Was Freud a Fraud?

I overheard a couple of people talking because I was eavesdropping again, and one says, “You know Frued was wrong on just about everything,” the other replies, “So Freud was a fraud.”

Which got me to thinking, I never thought of Freud as a fraud but merely wrong? At least about a bunch of stuff.

So do you think Freud was a fruad or wrong? I do realize people may just us the word fraud, because it’s a sound-a-like to his name.

Freud was not a “fraud” anymore than Issac Newton was a fraud in practicing alchemy. You do the best you can until better tools are available. Freud was persuasive enough with his paradigm that many used it as a lens to view the mind. Being a fraud means there was an element of bad faith in his representations, and while Freud may have been wrong in his theoretical hypotheses about the mind, he was not acting in bad faith.

Fraudulence implies knowing that you’re selling a load of hooey.

I think Freudian “psychology” was likely a massive setback to the progress of psychological research and has left us with the current state of things where there’s everything from hard science to woo all still sitting under the umbrella and no one wants to admit that they’re one of the woo-ites, but it’s not like Freud intended anything bad.

Freudenfraude is well known by medical science these days.

Freud ruled his followers with an iron fist, and invited no critical vieuws on his theories whatsoever. The band of followers was tight and had a sect-like quality. Anyone wishing to join had to go into psychoanalysis with Freud himself, in effect making himself vulnerable because the master knew all his secrets and could use that info for the most vile character slurs imaginable when you dared to doubt his theories. If you still dared to do that, Freud forced his other followers to ban and shun you. That happened with Carl Jung and Alfred Adler, among others.

Something else you have to realise: Freud’s theories are not scientific, in the sense that you can’t test them in an scientific experiment. The only thing of Freud’s theories that can be tested and still holds up, is that a large part of our thoughts, actions and emotions are (and remain) subconsious. But that is about all, and Freud wasn’t the first to point that out, either.

Freuds ideas about dreams being wish fulfillment, for instance, can’t really be tested, because it heavily relies on the interpretation of the therapist. Any series of dream images can be explained in such a way to mean wishfulfillment. Or about sex.

I don’t know that I’d quite say that. Freud and his followers perceived many of the things they did as being tests of Freud’s hypotheses.

Freud thought that people were obsessed with sex. He’d get people in a room, tell them he knew what he was talking about, he’s a doctor, and start asking them questions which lead to the topic of possible sexual obsessions. Getting them to agree to one or another of them wasn’t particularly hard, in that environment and given a long enough list of sex fantasies.

Freud thought that people had an id. He thought that a hypnotised person was a person who’s conscious brain was asleep, leaving only the id (subconcious mind). He’d put the person under hypnosis and again ask them leading questions which would display a caveman personality, proving both his theories in one stroke.

He hypothesized that he could make people feel better. People who came to see him, felt bad–because otherwise why go see him. After a few weeks or months–sufficient time for time to work its magic–they felt better and left. If nothing else, there was always going to be the placebo effect and a friendly shoulder.

The problem with his tests was that he didn’t remove his own influence from the equation, not that he didn’t set up tests that (methodological flaws aside) would work towards proving the theories.

I didn’t know that Freud was such and unethical asshole bordering on criminal had those things been outlawed back then. So, “fraud” is a bit of soft peddling. (I knew he had a falling out with Jung, but I didn’t know that it was nasty beyond just professionally disagreeing.)

Had he just espoused theories and done analysis I wouldn’t go so far, because it was my understanding that he never made claims much beyond insight gained through analysis made people better. But it’s been a long time since I studied the history of shrinkology in a general survey course as an undergrad.

Fred Freud, he was a fraud. He was just riding on his distant relative’s name.

I don’t think one can draw an absolute clear-cut line between innocent error and fraud. Barring the invention of a combination time machine and mind-reading device, we’ll never know exactly what Freud was thinking when making a given diagnosis or writing a given work. But as one of the few living people who’s actually waded through a sizable number of his books, I’ll offer an educated guess.

Some of Freud’s theory’s are true in some cases. Some dreams are related to unconscious desires. Some people do have repressed sexual desires. Early in his career, Freud probably did encounter patients whose experience was close to his theories, and he may have genuinely been able to assist them. Likewise for other Freudians; they may have had good reasons for believing his theories and practicing his type of therapy.

As time went on, Freud became more and more convinced that he had found the sole theory that explained all human behavior. As a result, he started to cram everything that he could possibly think of into those theories, from his individual patients to literature to the entire history of humanity. That necessarily meant that a lot of things had to be twisted and warped in order to fit the theory.

There is no doubt that Freudian practice wrecked a lot of harm on a lot of people. The most damaging tenet was his appraisal of women: all suffering from penis envy, all seething with nasty and violent thoughts, all needing to be controlled by men in order to be happy. Since the theory had become all-encompassing, no exceptions were allowed. Every female patient had to be forced into the mold. Consequently there were cases where a seemingly normal woman would, after a year or two of therapy, begin having dreams of chopping off her husband’s penis and stuffing it down his throat, at which point the therapist would pronounce her to be cured.

But did Freud ever knowingly, deliberately promote false information? I can’t say for sure, but I’d guess not. It was probably a case where the lie was in his head, and all that he said and wrote was colored by his own delusions. People are quite capable of tricking themselves into believing far-fetched things, and the well-educated do so as much or more than anyone else.

The lesson to learn from the misadventures of the Freudians is that if people come to you with an all-encompassing theory that supposedly predicts everything successfully you don’t have to believe it, even if they all have fancy degrees.

I have no comment on the rest of your post (since I consider Freud somewhere between a malicious bastard and a drooling coke-addicted moron), but I couldn’t let this one go by.

Seriously? You think you’re one of only a few people who’ve actually ever read Freud? You don’t think that those of us with graduate degrees in psychology ever actually read Freud’s original works?

I’d tone that arrogance down a bit, mate.

Really! I think one of the main reasons he was (and remains) so popular was readability. I’ve read several volumes of his collected works and I am certainly no glutton for punishment. He’s quite casual and occasionally poetic.

I’m not certain how much/many of his theories were adapted from others, but I think we at the very least have him to thank for much of our psychology-related vocabularies. For better or for worse, I suppose.

The late Sir Clement Freud, MP, writer, broadcaster, epicure, wit, and grandson of Sigmund, told this story:

From ‘The Best of Freud’, The Times, 17 April 2009.

I was merely intending to suggest that most people probably skim a bit at points in The Interpretation of Dreams. I, on the other hand, slogged through every word of several of his books. My favorite incident is in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, where there was some guy who was unable to remember his doctor’s name. It turned out that the reason was that the doctor was named “Lapin”, and the guy had once been involved in an embarrassing hunting accident where somebody got shot in the crotch, and they were hunting rabbits on that day, and wouldn’t you know it, the French word for rabbit is “Lapin”. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

And I again say that you’re incorrect in your assumptions. “Most people” may or may not have skimmed the book you mentioned, but to state that you are one of the few living people who’ve read Freud extensively is breath-takingly arrogant.

I remember an article many years ago in the Atlantic. Freud had theories about repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. Things went along fine, until the daughter of a close friend started talking about her childhood sexual abuse. Freud then threw out all his previous ideas on the subject and declared that women have repressed memories of childhood sexual desire for their fathers, which they twist into wish-fulfillment memories of sexual abuse.

This was at least 20 years ago, so the details may be wrong, but I haven’t had kind thoughts about Freud since then.

I think Freud genuinely believed his crap. So, he was not a conscious fraud.

I think interpreting dreams was/still is a fraud.