A New York Times , April 24, 2022 obituary of Peter Swales, written by Neil Genzlinger, raises some old issues about Freud and his relationship with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays. Swales might be included with some of the “Freud Bashers” I have referred to in previous posts. He was not part of any professional or academic group or program, but did independent research on Freud and his personal life. In my review of the many Freud biographies I wrote about in previous posts, none gave much credence to the suggestion Swales had made in the early 1980s about Freud’s alleged sexual affairs with Minna. Unfortunately, Genzlinger’s obituary does not mention this fact and he refers to several other “Freud Bashers”, such as Jeffery Mousaieff Masson and Frederick Crews, to provide possible support for any of Swales’s claims about this relationship and other aspects of Freud’s personal life.
While an obituary may not be the appropriate place for a balanced and well researched article about such a contested topic as Freud’s life and practice, I fear that this obituary gives a false impression that Swales’s writings about Freud have greater credibility than they, in fact, have. My own research and posts in the blog pose the proposition that different researchers and biographers seemed to find whatever Freud they were looking for. This is why I titled the post “Who’s Freud?” or “Whose Freud?”. Several critics of Freud made quite a profession( particularly Swales and Crews) of finding whatever faults they may have been looking for and writing about these in rather popular publications. Most of these critics were not psychoanalysts or psychotherapists and some were not even scholarly researchers. Whether there has been some veracity or not in some of the critical arguments about Freud’s private life or his theories and practice, needs to be fairly evaluated in the light of a thorough analysis of his writings and of his various biographers and other psychoanalysts who have written about psychoanalysis.
This can act as a segue into my next few posts which will dive into a few biographies of C.G. Jung.