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Family Romance, Family Secrets

Family Romance, Family Secrets: Case Notes from an American Psychoanalysis, 1912

Elizabeth Lunbeck
Bennett Simon
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Family Romance, Family Secrets
    Book Description:

    This fascinating book, which presents an early psychoanalyst's session-by-session notes on a case of hysteria caused by severe sexual trauma and incest, offers a vivid portrait of psychoanalytic practice in the second decade of the twentieth century. Accompanying these notes are insightful commentaries by Elizabeth Lunbeck and Bennett Simon that situate the case historically and throw light on the many difficulties that both analyst and patient encountered in the treatment. The book will be of great interest to students of the history of psychoanalysis and other psychological therapies, to those interested in the history of women and gender, and to clinicians struggling with the treatment of severely traumatized patients today.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12928-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on the Text
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Rachel C., a twenty-two-year-old working woman, first saw the psychoanalyst Louville Eugene Emerson on 24 January 1912. A tall, muscular woman with, Emerson would later write, “a small, pretty and innocent face, like that of a young girl,” Rachel told in this preliminary interview of her history of vomiting—for six months she had been unable to keep down either food or water—and of experiencing the return, after several years’ respite, of convulsions so severe “it took several men to hold her.” Rachel lived at home with her father and younger brother in a town north of Boston. She...

  6. Chapter 2 On Reading Psychoanalytic Case Notes
    (pp. 12-14)

    The author of a psychoanalytic case report navigates between conveying the actual complexity of the way in which the patient’s story unfolds and the need to fashion a coherent narrative for the reader.¹ InStudies on Hysteria,published in 1895, Freud wrote that it still struck him “as strange that the case histories I write should read like short stories and that, as one might say, they lack the serious stamp of science.”² Stories they were, but ones in which the “intimate connection between the story of the patient’s sufferings and the symptoms of his illness” that he was to...

  7. Part I “Girls imagine a lot that don’t happen”

    • Chapter 3 Commentary: 24 January–10 May 1912, Sessions 1–80
      (pp. 17-39)

      Consisting of 80 sessions, covering the three-and-one-half month period from 24 January through 10 May 1912, this first part of the treatment formed, to Emerson’s mind, a satisfyingly interpretable whole. He determined at the outset that several repressed traumata lay at the root of his patient’s hysteria and saw it as the task of analysis to bring them fully back to memory. This he and Rachel attempted to do, in a fitful process marked on the one hand by her fierce resistance and deteriorating condition and on the other by what he characterized as his intense psychic work and mounting...

    • Chapter 4 Text: Sessions 1–80: 24 January–10 May 1912
      (pp. 40-102)

      Rachel C., 22.

      Food and water wouldn’t stay down. Comes up. Isn’t vomiting. This commenced about six months ago.

      At her mother’s death, “it came over me that I had to get better and I started gaining right off.”¹ (She was at Adams Nervine² and didn’t know mother was sick till told of her death.)

      It’s like a cloud—A blue feeling hanging over me. This cloud feeling came on in the summer. I didn’t want to go to any place; things I used to like to do, I didn’t want to do—I feel like sleeping all the time,...

  8. Part II “Dreamed she was a pure girl”

    • Chapter 5 Commentary: 19 November 1912–1 May 1913, Sessions 81–188
      (pp. 105-121)

      Emerson found this part of the treatment, encompassing 108 sessions stretching from November 1912 to the beginning of May 1913, “complex and persistently difficult,” far more so than “the smooth account of the abstract theory” of psychoanalysis had led him to expect.¹ The success of the first part of the treatment, in which a history of two traumas—the men in the woods, the raping neighbor—was established, confirmed his view that the theory of repression with which he was working was true. Recovery of the patient’s repressed memories, along with uncovering the mother’s role in first suppressing them, had...

    • Chapter 6 Text: Sessions 81–188: 19 November 1912–1 May 1913
      (pp. 122-198)

      You will be surprised to hear from me.

      I am back here to Winchester for a few days as I haven’t been feeling extra well or rather I have been having a time with my eating. I came here yesterday morning for a few days’ rest. The doctor at the school¹ said it was nerves and tired out but I don’t feel tired just the same.

      I was talking with Miss Burleigh tonight over the telephone and she was bound I would come in to see you and that you could straighten things out so to please her I promised...

  9. Part III “My mind is just making my body sick”

    • Chapter 7 Commentary: 16 May 1913–6 March 1917, Sessions 189–292
      (pp. 201-214)

      This last segment of the analysis spans four years. Two weeks after her discharge—once again, in Emerson’s estimation, apparently cured—from the Psychopathic Hospital, Rachel was back in treatment. She saw him regularly from 16 May 1913 through early August, when he went on vacation; she resumed treatment in 16 October 1913, and saw him with some frequency until mid-May 1914. From then until January 1917, the analysis lapsed—one session and several letters notwithstanding—to be taken up again, in a final flurry of twenty-two sessions that began with her admission to the Massachusetts General Hospital.¹ Three letters...

    • Chapter 8 Text: Sessions 189–292: 16 May 1913-6 March 1917
      (pp. 215-271)

      Everett came Friday much sooner than I expected but as he had to get back to work I could not wait very long so I told Dr.Adler I would write if I did not see you.

      I went up to see Mrs. Frost yesterday. They will not hear to my staying away, so I shall go there in a day or two for a short time anyway.

      I am feeling just about the same but I wish more than ever that I had done what I hesitated about doing the other night then every thing would be past. I received...

    • Chapter 9 Afterword
      (pp. 272-275)

      There can be no doubt that Rachel C. was a difficult patient and that treating her would have presented challenges to any analyst at any time. By the criteria of early-twentieth-century psychiatry and psychoanalysis, and in the estimation of everyone who came into professional contact with her, she was without question a hysteric. Even as her condition worsened and new symptoms—dissociations, amnesias, and hallucinations—appeared, the question of her diagnosis was not revisited, so strong was the consensus this was a case of hysteria.¹

      Psychiatrists disagreed among themselves at the time about the treatability of severe hysteria in general...

    • Chapter 10 Patient History and Case Chronology
      (pp. 276-280)

      This chronology has been compiled from information in the case as well as from a four-page-long chronology, prepared by Emerson sometime in early 1913, that follows. As the patient’s history did not unfold sequentially in the course of treatment, this is meant as a reference for readers. Note that dates and ages may vary from information in the sessions, some of which was subjected to revision over time.

      1889 Patient born (25 July).

      1893 (Age 4) Brother born.

      1896 (Age 7) Probable beginning of father’s sexual abuse and of patient’s sexual play with brother.

      1897 (Age 8–13) Fractures on...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 281-316)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 317-322)
  12. Index
    (pp. 323-334)