Freud: A Very Short Introduction by Anthony Storr (2001)

pen 15Psychoanalysis provides a unique experience, which cannot be matched by any other situation in life.  What other social circumstance supplies a dedicated listener who, for hour after hour, year after year, will provide a tolerant, understanding, accepting presence; a steadfast friend or substitute parent who never rejects, is never angry, and never punishes?  138

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A history of Freud’s intellectual development, the book outlines Freud’s major ideas and the development of his psychoanalysic technique.  It also discusses the major influence he has continued to exert on therapy and psychology more generally.

The book doesn’t discuss much of Freud’s personal life, which I would have been interested to learn about.  He was an exceptionally (neurotically?) productive person, and very intellectually creative.

The author faults him for extending his ideas to broadly and rigidly, and for demanding too much acquiescence from his students and disciples.  He credits him for properly introducing concepts of the mind that remain useful and accurate:

“Various details of the Oedipal theory are open to question, but the general outline stands as powerfully explanatory of a variety of sexual difficulties and ways of behaving which had previously appeared inexplicable.” 38

However, he doesn’t take the time to defend or explain how Freud’s theories were “powerfully explainable”, or if he did, I didn’t get it.

Ideas per Page:1 4/10, medium.  I was familiar with many of the major ideas: repression, Oedial theory, etc.

Related Books: ?

Recommend to Others: No

Reread Personally: No


16 “Freud repudiated religion as an illusion, yet needed some systematic approach to making coherent sense out of the world.  He called the system which he invented a science; but psychoanalysis is not, and could never have been, a science in the sense in which physics or chemistry are sciences, since its hypotheses are retrospective and cannot be used for prediction, and most are insusceptible of final proof.”

17 “…hypnotic experiments also taught Freud that mental processes which took place unconsciously could have a powerful effect upon behavior.”

25 “Freud became more and more convinced that the chief characteristic of the neurotic person was lack of a normal sex life and that sexual satisfaction was the key to happiness.”

56 “A historian’s understanding of the past and of the motives of the people who make history is bound to be influenced by his own experience and his capacity for understanding human beings.  This is why neither history nor psychoanalysis can be assigned to the exact sciences.”

58 “…this way is characteristic of obsessional personalities, who are notably ‘ambivalent’ towards the people with whom they are involved, and who often have difficulty in making decisions because they cannot reconcile opposing considerations.”

112 “…Freud regarded civilization as unduly oppressive and provocative of neurosis.”

135 “Freud was primarily concerned with disinterring repressed infantile sexual phantasies which, he was convinced, were casually implicated in the arrest of the neurotic’s libidinal development.  Because his sexuality had remained in an infantile state, the neurotic was unable to achieve adult sexual satisfaction, which Freud regarded as the sin qua non of mental health.”

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.



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