Dreaming for Freud

The internal conflicts

On Getting the Best Advice

How can we elicit an honest answer from an advisor?

When asking for advice from a doctor or a lawyer or even a friend, one so often forgets that the person dispensing the advice or the prescription is often thinking not of what might be best for you, but best for them under the circumstances. So often the advice we receive is what might be called “self-protective.” Our advisors are, particularly in this litigious society, afraid of being sued or anyway not willing to take on the responsibility of really saying what they think. They are dispensing an umbrella prescription, for example, to make sure they are covering all the possibilities, or sending you off to take umpteen expensive tests that may not be entirely necessary. I am not writing here of someone who is blatantly trying to trick you for monetary gain which of course is so prevalent on the internet.

So how to get the best advice from someone? One of the questions which might elicit an honest answer from a physician or even a friend is simply to say, “If this were you or someone in your own family what would you advise?”

In my recent book, Dreaming for Freud based on the Dora case, Freud suggests, as he tells us in the case history that he did, that the young girl may be mistaken in her suppositions about her would-be seducer. Freud tells young Dora that the married man (Herr K.) who was, of course, conveniently the husband of her father’s mistress, might have propositioned the young girl in earnest, and may actually have wanted to marry her despite the fact that he uses the exact words that he has used with the servant girl: “I get nothing from my wife,” in the seduction scene. In the novel, I have the protagonist ask the young doctor, “Would this have been your advice if one of your own daughters had come to you at fifteen after receiving a proposition from a married man?” a question the doctor does not answer.

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Freud, of course, had his own agenda. He needed facts to buttress his theories on dreams. He needed money to feed his six young children, Anna Freud being only five at the time which was 1900, and this young girl who was Ida Bauer had a father who had some.

So we need to remember when we ask for advice that our advisors are unfortunately severely curtailed and controlled not just by their own emotions and needs but by the law very often, and afraid of giving us an honest answer.

Ultimately very few physicians, lawyers, or friends will be willing to put your own good above their own, so that we are obliged as patients or even as friends to get as much information as possible and then to take the responsibility of  making our own decisions based on that information.

http://www.penguin.com/book/dreaming-for-freud-by-sheila-kohler/9780143125198.

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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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