First Hysterical Responses

First Hysterical Responses
Hysteria and Paranoia Seminar
Earl Jackson, Jr.
Spring 1997

Preliminary Communications


Upon reading the first few cases of hysteria published by Breuer
and Freud, my first reaction was what I’ve heard termed „med-student
syndrome“. The combination of reading the cases and you relating to us
the extreme infrequency of male hysteric cases in class, I think, caused
me to look for syptoms within myself. I wasn’t sure exactly how paranoid I was being as I wondered if perhaps the chronic neck pain I’ve had for
many months was the result of some psychical trauma I had once

As I sat poring over my past trying to recall the trauma, I
realized that if my neck pain truly was a hysterical symptom, I WOULDN’T
remember the traumatic event at all (at least not without help).
Eventually, I decided to step down from my paranoia platform (at least I
think I was being paranoid) and accept my overly flat pillow as the cause
of my ongoing pain. Oh well, you can’t blame a boy for trying, can you?

Anyway, let’s get back to real life, shall we? Just kidding. When
I read the case of Anna O., I couldn’t help but think that Breuer sure
seemed full of himself. Reading it without your added information of the
case and Anna O. and Breuer himself, one would think he could do
anything. What a magician! What’s that?! A paralyzed leg? Presto
change-o, ala kazaam and it’s gone! (canned applause) Even though he
attributed his initial success with her case to accident, I can’t help
but marvel (sarcasm) at the efficiency with which he seemed to exorcise
the demons, so to speak. I honestly have little doubt that some, perhaps
even most, of the syptoms remissed from the talking through the initial
traumas, but did Breuer think he was so utterly amazing that that was the
end of it? The magician always.

Thanks to you we know some of the
mitigating circumstances leading to Anna O’s release and „cure“. Breuer,
at least so far, lends credence (sp?) to people who think of
Psycho-analysts as quacks (I know he wasn’t quite a psycho-analyst)

Freud, on the other hand, seemed extaordinarily more human (at
least to himself; we all think of Breuer as quite human). In fact,
observing Freud in the early cases, and early stages of early cases,
brought to mind the absent-minded professor. I almost thought he was
going to stumble upon „flubber“. He almost DID create a sort of mental
flubber by further repressing (or attempting to repress) Emmy’s traumas
and physical and psychical effects. One of the things I love about Freud
is his ability to say „whoops“ and not only realize but admit when he
made a mistake. That is a commendable trait, especially in the pioneer
stages of a field where bold faced lies could be taken for truth by one’s
contemporaries. Also, his commitment to truth regarding the „male
hysteric“ makes me appreciate his efforts.

The thing that bugged me though (not the only thing, but the big
thing) is: what makes a hysteric? Freud, late in the case of Emmy von N.,
gives reasons such as intense feelings, vehement nature, capability of
strong passions. He also gives reasons such as her mental solitude,
persecution from her relatives, wide circle of duties, she performed the
whole of her mental work by herself, isolated from her family and
handicapped by her conscientiousness, her tendency to torment herself,
and the natural helplessness of women. Ignoring the last reason for
obvious reason, I just don’t buy the rest. Not that I don’t believe any
of these things contributed to her hysteria, it’s just that I think
others could or did have the same or similar traits and were not
hysterical. Also, it seems others would be hysterical and not have the
same traits or lifestyles as Emmy. I am a trifle confused.

In conclusion, I have no conclusions, simply thoughts.