigations of the correctness of assertions contained herein, and to help in the further development of the study.

Psychoanalysis began with researches on hysteria, but in the course of years it has extended far beyond this field of work. The “Studies on Hysteriaʼ, by Breuer and myself, published in 1895, were the beginnings of psychoanalysis; they followed in the track of Charcotʼs work “ Traumatic Hysteria”, Liebaultʼs and Bernheimʼs “ Proof of the Hypnotic Phenomena”, and Janetʼs studies on “Unconscious Psychic Processes”. Psychoanalysis soon put itself into sharp antagonism with Janetʼs opinions, because (a) it refused to trace hysteria directly to a congenital hereditary degeneration, (b) it offered instead of a mere description of a dynamic explanation by a play of psychic forces, and (c) it referred psychic dissociation (the importance of which had also been recognised by Janet) not to psychic synthesis arising from a congenital disability, but to a special psychic process called “repression” (Verdrangung).

It has been directly proved that hysterical symptoms are residues (reminiscences) of impressive incidents, which have been withdrawn from everyday consciousness and are determined in form by details of the traumatic effects of these incidents in a way which excludes voluntary formation. In this conception, the therapeutic possibilities consist of the chances of annulling such a “repression”, so as to allow part of the unconscious psychic life to become conscious and thus deprive it of its pathogenic power. This conception is a dynamic one in so far as it regards the psychic processes as displacements of psychic energy, which can be estimated by the degree of the action on the affective elements. This is most significant in hysteria, where the process of “conversion” creates the symptoms by transforming a mental mass of emotion into somatic innovations.

The first psychoanalytic examinations and attempts at treatment were made with the aid of hypnotism. Afterwards, this was abandoned and the work performed by the method of “free association”, the patient remaining in his normal state. This modification had the advantage that the procedure could be applied to a far larger number of cases of hysteria, to other neuroses, and also to healthy individuals. The development of a special faculty of interpretation, however, became necessary, so as to draw conclusions from the expressed ideas of the examined individual. These interpretations established with all certainty the fact, that the psychic dissociations are kept up solely by “inner resistances”. The conclusion, therefore, seems justified, that they have arisen through inner psychic conflict, which has led to the “repression” of the underlying emotion. To overcome this conflict, and thereby cure the neurosis, the guiding hand of the doctor trained in psychoanalysis is required.

Further, it has been very generally demonstrated that in all neuroses, the morbid symptoms are really the end products of such conflicts, which have led to “repression” and “psychic cleavage”. The symptoms are generated by different mechanism: (a) either as formations in substitution for the repressed forces; or (b) as compromises between the repressing and the repressed forces; or (c) as reactionformations and securities against the repressed forces.

The investigations were further extended to the conditions under which psychic conflicts lead to “repression” (i.e. , the dissociation caused dynamically), because it goes without saying, that a psychic conflict may in itself have also a normal ending. Psychoanalysis yielded as result, that the conflicts are always between sexual impulses (using the work “sexual” in the widest sense), and the wishes and tendencies of the remaining ego. In the neuroses is the sexual impulses, which succumb to “repression”, and, consequently, form the most important basis for the genesis of symptoms, which, therefore, may be conceived as sexual gratification in substitution.

Our work on the question of predisposition to neurotic affections has added the “infantile” factor to the hitherto recognised somatic and hereditary factors. Thus psychoanalysis had to trace back the psychic life of the patients to their early infancy, and the conclusion was arrived at that mental arrests of the development (infantilisms), harbour predisposition to the neuroses. We have learnt, particularly from the tracing of the sexual life, that an “infantile sexuality” does really exist, that the sexual impulse is made up of many components and passes through a complicated development, the final result of which is, after many restrictions and transformations, the “normal sexuality” of the adult. The puzzling perversions of the sexual impulse in adults appear to be either arrests of development, fixations, orone-sided growths. The neuroses is therefore, the negative of the perversion.

The cultural development forced on mankind is the momentum which renders the restrictions and suppressions of the sexual impulse necessary, greater or lesser sacrifices being demanded according to the individual constitution. Development is hardly ever achieved smoothly, and disturbances may occur on account of the individual constitution or of premature sexual incidents, leaving behind the disposition to future neuroses. Such dispositions may remain harmless, if the life of the adult develops satisfactorily and unpretentiously; but they become pathogenic, if the conditions of the mature life, deny the gratification of the” libido”, or make too high demands on its suppression.

From the investigations, which deal with the sexual activity of the child, a further conception of the sexual impulses arises, which is based not on its purposes, but on its sources. The sexual impulse possesses in a high degree the faculty of being diverted from its direct sexual goals, and of being led towards higher goals, which are no longer sexual (“sublimation”). The impulse is thus unable to furnish most important contributions to the social and artistic achievements of humanity.

The simultaneous presence of the three momenta – “infantilism”, “sexuality”, and “repression” - forms the principal characteristic of the psychoanalytic theory, and marks its difference from other conceptions of morbid psychic life. Psychoanalysis has at the same time demonstrated that between the psychic life of normals, of neurotics and of psychotics there exists no fundamental difference, but only one of degree. The normal individual has to pass through the same “repressions”, and has to battle with the same substituted or surrogates creations; the difference being only that the normal person performs these processes with less trouble and better success. The psychoanalytic method of examination can, therefore, also be applied to the explanation of normal psychic phenomena, and has made it possible to discover the close relationship between morbid psychic productions and normal creations, such as dreams, the small blunders of everyday life, the valuable attainments of the joke, myths, and poetry. Of these, the explanation of the dream is the farthest advanc ed and results in the following general formula: “ the dream is a deformed fulfillment of a repressed wish”. Dream interpretation has for object: removal of the deformity, which the unconscious thoughts of the dreamer have undergone; also it is a highly valuable aid to psychoanalytic technique, since it constitutes the most convenient method for obtaining insight into unconscious psychic life.

The tendency of contradicting the doctrines of psychoanalysis often occurs in medical and psychiatric circles, without any real study or any practical application. This is due not only to the striking novelty and contrast of the doctrines when compared with those hitherto held by psychiatrists, but also to the fact that premises and techniques of psychoanalysis are much more nearly related to the realm of mind than to that of medicine. It is, however, beyond dispute, that the purely medical and non-psychological teachings have up to now done very little towards the understanding of the psychic life. The progress of psychoanalysis is further retarded by the fear of the average observer to see himself in his own mirror. Scientific men are liable to meet emotional resistances by arguments, and thus satisfy themselves to their own satisfaction! Anyone who does not wish to ignore a truth will do well to distrust his antipathies, and if he wishes to subject the doctrine of psychoanalysis to a critical examination, let him also analyse his own person.

I cannot believe that in these few sentence I have succeeded in painting a distinct picture of the principles and purposes of psychoanalysis, but I append a list of the principal publications on the subject, perusal of which will supply further enlightenment to those whom I might have interested.


BREUER AND FREUD. Studien uber Hysteria. 1985. Fr. Deuticke, Vienna. A portion of the above has been translated into English in “Selected Papers on Hysteria and other Psycho-neurosis.” by Dr A A Brill, New York, 1909.

FREUD. Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Vienna. 1905 English translation by Dr Brill, “Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory.” New York. 1910.

FREUD. Zur Psychopathologie des Altagslevens. S. Karger, Berlin. 3rd Edition, 1910.

FREUD. Die Traumdeutung. Vienna, 1900. 3rd Edition, 1911.

FREUD. The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis. Amer. J. Psychology. April 1910. Also in Germany : “Ueber Psychoanalyse.” Five Lectures given at the Clark University, Worcester, Mass. 1909.

FREUD. Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten. Vienna. 1905.

FREUD. Collection of minor papers on the Doctrine of Neuroses, 1893-1906. Vienna, 1906.

IDEM. A second collection. Vienna. 1909.

HITSCHMANN. Freudʼs Neurosenlehre. Vienna. 1911.

C G JUNG. Diagnostische Associationsstudien. Two volumes. 1906-1010.

C G JUNG. Uber die Psychologie der Dementia Praecox. 1907.

JAHRBUCH fur psycho-analytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, published by E Bleurer and S Freud, Edited by Jung. Since 1909.

SCHRIFTEN zur angewandten Seelenkunde. Fr. Deuticke, Vienna. Since 1907. Eleven parts, by Freud, Jung, Abraham, Pfister, Rank, Jones, Riklin, Graf, Sadger.

ZENTRALBLATT fur Psychoanalyse. Edited by A Adler and W Stekel. J Bergmann, Wiesbaden. Since Sept. 1910.