Helen Sheehan – Searching For The Lost Cause

Issue 64 Spring 2017 (Pages 39-46)

Searching For The Lost Cause
Helen Sheehan

This paper follows Freud’s first tentative steps towards his understanding of the origins of anxiety. It will deal in particular with his work from 1892 until 1895 and will engage briefly with Lacan’s comments on the matter.

Keywords: anxiety; origin; aetiology; neurasthenia; George Beard; anxiety neurosis; transformation; jouissance; affect; soma; psyche; Other

It is important to remember that we cannot separate theory from practice for Freud and to remember that every discovery Freud has made has in one way or another been influenced not only by his theoretical work but by what was happening in his personal life and this is because, it seems to me, for Freud, theory is not something you do – you write about. What you write about are the little threads of significance that go to frame a Life and then we call this theory. In other words, as Lacan insists, the unconscious is that which does not stop not writing itself.

And, in this context, it is interesting to note that it was at the time of his definitive separation from a valued friendship with Dr Joseph Breuer that Freud began to work on anxiety states.

Freud met Breuer at the Institute of Physiology in Vienna in the late 1870s and sharing the same interests and outlook, they quickly became friends. He became as Freud says, ‘my friend and helper in my difficult circumstances. We grew accustomed to share all our scientific interests with each other.’

From December 1880 to January 1882 Breuer treated what has become recognised as a classical case of hysteria – that of Fraulein Anna O. This fascinating case history will have to be left for another day, but suffice to say that for Breuer the case did not….

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