According to the official version of Freud’s career, sexuality scarcely entered his mind as a topic of interest until, to his shock and embarrassment, it was forced upon him by his patients’ indecent confessions. His early psychological papers and his letters to Wilhelm Fliess, however, show just the opposite: it was a sex-obsessed Freud who tried to harangue those patients into admitting that they harbored the perverse desires and guilty secrets that were already on his mind. But when and why had sexual issues become paramount for him? His surviving letters from adolescence are those of a moralizing, misogynistic prude, and the same qualities appear in his early engagement letters, beginning in 1882.
Perhaps the best-known result of taking cocaine is sexual disinhibition.
Crews makes a compelling case that the cocaine use and the sex-obsession are connected. And then there’s the grandiosity…
[T]hanks to Fleischl’s exhilarating influence and to his own solitary cocaine ingestion, Freud was beginning to feel that a choice was looming between directly intuitive, audacious knowledge and narrowly focused laboratory science. Returning from one nocturnal rendezvous with a suffering but voluble Fleischl, he wrote excitedly of “the intellectual elation, the stimulation and clarification of so many opinions,” and added, “This magic world of intellect and unhappiness contributes a great deal, of course, to my estrangement from my surroundings.”
Given the well-known touchiness and grandiosity of habitual cocaine users, it is hard to avoid the inference that the drug contributed to the subsequent prominence of the contentious, self-dramatizing, and persecution-minded side of Freud’s personality.
Already by 1886, then, Freud was displaying premature certainty, impatience with methodological safeguards, truculence, and a belief that he was destined for great things. Those weren’t traits that blossomed after he developed psychoanalysis and felt a need to defend it. They were the very engine of invention.
Guru attributes, you might call them. Dunning Kruger for the gifted.
The use of cocaine favored a certain manner of thinking—associative, self-confirming, visionary, and all-explanatory—that was inappropriate to the traditional practice of science and medicine but well suited to the original mode of inquiry that Freud increasingly favored…Freud’s psychoanalytic inquiries put into play a deliberate lowering of his empirical guard: suspending skepticism, ignoring the judgments of his peers, and ascribing cryptic meaning to his own presumptive memories and to words tendentiously plucked from his clients’ rambling. If a metaphor or a suggestive pun came to his own mind, he would assume it had emanated from his patient’s unconscious and that it constituted evidence for whatever supposition he was favoring at the time. And, still more self-indulgently, he believed that such insight gave him veridical access to the patient’s traumatic past. That was divination, not research, and it entailed the same erasure of commonsense boundaries that occurs in drug states.
People who are convinced they know things that they can’t possibly know – they never cease to amaze me. It’s interesting to learn that it’s like a cocaine high.