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Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). Delusion and Dream. 1917.

Part II. Delusion and Dream in Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva by Dr. Sigmund Freud

Section IV

WITH Zoë’s entrance as physician there is awakened in us, we said, a new interest. We are eager to learn if such a cure as she accomplishes on Hanold is comprehensible or possible, whether our author has observed the conditions of the passing of a delusion as correctly as those of its development.

Without doubt a view will be advanced denying to the case portrayed by our author such a principal interest, and recognizing no problem requiring an explanation. For Hanold nothing more remains, it might be asserted, but to solve his delusion again, after its object, the supposed Gradiva, conveys to him the incorrectness of all his assertions and gives him the most natural explanations for everything puzzling; for example, how she knows his name. Thereby the affair would be settled logically; as, however, the girl in this case has confessed her love, for the satisfaction of his feminine readers, our author would surely allow the otherwise not uninteresting story to end in the usually happy way, marriage. More consistent, and just as possible, would have been the different conclusion that the young scholar, after the explanation of his mistake, should, with polite thanks, take his leave of the young lady and in that way motivate the rejection of her love so that he might offer an intense interest to ancient women of bronze or stone, or the originals of these, if they were attainable, but might have no idea of how to deal with a girl of flesh and blood of his own time. The archaeological fancy was most arbitrarily cemented into a love-story by our author, himself.

In discountenancing this conception as impossible, our attention is first called to the fact that we have to attribute the change beginning in Norbert Hanold not to the relinquishment of the delusion alone. At the same time, indeed before the solution of the latter, there is in him an undeniable awakening of the desire for love, which, of course, results in his asking for the hand of the girl who has freed him from delusion. We have already shown under what pretexts and cloakings, curiosity about her corporeal nature, jealousy, and the brutal male impulse for possession are expressed in him in the midst of the delusion, since repressed desire put the first dream into his mind. Let us add the further testimony that in the evening after the second talk with Gradiva a living woman for the first time seems congenial to him, although he still makes the concession to his abhorrence of honeymoon travelers, by not recognizing the congenial girl as newly married. The next forenoon, however, chance makes him witness of an exchange of caresses between the girl and her supposed brother, and he draws back shyly as if he had disturbed a holy ceremony. Disdain for “Augustus” and “Gretchen” is forgotten and respect for love is restored to him.

Thus our author has connected the treatment of the delusion and the breaking forth of the desire for love most closely with one another, and prepared the outcome in a love-affair as necessary. He knows the nature of the delusion even better than his critics; he knows that a component of amorous desire has combined with a component of resistance in the formation of the delusion, and he has the girl who undertakes the cure discover in Hanold’s delusion the component referring to her. Only this insight can make her decide to devote herself to treating him, only the certainty of knowing herself loved by him can move her to confess to him her love. The treatment consists in restoring to him, from without, the repressed memories which he cannot release from within; it would be ineffective if the therapeutist did not consider the emotions; and the interpretation of the delusion would not finally be: “See; all that means only that you love me.”

The procedure which our author has his Zoë follow for the cure of the delusion of the friend of her youth, shows a considerable resemblance, no, complete agreement, essentially, with a therapeutic method which Dr. J. Breuer and the present writer introduced into medicine in 1895, and to the perfection of which the latter has since devoted himself. This method of treatment, first called the “cathartic” by Breuer, which the present writer has preferred to designate as “analytic” consists in rather forcibly bringing into the consciousness of the patients who suffer from disturbances analogous to Hanold’s delusion, the unconscious, through the repression of which they have become ill, just as Gradiva does with the repressed memories of their childhood relations. To be sure, accomplishment of this task is easier for Gradiva than for the physician; she is, in this connection, in a position which might be called ideal from many view-points. The physician who does not fathom his patient in advance, and does not possess within himself, as conscious memory, what is working in the patient as unconscious, must call to his aid a complicated technique in order to overcome this disadvantage. He must learn to gather with absolute certainty, from the patient’s conscious ideas and statements, the repressed material in him, to guess the unconscious, when it betrays itself behind the patient’s conscious expressions and acts. The latter then does something similar to what Norbert Hanold did at the end of the story, when he re-translates the name, Gradiva, into Bertgang. The disturbance disappears then by being traced back to its origin; analysis brings cure at the same time.

The similarity between the procedure of Gradiva and the analytic method of psychotherapy is, however, not limited to these two points, making the repressed conscious, and the concurrence of explanation and cure. It extends itself to what proves the essential of the whole change, the awakening of the emotions. Every disturbance analogous to Hanold’s delusion, which in science we usually designate as a psychoneurosis, has, as a preliminary, the repression of part of the emotional life, to speak boldly, of the sex-impulse, and at every attempt to introduce the unconscious and repressed cause of illness into consciousness, the emotional component necessarily awakens to renewed struggle with the forces repressing it, to adjust itself for final result, often under violent manifestations of reaction. In reawakening, in consciousness, of repressed love, the process of recuperation is accomplished when we sum up all the various components of sex-impulse as “love” and this reawakening is irremissible, for the symptoms on account of which the treatment was undertaken are nothing but the precipitations of former struggles of repression and recurrence and can be solved and washed away only by a new high-tide of these very passions. Every psychoanalytic treatment is an attempt to free repressed love, which has formed a miserable compromise-outlet in a symptom. Yes, the conformity with the therapeutic process pictured by the author in “Gradiva” reaches its height when we add that even in analytical psychotherapy, the reawakened passion, whether love or hate, chooses the person of the physician as its object every time.

Then, of course, appear the differences which make the case of Gradiva an ideal one such as the technique of physicians cannot attain. Gradiva can respond to the love which is pushing through from the unconscious into the conscious; the physician cannot; Gradiva was herself the object of the former repressed love; her person offers at once a desirable object to the freed erotic activity. The physician has been a stranger, and after the cure must try to become a stranger again; often he does not know how to advise the cured patient to apply in life her regained capacity for love. To suggest what resources and makeshifts the physician then employs to approach with more or less success the model of a love-cure which our author has drawn for us, would carry us too far away from our present task.

Now, however, the last question which we have already evaded answering several times. Our views about repression, the formation of delusion and related disturbances, the formation and interpretation of dreams, the rôle of erotic life, and the manner of cure for such disturbances are, of course, not by any means the common property of science, to say nothing of being the possession of educated people. If the insight which makes our author able to create his “Fancy” in such a way that we can analyze it like a real history of disease has for its foundation the above-mentioned knowledge, we should like to find out the source of it. One of the circle who, as was explained at the beginning, was interested in the dreams of “Gradiva” and their possible interpretation, put the direct question to Wilhelm Jensen, whether any such similar theories of science had been known to him. Our author answered, as was to be expected, in the negative, and rather testily. His imagination had put into his mind the “Gradiva” in whom he had his joy; any one whom she did not please, might leave her alone. He did not suspect how much she had pleased the readers.

It is easily possible that our author’s rejection does not stop at that. Perhaps he denies knowledge of the rules which we have shown that he follows, and disavows all the intentions which we recognized in his production; I do not consider this improbable; then, however, only two possibilities remain. Either we have presented a true caricature of interpretation, by transferring to a harmless work of art tendencies of which its creator had no idea, and have thereby shown again how easy it is to find what one seeks and what one is engrossed with, a possibility of which most strange examples are recorded in the history of literature. Every reader may now decide for himself whether he cares to accept such an explanation; we, of course, hold fast to the other, still remaining view. We think that our author needed to know nothing of such rules and intentions, so that he may disavow them in good faith, and that we have surely found nothing in his romance which was not contained in it. We are probably drawing from the same source, working over the same material, each of us with a different method, and agreement in results seems to vouch for the fact that both have worked correctly. Our procedure consists of the conscious observation of abnormal psychic processes in others, in order to be able to discover and express their laws. Our author proceeds in another way; he directs his attention to the unconscious in his own psyche, listens to its possibilities of development and grants them artistic expression, instead of suppressing them with conscious critique. Thus he learns from himself what we learn from others, what laws the activity of this unconscious must follow, but he does not need to express these laws, need not even recognize them clearly; they are, as a result of his intelligent patience, contained incarnate in his creatures. We unfold these laws by analysis of his fiction as we discover them from cases of real illness, but the conclusion seems irrefutable, that either both (our author, as well as the physician) have misunderstood the unconscious in the same way or we have both understood it correctly. This conclusion is very valuable for us; for its sake, it was worth while for us to investigate the representation of the formation and cure of delusion, as well as the dreams, in Jensen’s “Gradiva” by the methods of therapeutic psychoanalysis.

We have reached the end. An observant reader might remind us that, at the beginning, we had remarked that dreams are wishes represented as fulfilled and that we still owe the proof of it. Well, we reply, our arguments might well show how unjustifiable it would be to wish to cover the explanations which we have to give of the dream with the formula that the dream is a wish-fulfilment; but the assertion stands, and is also easy to demonstrate for the dreams in “Gradiva.” The latent dream-thoughts—we know now what is meant by that—may be of numerous kinds; in “Gradiva” they are day-remnants, thoughts which are left over unheard, and not disposed of by the psychic activity of waking life. In order that a dream may originate from them the cooperation of a—generally unconscious—wish is required; this establishes the motive power for the dream-formation; the day-remnants give the material for it. In Norbert Hanold’s first dream two wishes concur in producing the dream, one capable of consciousness, the other, of course, belonging to the unconscious, and active because of repression. This was the wish, comprehensible to every archaeologist, to have been an eye-witness of that catastrophe of 79. What sacrifice would be too great, for an antiquarian, to realize this wish otherwise than through dreams! The other wish and dream-maker is of an erotic nature: to be present when the beloved lies down to sleep, to express it crudely. It is the rejection of this which makes the dream an anxiety-dream. Less striking are, perhaps, the impelling wishes of the second dream, but if we recall its interpretation, we shall not hesitate to pronounce it also erotic. The wish to be captured by the beloved, to yield and surrender to her, as it may be construed behind the lizard-catching, has really a passive masochistic character. On the next day the dreamer strikes the beloved, as if under the sway of the antagonistic, erotic force; but we must stop or we may forget that Hanold and Gradiva are only creatures of our author.