4 months ago

Sigmund Freud

scene that he claims the

scene that he claims the child must have viewed. The interpretation of the Wolf Man’s dream about the wolves involves an understanding of the importance of construction to analysis. CONSTRUCTION A construction is an interpretation by the analyst which may seem far-fetched and removed from the immediate analytic material. The goal of the construction is to bring up repressed childhood material which may have been a real experience of the patient, or may have been fantasised by the patient, but which contains something important to the patient’s later development: ‘scenes [like the Wolf Man’s witnessing of his parents’ sexual intercourse] which date from such an early period … and which further lay claim to such an extraordinary significance for the history of the case, are as a rule not reproduced as recollections, but have to be divined – constructed – gradually and laboriously from an aggregate of indications’ (Freud 1918:248). Many later readers of the case have questioned Freud’s interpretation of the Wolf Man’s dream, including the Wolf Man himself, who, in an interview conducted late in his life, denied ever having fully believed Freud’s interpretation. In retrospect it seems that any positive psychoanalytic influence on the Wolf Man had more to do with the Wolf Man’s transference on to Freud than it did with Freud’s correct reading of his patient’s early life and childhood neuroses. Freud acted as a father figure for the Wolf Man, lending him money and giving him advice, not the types of activities that are now accepted in analysts, who are expected to remain aloof from intimate relationships with their patients. It is probable that the interpretations of the Wolf Man’s wolf dream originated entirely with Freud. The Wolf Man case was never as much of a therapeutic triumph for Freud as the written record makes it out to be. The Wolf Man continued to have treatment for obsessional neurosis and depression for the rest of his life, and in fact he seems to have developed a fixation on his status as Freud’s famous patient, immortalised primarily for his illness. Despite its shortcomings as a cure, the ideas that emerge from the case of the Wolf Man are crucial to the further development of analytic theory and practice. The concept of constructions, the often theoretically productive difficulty in pinning down the status of childhood memories and dream material as fantasy or reality, and the question of the influence that the analyst’s suggestions can have on the patient, are central psychoanalytic problems that the Wolf Man’s case history brings up. The Wolf Man and the Rat Man were both cases to which Freud devoted a lot of time and energy; his sympathy, his paternal care and sometimes his admiration for his patients’ creativity and stamina in confronting their illnesses come through in his discussions of their debilitating neurotic problems. It is fair to see that Freud, at times, identifies with the creative but tortured illnesses of his male patients. A different attitude emerges in Freud’s case histories of women, to which we will now turn.


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