In the “Etiology of Hysteria” Sigmund Freud based his argument on the Seduction Theory. In this theory, he argued that only early childhood sexual molestation could cause hysteria. Hysteria is a condition in which the subconscious mind attempts to reduce stress.
It results from a weak biological and neurological body system. Therefore, hysteria is hereditary most of the times. Hysteria has a trigger effect caused by traumatic events like an accident or a molestation ordeal (Gay and Freud 96).
A case study of Desire and Discontent
At first, Freud attributed hysteria with “real experiences”. These real experiences at childhood appeared during adulthood causing hysteria. However, after a year Freud abandoned this Theory of Seduction. Together with other neurologists, they came up with the Psychoanalytic Theory.
In this theory, nurture but not nature was the main cause of hysteria. Through the study of people suffering from mental disturbances, hysteria symptoms included constant seizures, paralysis, hallucinations and amnesia. Hysteria was a social but not a physical condition. (Gay and Freud 99)
In his “Letters to Fleiss” Freud turned to Biology and Pathology to unlock the jinx of hysteria. Hysteria is a condition of the mind that consists of mental processes, which are unreal. These processes include memory, affection and motivation.
In the Psychoanalytic Theory, unconscious processes take place in the form of slips of the mind, dreams and visions (Gay and Freud 114) along with forgotten memories that still linger in the mind and implicit knowledge (things learnt before).
Three main reasons as to why Freud rejected his earlier theory are lack of therapeutic success, unlikely number of perverts in the population of Vienna and the nature of the unconscious mind. Freud was a neurologist. He used to treat patients suffering from mental and psychological diseases. He had a peculiar interest in women and most of his patients were women.
In the given case, he discussed two of his patients, namely Dora and Anna using therapeutic treatment. Patients put through therapy sessions discussed their personal lives (Gay and Freud 115). After studying the social and sexual behaviors of Dora and Anna, Freud related them to their hysterical conditions. He tried to bring the patient’s mind to the original event without them knowing (unlocking the unconscious mind).
He viewed women as the passive gender followed by hysterical condition. He concluded that hysteria was a condition of the mind which only occurred in women.
Dora eventually abandoned treatment; on the other hand, Anna’s condition was diagnosed as epilepsy, but not hysteria. Freud’s understanding of women was limited and biased hence the failure of his therapeutic treatment. He argued that women were psychologically and emotionally weak and they could not handle stress.
Traumatic events had a triggering force to hysteria as argued by Freud. People do not easily forget something that happened to them or took place in their presence. In future, these vivid memories are always present in a person’s mind and a slight provocation similar to the previous experience can cause hysteria (Gay and Freud 115).
The second reason for Freud to abandon his Seduction Theory was the unlikely number of perverts in the population of Vienna. Men are active partners in sex who enjoy it unlike women who are passive partners and are likely to detest sexual molestation.
With time, men become obsessed with sex and seek to satisfy this desire at any available opportunity which is clear in cases of sexual molestation of both children and women by men. Based on his Seduction Theory, Freud was unable to cope with the numerous cases of sexual abuse on women in Vienna at that time. Eventually, he had to come up with a better and efficient mode of treatment for his increasing female patients.
The third reason for Freud to abandon his earlier Seduction Theory was his extensive studies on the nature of the unconscious mind. He mostly based his findings on the assessment and treatment of mentally disturbed patients through the Psychoanalytic Theory.
He treated his patients by trying to unmask their unconscious minds. He defined the unconscious mind as the component of the mind that is beyond our own awareness. It is the complete opposite of the conscious mind. Freud strongly believed that the unconscious mind is powerful and influential in shaping a person’s behavior and his or her decisions (Gay and Freud 116).
Most of the times, the memories brought or aroused by the unconscious mind are unpleasant and unacceptable. It is less complex, flexible and action-oriented than the conscious mind.
Thus, it is dormant or sleeping possessing inner forces that drive our behavior and reactions. Freud’s study on the unconscious mind revolved around abnormal thoughts and behavior. Finally, Freud concluded that the unconscious mind had an overwhelming influence on mental processes.
The unconscious mind has a major effect on our mental processes. It determines our behavior and character, therefore, it is active. Hysteria is a social and not a physical condition. Some of Freud’s theories are still being used today in the field of neurology.
Gay, Peter and Freud, Sigmund. The Freud Reader, New York, W.W. Norton, 1995. Reprint.