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Young Dr. Freud
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Analysis: Guilt
Freud's nightmare
Freud's nightmare
(David Grubin Productions)
As Freud struggled to learn the most secret things about himself, his childhood was coming back in a rush of discovery, disconnected memories and dreams, he recalled a nightmare about his mother from which he had awakened in tears, screaming.

FREUD: "It was very vivid and showed me my beloved mother with a peculiarly calm, sleeping facial expression, being carried into the room by [people] with bird beaks."

BERGMANN: Freud carried [the dream] all his life. Not only was it a nightmare at the time, but Freud could never forget it.

For Freud, dreams were riddles, sometimes hiding their secrets by playing with words. In the dream, Freud had seen the German word "vogel," meaning bird. The plural of the word is "vogeln" - a German obscenity for having sex.

FREUD: "I awoke in anxiety, which did not end until I woke my parents up… The anxiety can be traced back to an obscure and sexual craving."

Freud found the explanation of his "sexual craving" in a wish: he lusted for his mother in violation of a taboo against incest common to every religion and culture.

FREUD: "I have found in my own case the phenomena of being in love with my mother and jealous of my father, and I now consider it a universal event in early childhood… If this is so we can understand the gripping power of [the Greek legend] Oedipus Rex…

The dream and Freud's analysis of it gave rise to one of his most famous ideas - the Oedipus complex.
The dream and Freud's analysis of it gave rise to one of his most famous ideas - the Oedipus complex. The desire of a young boy, Freud later maintained, is to replace his father as the sole recipients of his mother's affections, which can lead to an unconscious wish for his father's death.

When Freud's father died in 1896, Freud was deeply disturbed and gripped by an intellectual and spiritual crisis. Freud had a dream after his father's funeral in which he found himself in the barbershop he visited everyday and noticed a sign that read: "You are requested to close your eyes."

Freud's father's gravestone
Freud's father's gravestone
(David Grubin Productions)
FREUD: "On the day of the funeral I was kept waiting and therefore arrived a little late at the house of mourning. At that time my family was displeased with me because I had arranged for the funeral to be quiet and simple, which they later agreed was quite justified. They were also somewhat offended by my lateness. The sentence on the sign has a double meaning: one should do one's duty to the dead (an apology as though I had not done it and were in need of leniency), and the actual duty itself. The dream thus stems from the inclination to self-reproach that regularly sets in among survivors."

Freud's dream the night of his father's funeral had warned him to close his eyes. But to understand his troubled patients, and himself, he would have to open them. But, in the months following his father's death, Freud's confusion deepened. To quiet his own mind, he would have to face the truth about his father, based on his own analysis, and then reject it.

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