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Freud, Ferenczi, and the “disbelief” on the Acropolis

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Ferenczi's 1929 claim that “no analysis can be regarded … as complete unless we have succeed in penetrating the traumatic material” resonated deeply in Freud, influencing his last works. According to the author, it reactivated in Freud the same traumatic memories that were at the heart of his self-analysis, letting them resurface in the 1936 essay “A disturbance of memory on the Acropolis,” in the striking simile of the Loch Ness monster. The image of “the sea-serpent we've never believed in” is then analyzed and used as a sounding lead for Freud's self-analysis. The transformation of the love-object into an attractive monster, which is found as a recurrent pattern in Freud's life and work, hints at the centrality of the combined figure of woman and serpent in mythology, in psychoanalysis, and in Freud's self-analysis. Finally, the background of the “memory disturbance” on the Acropolis is traced back to the woman patient who had dreams of gigantic snakes. It is suggested that the patient might be Emma Eckstein and that a still unexplored thread exists, which runs through the foundation of psychoanalysis, connecting the surgical operation of Emma, the Irma dream, and the Acropolis incident.
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Keywords: bisexuality; history of psychoanalysis; traumatic memories

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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