Who Really Founded Depth Psychology?
Craig Chalquist, PhD
It has often been said that history is written by the victors. It was predictable, perhaps, that the followers of a man who called himself a conquistador, admired war chiefs like Hannibal and Cromwell, and employed military metaphors like “defense” and “resistance” would make the appropriate revisions once the campaign to legitimize psychoanalysis had begun in earnest.
Freud is normally credited with inventing depth psychology (so named by psychiatrist Eugen
Bleuler in 1910). Repression, infantile sexuality, the unconscious, the transference, the symbol-ism of dreams: these and other constructs marched from the master’s pen into famous Wednes-
day Psychological Society discussions and on into psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. That, at least, is what the autodidactic doctor and his followers wanted the record to reflect.
Past and present scholarship has modified the record so heavily that it stands in need of restate-ment. Below appears a list of “Freudian” concepts. Their originators appear to the right.
Defense Alfred Adler, who used the softer term “safeguarding.” Freud took over the
idea but replaced the name with a German word that evokes the parrying of a
sword thrust. The term “defense” came from Meynert.
Symbolism, in symptoms and Sandor Ferenczi. It took him a while to convince Freud of the significance of dreams symbols.
Repression Johann Herbart, who discussed its role in keeping ideas unconscious (1816). He
also developed a conflict model of mind.
Aggression, innate Alfred Adler. He believed aggression to be a compensatory response to a feel-
ing of powerlessness. Freud biologized this concept and called it the death
drive, prompting Adler to smilingly remark, “I make him a present of it.” Also
originated by Sabina Spielrein.
Infantile sexuality Wilhelm Fleiss, metaphysician and ear, nose, and throat specialist.
Dynamic unconscious Four years before Freud’s “discovery,” Pierre Janet wrote that “hysterical symp-
toms are due to subconscious fixed ideas that have been isolated and usually
forgotten.” He also anticipated Jung by noting these split-off fragments to be
“autonomous.” Freud’s famous iceberg analogy of mind came from Fechner.
Transference Theodule Ribot.
Projection Renamed by Freud from Robert Vischer’s concept of einfuhlung, the projection
of feelings onto people and things.
Introjection Sandor Ferenczi.
Narcissism Coined by Paul Naecke and cited by Havelock Ellis. Freud did not pay much
attention to it until Lou Andreas-Salome began developing the idea clinically.
Autoerotism Havelock Ellis.
Erotism, importance of That Freud’s emphasis on the importance of sex and Eros scandalized the Victo-
rian public is untrue. Many researchers before and during the time Freud wrote
were maintaining exactly the same thing. What troubled readers was Freud’s
dogmatic overemphasis on sex combined with reductionistic interpretations.
Erotism, in dream symbols Karl Scherner.
Sublimation Fleiss, who probably took it from Nietzsche.
Bisexuality, inherence Fleiss. He ended contact with Freud over this appropriation. (Incidentally,
Fleiss believed the unconscious of men to be feminine—masculine for women--
an idea that found its way into Jung’s concept of the anima and animus.)
Id Georg Groddeck, who had been influenced by Nietzsche. Allergic to the leader-
disciple relationship, Groddeck resisted Freud’s attempts to persuade him into
the psychoanalytic fold.
Imago Jung, who saw the word in the title of a play by Carl Spitteler.
Determinism, psychical Ernst Brücke, Freud’s old mentor, for whom all manifestations of life were ri-
gidly chemical interactions.
Compulsion to repeat Named by Freud but described by Gabriel Tarde and by Gustav Fechner.
Complex Jung, who studied its activity in the laboratory.
Free association If we discount Janet’s “automatic talking”: a joint invention by Freud and his
patient Fanny Moser, who got tired of being interrupted by his constant interpre-
tations and demanded that he let her ramble wherever her thoughts would take
the session. Yves Delage had discussed digging up the memories behind dream
symbols by associating to the symbols.
Couch, as tool Taken over from standard French hypnotic practice.
Primal horde J. J. Atkinson.
Reality Principle Janet’s “Function of Reality.”
Pleasure Principle, its applica-Fechner.
tion to jokes, the mind as topo-
graphy, principle of constancy,
Nirvana Principle, the accumula-
tion and discharge of energy
Although rightly credited with bringing such ideas together into one system—psychoanalysis
(1896)—Freud did not invent them. Who, then, founded depth psychology?
In the mid-1880s, philosophy professor Pierre Janet started seeing mentally ill patients at the Le Havre hospital in France on a volunteer basis. By 1889, when he published his doctoral disserta-tion for the medical degree he had been working on, he had put his work with his patients to good effect by evolving a coherent model of mind that described interactions between the con-scious and the unconscious. This came out of his research with hypnosis, “automatic talking” (free association), symbolic interpretations of symptoms, reenactments of them in fantasy, and therapeutic catharsis work in which he traced them back to the traumas that gave rise to them.
Freud went to France to study with Charcot, the supervisor of Janet, and learned some specifics of Janet’s “psychological analysis.” He then pushed the physician Josef Breuer to publish his treatment of “Anna O” (Bertha Pappenheim), a patient who found relief in creating stories
(usually tragedies) about her painful symptoms. In the resulting collaboration Studies in Hyste-
ria, published in 1895 following Freud and Breuer’s paper “On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena (1893), Freud cited Janet for his work with unconscious forces but cre-dited Breuer with inventing a “cathartic method” for tracing symptoms to their sources in forgot-
ten childhood trauma. Breuer had indeed worked with Pappenheim a few years ahead of Janet’s explorations, but no mention of catharsis, the unconscious, the symbolism of symptoms, or early trauma appear in his case notes or in the referral letters he sent Pappenheim’s other physicians.
From Janet, the founder of depth psychology, the field expanded via work by Jung, was elabo-rated by the various post-Freudian forms of psychoanalysis (e.g., object relations, self psycholo-gy, intersubjectivity), and has continued to move forward, particularly where unencumbered by Freud’s deterministic-hydraulic (re)formulations borrowed from, and occasionally credited to, other theorists. His integrative emphasis informs most current theory and practice.