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Young Dr. Freud
Theories Analysis Perspectives
Family: Father
Jacob Freud
Jacob Freud
(Sigmund Freud Copyrights)
Bankrupt, Freud's father took his family to Vienna, where they lived in what had once been the Jewish ghetto, moving from one miserable apartment to the next, six times in fifteen years. Jacob never found a full-time job again. Until the day he died, he would depend upon the generosity of relatives.

BERGMANN: Freud's father was a very dubious person. Nobody knows exactly how he made a living. He was a kind of a dreamer.

GAY: He had no particular talents or particular connections or anything to allow him to be anything more than a ne'er-do-well.

SOPHIE FREUD: My grandfather grew up in extreme poverty. The family was all the time worried about money, and that pervaded the atmosphere.

FREUD: "A thing I remember from my boyhood is that when wild horses on the pampas have been once lassoed, they retain a certain nervousness for life. In the same way, I once knew helpless poverty and have a constant fear of it."

Freud linked his fear of poverty to his father's lack of success.
Freud linked his fear of poverty to his father's lack of success. But a disturbing memory revealed his tangled feelings toward his father. When Freud was ten, Jacob had told him a story:

FREUD: "When I was a young man," my father said, "I went for a walk one Saturday… I was well dressed, and had a new fur cap on my head. A Christian came up to me and with a single blow knocked off my cap into the mud and shouted: 'Jew!' " And what did you do, I asked. "I picked up my cap," was his quiet reply."

Recreation of Jacob Freud's humiliation
Recreation of Jacob Freud's humiliation
(David Grubin Productions)
PERSON: This was a major disappointment for Freud. He was hoping that his father would have done something dramatic and grand. Freud [wanted] a father who was defiant, not someone who was submissive.

BERGMANN: It was a perfectly good adjustment on Freud's father's part, but it was not calculated to make the son feel that his father is a heroic figure. He lost his respect for his father. He grows beyond the father.

All his life, Freud masked his disappointment in his father, even from himself. He never questioned Jacob's authority, or blamed him for the unexpected calamity that cast a shadow over his childhood.

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