in at least one respect; they came to Freud not because they were experiencing emotional distress but because they were suffering from physical symptoms.
Freud’s first patient, for example, Frau Emmy von N., suffered speech difficulties, which Freud described as ‘spastic interruptions amounting to a stammer’.
As Freud embarked on a career in medicine, which eventually led him to study in the newly emerging field of neurology, these expectations seem to have become increasingly burdensome.
For, although outwardly successful, he appears to have begun to despair of ever being granted the kind of world-redeeming revelation which he felt inwardly compelled to seek.
Freud was especially interested in the most unusual of all his colleague’s patients, the celebrated ‘Anna O.’ whom Breuer had begun to treat in 1880. was a twenty-one-year-old woman who had fallen ill while nursing her father who eventually died of a tubercular abscess. She subsequently developed a number of other physical symptoms, including paralysis of the extremities of the right side of her body, contractures, disturbances of vision, hearing and language.
She also began to experience lapses of consciousness and hallucinations.Charcot specialised in treating patients who were suffering from a variety of unexplained physical symptoms including paralysis, contractures (muscles which contract and cannot be relaxed) and seizures.Some of these patients sporadically and compulsively adopted a bizarre posture (christened arc-de-cercle) in which they arched their body backwards until they were supported only by their head and their heels.Unusually he was born in a caul – a kind of membrane – and his mother immediately took this as a portent of his future fame.She called him ‘mein goldener Sigi’, and throughout his childhood and early adolescence in Vienna he was surrounded by his parents’ adulation and by their urgent expectation of his future greatness.Breuer diagnosed Anna O.’s illness as a case of hysteria and gradually developed a form of therapy which he believed was effective in relieving her symptoms.He came to the conclusion that when he could induce her to relate to him during the evening the content of her daytime hallucinations, she became calm and tranquil.She has frequently been described as the first psychoanalytic patient, a view which Freud himself, lecturing at Clark University in the United States, once endorsed: If it is a merit to have brought psychoanalysis into being, that merit is not mine. I was a student and working for my final examinations at the time when another Viennese physician, Dr Josef Breuer first (in 1880-2) made use of this procedure on a girl who was suffering from hysteria. Psychoanalysis would never have come into being if he had not transformed Breuer’s ‘talking cure’ by marrying it with Charcot’s views on traumatic hysteria and his own elaborate technique for reconstructing repressed memories through interpretation and free-association.The patients whom Freud endeavoured to psychoanalyse at this early stage of his career, however, almost all resembled Anna O.had related in a trance as a true account of an incident which had given rise to her aversion to drinking.He said he had concluded that the way to cure a particular symptom of ‘hysteria’ was to recreate the memory of the incident which had originally led to it and bring about emotional catharsis by inducing the patient to express any feeling associated with it..