Freud's Dora the Case of Term Paper

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The picture is indeed emerging here of Freud as a chauvinist, perhaps (in the opinion of this paper) suffering from some testosterone imbalance himself; and perhaps, as Mahony writes on page 33 of his journal article, Freud was projecting his "male-bound wishes and fantasies" when he imagined that at the moment Mr. K first accosted Dora and "pressed his erection against her" she then experienced "an analogous change" (Freud's quote) in her clitoris. That seems a huge stretch and even a wild fantasy, hardly becoming a man of such professional prestige. But Freud's fantasy goes further into the abyss of his apparent bias; he argues that the traumatic incident with the middle-aged Mr. K must have summoned up "a distinct feeling of excitement" in a "normal girl."

Indeed, Freud noted earlier that Dora's father had discovered wetness in her bed sheets, from time to time. And on page 119 of Freud: On War Sex and Neurosis the little wetness clue led Freud to somehow link Dora's "hysterical symptoms" with her "genital catarrh." The "pride taken by women in the appearance of their genitals is quite a special feature of their vanity," he explains. So, if Dora really did have some vaginal discharge that may have disgusted her, it somehow played perfectly into the convenient box that Freud wished to place her in - hysteria - because Freud goes on (Freud 199) to advise readers that "disorders of the genitals...have an incredible power of humiliating [females], of lowering their self-esteem, and of making them irritable, sensitive, and distrustful." Mahony (page 35) insists Freud's "...blunders...demonstrate his profound misunderstanding of his beleaguered patient."

Meanwhile, Dr. David M. Sachs, Training and Supervisory Analyst with the Psychoanalytic Center in Philadelphia, and Clinical Professor in Child and Adult Psychiatry at Drexel University Medical School, published a Dora-related article in the journal Psychoanalytic Inquiry. Sachs, who takes some of what Mahony has put forward and builds on Mahony's critique, begins his analysis by declaring that Freud's "narrative style" is like a "brilliantly painted logical mask" which enables Freud to "conceal inconsistencies and contradictions" in his presentation. Sachs isn't the only scholar who praises the quality of Freud's writing - and sees how coyly that narrative can be used to spin Freud's pet ideas - but Sachs sees that in this instance it was used to cover up gaps and shortcomings in the treatment of Dora. Freud was "neither modest nor tentative" in his explanation of Dora's symptoms (Sachs 2000-page 46). Dora, because of her "well taken" (Sachs 46) objections to Freud's interpretations of her problem, had a strong desire to be heard by her therapist. She clearly did not accept the validity of Freud's narrative, but "failed in her attempt to get Freud to pay attention to her objections," Sachs writes.

Hence, a power struggle ensued between the two, and the result, in Sachs' view, is partially helpful in showing that Freud's analysis of Dora was more along the lines of "suggestive therapy" than it was "hypothesis formulation." Freud, in effect, then created a "false narrative to explain Dora's symptoms," Sachs continued, and went on to "paint his personal theories and values onto the psychology of his analysis." The bottom line is that Freud "diagnosed Dora as hysteric and ignored that she was a victim of trauma," Sachs concludes on page 47. He goes on to state that what Freud really sought was to prove his "a priori assumption that traumatic events were not the cause of Dora's symptoms," and hence he failed to acknowledge with her that Mr. K's behavior, "like his own," was "boorish, inappropriate, and aggressive." In other words, while Mr. K assaulted Dora physically, and made criminal advances, Freud only assaulted her with his interpretations of her problems. And while Mr. K was greedy and hungry for some sex from a young beautiful virgin, Freud was greedily imposing his need to justify his previously held - and condescending - theories on hysteria and women.

Thus far in this paper the critiques of the Dora - Freud matter have come from the male gender; placing the matter under a feminine microscope is Dr. Rachel T. Hare-Mustin, whose article in American Psychologist asserts that "Freud fails to recognize and understand his own personal motives for the harshness and coldness with which he has treated Dora" (Hare-Mustin 593). What Dora actually needed, Hare-Mustin writes, was "confirmation of the truthfulness of her perceptions" and "confirmation of herself."

Part of the problem then, and now, Hare-Mustin continues (594), is this: psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories which have influenced professionals "specify women's innate nature as passive, dependent, and morally inferior to men." As for Freud, he meets Dora's father but never meets her mother, and yet he sees her "...as an uncultivated woman and above all as a foolish one, who had concentrated all her interests upon domestic affairs" (Hare-Mustin 593). Further, Freud labels Dora's mother as "having a house-wife's psychosis," Hare-Mustin writes. One clearly can perceive here a male therapist with male prejudices passing judgment on a client's mother whom he has never met, but presumes to understand well.

Hare-Mustin mentions that the theories of human development put forward by psychological icons like Freud "...seem to achieve a mythic quality" and they tend to "persist long after evidence has accumulated that they do not accurately reflect women's half-known lives" (Hare-Mustin 594). Moreover, not only have Freud's theories on hysteria - based on Dora's treatment, albeit incomplete and seemingly flawed - had long shelf life beyond their actual value, they are based on "men's development and on the anatomical differences between the sexes," with women presumed to be biologically inferior, Hare-Mustin adds.

Meanwhile, additional female perspective on the subject is offered by Cynthia D. Schrager in the journal Feminine Studies; Schrager finds it "sordid" that Freud was willing to "exculpate Dora's father and Mr. K for their use of Dora; and worse, Freud affixes blame..." On Dora's mother and on Dora herself, along with Dora's governess (who allegedly filled Dora's head with sexy ideas when she was very young). This attempt by Freud to attach blame on convenient women rather than treat Dora's real symptoms - those experienced by a victim of trauma - shows him to be not only clinically wrong but also morally shallow enough to seek out phantom scapegoats.

Schrager adds that Freud is way off the mark when he suggests that Dora's hysteria "...emerged out of her repressed heterosexual desire for Herr K." To give an example of how terrible wrong Freud was in his analysis, Schrager alludes to the scene by the lake, during which 14-year-old Dora pushed Mr. K away and slapped his face. "Freud infamously writes: 'I should without question consider a person hysterical in whom an occasion for sexual excitement elicited feelings that were preponderantly or exclusively unpleasurable'..." (So, given that previous quote found in Freud's book, it is the great psychologist's view that any young woman who resists the illegal and immoral sexual advances of an adult male is hysterical?)

In that same scene by the lake, as Mr. K attempts to have sex with Dora, he states, "I get nothing from my wife." That line causes severe distress for Dora, according to Dr. Lorraine Markotic, professor of English at the University of Calgary, writing in Paragraph (Markotic 1999). Dora is upset with that remark because she knows he used that exact same line on a governess he had seduced. She is aware at this time that her father is having a sexual affair with Mr. K's wife, and she has told that to Freud. He scoffed at it, insisting that her father is "sexually impotent." The point of this reference is that Markotic believes Dora was tossed another curve ball from her parents - that is, Mrs. K wasn't so much an object of Dora's father's desire as she was a kind of "stand-in." And moreover, Dora had wanted to identify with an adult female woman, and she had wanted that woman to be Mrs. K; but now, more disappointment as Dora learns that Mrs. KI is just a substitute, and Markotic goes on to sum up that tangled web of emotion:

In my view," Markotic asserts, "Dora's world falls apart with Herr K's words because her identification is shattered and because she is forced to consider that the ideal she has embraced may be an illusion." And ironically, or perhaps appropriately, Freud doesn't really grasp any of these dynamics, but rather he sees a chance here to place his client Dora into the contextual box that he had been building all along - the stereotypical hysterical woman - and hence, complete his clinical package.

Still another female writer offers some interesting and poignant perspective on Freud's treatment and interaction with Dora. In the book, Hysteria Beyond Freud, essayist, critic and feminist Elaine Showalter notes that by the turn of the century, "the sympathy with women's…[continue]

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