125129.) That it was not unusual in this period for Freud, rather than the patient, to provide the supposed traumatic idea or memory is evident from his writing in (1895b) that the principal point is that I should guess the [traumatic] secret and tell it to the patient straight out, and that it is of use if we can guess the way in which things are connected up and tell the patient before we have uncovered it (pp. Freuds early cases are usually represented as demonstrating his facilitating patients recall of forgotten traumatic incidents, thereby relieving the patients symptoms (Freud, 1910, pp.
2223), but a critical examination of the relevant case histories reveals that this is an idealized story, originating not only from the impression created by Freuds contemporary accounts, but also from misleading retrospective reports in his general expositions.
Moreover, Freud failed to provide some important details: Did he obtain the information directly from the brother, or was it conveyed to him secondhand?
What, precisely, was the sexual behavior allegedly confirmed?
14), when according to the case history she actually said, rather unconvincingly: It may well be that that was what I was disgusted at and that that was what I thought (Freud, 1895b, p. A more critical commentator might observe that Katharinas words suggest that Freuds patients may have been inclined to confirm whatever he insisted was at the root of their symptoms.
(For a perceptive discussion of the Katharina case, see Swales, 1988, pp.
This involved his pressing on the patients forehead and insisting that something would come to mind, with the expectation that the resulting ideas or images would eventually lead to material relating to an event or idea that could be identified as the determining trauma (Freud, 1895b, pp. In the seduction theory papers, Freud claimed that the sexual abuse he had supposedly uncovered most commonly occurred at age 3 or 4, and for 2 cases at half these ages (Freud, 1896a, p. 144, 145), only 4 months later he claimed to have analytically traced back from his patients symptoms to repressed memories of multiple childhood sexual experiences, mostly in infancy, for no fewer than 16 patients (13 hysterics and 3 pure obsessionals: Freud, 1896a, pp.  In the Aetiology paper Freud claimed that the patients reproduced the infantile sexual experiences that he warn[ed] them would emerge (1896c, p.
204), but it is far from clear what he meant by reproductions. It seems likely that in some cases Freud relied almost entirely on the symbolic interpretation of symptoms that lay at the heart of his etiological determinations. reported to Wilhelm Fliess in January 1897 (Masson, 1985, pp. (In the latter case, having inferred an infantile scene of fellatio from eczema around the mouth and other indications, Freud wrote that he thrust the explanation at the patient, and then threatened to send her away if she persisted in her skepticism.) Given also the extraordinarily short time between Freuds postulating the theory and his claim of 100% corroboration for 16 patients, the situation is best summed up by Schimeks (1987) conclusion that the knowledge of the original trauma, whether considered as unconscious memory or fantasy, was based on Freuds interpretation and reconstruction; it was not directly revealed by the patient (p.
Mollons propensity to take Freuds clinical claims at face value is apparent in his discussion of the instances of supposedly objective corroborations adduced in The Aetiology of Hysteria (1896c, p. He notes that Freud argued that there would be unassailable proof if there were confirmation from someone other than the person being analysed, praises him for having put forward the standard of proof requested by those who support todays false memory societies, and goes on to report Freuds examples.
In the first of these, Mollon writes, a brother confirmed his childhood sexual activity with his sister (p. If we turn to what Freud actually wrote, however, we find that he did not deliver what he had promised, for the brother of his own accord confirmednot, it is true, his earliest sexual experiences with his sister (who was the patient)but at least scenes of that kind from later childhood, and the fact that there had been sexual relations dating further back (1896c, p. So the crucial infantile sexual scene was confirmed by the brother.