“HIS FIRST DISCIPLES”

In 1901, Freud began distributing leaflets with a summary of his theories among the “Wiener Prater” walkers. Then he started lecturing at the University of Vienna when it was empty at night. At first he had only five followers: Adler, Stekel, Jung, Rank, and the college janitor who facilitated their entry into the building at night. Soon Freud understood that, with such a scarce audience, there was no need to clandestinely occupy a university classroom with capacity for five hundred people. He began to gather his followers every Wednesday afternoon in the living room of his own home. There he openly exposed his theories while his disciples nodded. At that time, there were still no dissensions. Freud baptised the group with the name of Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, and shortly after as International Psychoanalytic Association. As new members joined, Freud thought of rebaptising it as Interplanetary Psychoanalytic Society, but Rank convinced him that it would be a little too bombastic.

Little by little, he allowed his disciples to open their mouths, for example to ask to go to the bathroom. There came a time when the group of followers had to climb one on the back of others to fit in the small living room, so they had to rent a place to meet.

Parallel to his pedagogical work, Freud attended patients who came to his office attracted by his haircut. Freud threw them on the couch and sang lullabies to them until they fell asleep. Then he would wake them up suddenly and question them about the dreams they had had. With these data he wrote his famous book “The interpretation of dreams”. The book caused a sensation because until then no one had bothered to know the meaning of dreams. Freud had a special gift to discover the meaning of all kinds of dreams. Invariably, the meaning was sexual.

Since Freud began to give them permission to go to the bathroom, his disciples no longer nodded continuously as before. Some of them just nod from time to time. And there were even some who denied with their heads. At first, Freud interpreted this continuous lateral movement of the head as a nervous tic, but in the end he had to surrender to the evidence: some of his disciples had their own ideas. Adler and Jung, above all, showed certain discrepancies. For example, on one occasion when Freud was lecturing on the meaning of dreams related to the sea, Adler suggested that it might be a swamp. That infuriated Freud who filled a bucket with cold water and emptied it over Adler’s head. Jung also dared to contradict him when Freud claimed that the dreams relating to the act of dreaming had to do with the repressed instinct of kissing a cactus. The following Wednesday, Freud received Jung while hugging a cactus, but Jung did not get the hint.

Jung almost always had his head in the clouds, while Freud was an eminently practical man. If he bought eggs, it was basically to eat them. But if Jung bought eggs you could not know for sure what the hell he wanted to do with them. One day, Stekel caught him hatching a basket full of eggs and ran to tattle it to Freud, who was outraged. Hatching eggs was one of the two sexual perversions that Freud most abhorred. The other was to get on the roof. Stekel kept Jung under close scrutiny until one day he notified Freud that he had seen Jung hatching eggs on top of the roof. That was a shock to Freud, who had always seen Jung as his natural successor in charge of the International Psychoanalytic Association. But Jung liked to hatch eggs on the roof and didn’t see anything wrong with it. Adler didn’t see anything wrong with hatching eggs on the roof either, but judged it “stupid”.

Adler criticized the (in his view) excessive importance that Freud attributed to sexuality in contrast to the low value he attributed to emotions. Adler was a very emotional being whereas Freud considered emotionality as a mere substitute for sexuality. Adler was a supporter of sexuality but only as long as it was restricted to the realm of sex. On this point he was at one with Jung, who didn’t approve of Freud’s obsession with sex. On one occasion, a government minister came to Freud’s office with the intention of eliminating a tic that caused him to contract his nose imitating a rabbit, and Freud ruled that, behind this tic, laid a repressed sexual instinct towards the opposition politicians. Jung dared to imply that such statement had neither head nor tail, and Freud hit him with a brazier.

These two disobedient members of the inner circle of Freud’s collaborators (Otto Rank will be joining them later) must, however, be weighed against the devoted supporters of their leader: followers like Karl Abraham, Hanns Sachs, Theodor Reik or Herman Nunberg, whose following reached the point of physically follow their master everywhere. This motivated a heated discussion of Freud with his wife, who objected to the fact that Freud would allow them to follow him even to the matrimonial bedroom. However, in a letter addressed to Nunberg, Abraham bitterly complains about what he consider a sign of lack of confidence in them on the part of Freud in reference to his not allowing them to enter with him in the bathroom when he need to urinate.

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