Dreaming for Freud

The internal conflicts

What Happened to Freud's Dora?

Was Freud's Dora one of the "most repulsive hysterics" as Felix Deutsch writes?

Four years after Freud has treated her, he tells us, his young patient whom he called Dora ( Ida Bauer) has moved on. A significant change has taken place in her life.

She had, indeed, married a would-be musician and given birth to a little boy. She and her husband had also converted to Christianity in an effort, apparently, to spare the child the kind of difficulties they were to undergo as Jews.

Freud does not speak of religion in this case history. He is mainly concerned here in using Dora’s two dreams to prove his theory on the interpretation of dreams.

Ida Bauer was actually only seventeen when she was brought to Freud by her wealthy father, though Freud says she was eighteen. ( Freud consistently makes the girl older than she really was all through the case history.) Her tale of her father’s attempt to get her to be “more reasonable,” is well known. Her father expected his daughter to allow the advances of his friend, Herr K, the husband of the father’s mistress, and at the same time,  not to mention this attempted seduction. It was a convenient quid pro quo: “You take my daughter, I’ll take your wife." The story of a sick father who has a sick mistress who has a sick husband who proposes to a sick daughter as her lover, has been written about extensively.

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What is less well-known is the story I have dramatized in my novel “Dreaming for Freud,” which is an imaginative construction based on what really happened to this young patient.

Here I have attempted to give the young girl an active part and a voice to express her fascinating story.

I have traced her path from the days of penury, when her father’s fortune and Austria’s power was lost at the end of the first world war, through her escape from Vienna during the second world war first to France then through Casablanca to America.

This woman, who seems so often to have aggravated and annoyed the male doctors who tried to treat her, showed considerable intelligence, resourcefulness, and pluck.

She meets up with Frau K, who was really Frau Zelenka, her father’s mistress, and together they start a bridge school teaching rich Viennese ladies how to play bridge in order to make sufficient money to survive.

A fierce and formidable mother she obliges her gifted little boy to study music and to learn the foreign languages which will enable him to leave Austria at the right moment and flee to America where he became the head of the opera in San Francisco, finding some of the world’s greatest singers such as Pavarotti.

We can only ask why this talented woman was seen again and again through a prism of disdain and what might be called disgust. What caused this unfavorable countertransference which is never acknowledged? Why did these men feel so threatened by this beautiful and brilliant young woman? Why does Freud seem such an unreliable narrator , pursuing the demon of interpretation in this famous case?

Sheila Kohler is the author of many books including the recent Dreaming for Freud.

 

 

Sheila Kohler teaches at Princeton. She is the author of many books including Dreaming for Freud, Becoming Jane Eyre, and Cracks, which was made into a film with Eva Green.

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