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Essay: Freud’s “Dora”

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  • Subject area(s): Psychology essays
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  • Published: September 23, 2021*
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  • Freud's "Dora"
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Freud starts the book Dora with his first section “Prefatory Remarks.” This section discusses his research methods for the case we are about to look at and any problems people may see with his take. Freud continues on by talking about his duties for toward the patient but also toward science. He thinks it’s important for the patient to feel a strong sense of confidentiality between them and their therapist in order for them to actually open up about their experience. However, he also feels that if he didn’t share his work with the public that he would be doing science and other people with the same disorder as his client a disservice. Freud goes on to say that given the nature of the study he will be discussing sex and that everything will be spoken of in a straightforward manner using the proper terminology. He mentions the challenges of noting everything that happens in session. He discusses how he recorded dreams immediately following sessions as to not forget exactly what the dreams were and their significance, but also to not have to take notes during the session as to not disturb them in their session. Freud continues on by saying the what exactly he is going to be discussing about the case. He mentions the importance of dream interpretation in order to treat hysteria. He also says that the treatment discussed in this piece is only three months-worth given that the treatment was not actually completed. In addition, states that given this is only based on one case there is no possible way it can answer all the questions people have and that it can be applied to all patients with varying symptoms and types of hysteria.

Freud begins the second section “The Clinical Picture” by discussing further the importance of dream interpretation and how he came up with the process. He says it is important to take a dream and find out how it is expressing our thoughts. Once this is figured out you can take the dream and figure out how the mind of the patient is working. After this, Freud begins giving us the information about Dora. We learn that the patient is an eighteen-year-old girl with a brother who is a year and a half older. He discusses Dora’s attachment to her father, especially given how many times he had fallen ill, and how the father is the dominating figure in the family. His worst illness involved symptoms of paralysis and mental disturbances, so a friend suggested that he see Freud. Freud was able to help cure the father and no doubt led to Dora being brought to him about four years later. Dora’s aunt also turns out to have had a form of psychoneurosis and her uncle was a hypochondriac. This led Freud to believe that she had a predisposition to her illness through her father’s side. He discusses her relationship to her mom briefly saying that Dora looked down on her mom and was very critical of her. He continues on by saying that Dora’s symptoms started to appear around the age of eight. After about six months of rest the symptoms passed and were written off by a doctor as a disorder of nervousness or over-exertion. Her next experience of symptoms happened around the age of twelve. She was getting headaches and attacks of nervous coughing. Her headaches went away by the time she was sixteen, but the coughing attacks were still present when Freud started treating her at eighteen. Dora while living at “B—” became close with a family Herr K. and Frau K. and their kids. She told her parents that Herr K. had made and indecent proposal to her and when he was asked about it, denied it. Dora’s father thinks that this is the reason for her hysteria. Freud believes that while this incident was definitely a traumatic one and definitely lends to her hysteria, it is not the initial cause of it given her many experiences and symptoms when she was younger. Dora opens up to Freud about another incident that happened with Herr K. back when she was fourteen. He asked her and his wife to meet him at his place of business. However, he persuaded his wife to stay at home and then when he was alone with Dora grabbed her and kissed her. Dora ran away from his feeling disgusted. Freud says that Dora has a displacement of sensation. Instead of feeling sexually excited by the event she felt disgusted. Dora tells Freud that she can still feel the pressure of Herr K.’s embrace on her upper body. Freud says that this is because she felt the pressure of his erect penis during the embrace and now feel that pressure on her chest. Dora urges her father to break the relationship off between the two families, but Frau K. helped to care for him when he was ill so he refuses to. She also suspects her father of having an affair with Frau K., which was actually backed by some evidence. While Freud believes Dora, he also feels that she uses this to hide behind and not face her own problems. Dora says that he father faked illness in order to be with Frau K. and Freud accuses Dora of doing the same, and further says that she even learned this from Frau K. Freud discusses Dora losing her voice for long periods of time due to her coughing and that these periods happened to coincide with Herr K. being away from home. It was her way of saying that she loved him. Freud continues on by discussing that missing a loved one does not necessarily lead to physical symptoms, but if these symptoms continuously occur than there is something of psychological importance happening. Freud then returns to Dora’s father faking sick, but Dora was also faking sick. Freud says that playing sick is a strong way to get the attention of someone she loves. Freud notices Dora’s cough when she talks about her father and wonders if the two are connected. Dora discloses that her father is impotent, which contradicts her theory of him having an affair with Frau K. Dora says that he could still get sexual gratification through oral sex, leading Freud to conclude that her coughing stems from her picturing her father and Frau K. having oral sex. Freud now looking closer at her relationship with her father discusses Dora acting more like a wife than a daughter, leading Freud to believe that she is actually in love with her father. He believes this sparks in childhood and confirms this theory when Dora tells him about when she was little and said that when her mom dies she wants to marry her dad. Freud discusses why Dora is again feeling for her father, and notes that her relationship with Herr K. may be making her have these feelings again. He also notes that she may actually be attracted to Frau K. She speaks of Frau K. in appealing ways and doesn’t hate her despite being mad at her father for the affair. Freud explain this by saying that Dora’s sexual libido is repressed and making her turn her obdurate affections to someone of the same sex.

In the third section, “The First Dream” Freud discusses Dora’s reoccurring dream. In this dream the house is on fire and Dora is awoken by her father and dresses to leave, but her mom wants to look for jewel case, but her father is not going to let him and his kids die for that. Dora remembers having the dream three times in a row while at L—. Dora tells Freud about an incident between her parents where they are arguing about locking the dining room door. Her brother’s room is through there and worries about an emergency situation. After arriving at L—Dora remembers her father saying he was worried the place they were staying at would catch on fire. Freud knows the dream has something to do with Herr K., but is curious because Dora only had the dream three of the four nights she was there. Instead of answering him Dora decides to tell him about something else that happened. She says she took a nap one day and woke up to Herr K. and when she asked why he was there he said he wouldn’t be stopped form entering his bedroom. This scared Dora into asking Frau K. for the key for when she was dressing. Then all of a sudden the key went missing and Dora was sure that Herr K. was responsible. Freud continues on by discussing dreams again and saying that they are our unconscious desires, thus making us have to interpret them. He says in Dora’s case that her dreams are her thoughts from the day. He then goes on to examining Dora’s dream. He says that there two main things concerning the jewel case. The time that Dora’s mom wanted earring and her father got her a bracelet instead, angering her mom and causing her to refuse the gift. The second, Herr K. gave Dora a jewel case which is apparently slang for female genitalia. He then focuses on her worry about an accident and associates it with her wetting the bed at an older age than usual. Dora then adds a new piece of information, that when she woke from the dream she smelled smoke. This leads him to believe it has something to do with him, her father, and Herr K. who all smoke. He concludes it has to do with her desire to kiss a man, and thinks that Dora has developed feelings for him. He continues by going back to her bedwetting and remarking that it is usually associated with masturbation, which Dora admits to. Dora reveals that he dad’s illness comes from an STD and her and her mother may have it. He learns that Dora has catarrh which causes a discharge. Freud believes that her catarrh is caused by her masturbation, not her dad.

The next section is “The Second Dream” and here is where we get into detail about another dream that Dora had. In the dream Dora is in a weird town and then suddenly appears at home where she finds a letter from her mom saying her dad is dead and that she could come to the funeral. She then tries to find the train station and everyone she asks tells her it is five minutes away. She goes into the woods and sees a man and asks him and he says that it is over two hours. She continues on and can see the train station but can’t get to it. She’s again back at home and a maid tells her that her mom went to the cemetery. Freud continues on trying to analyze the dream, starting with being in a weird town, saying she probably saw it in pictures. He was actually right about this, when she was younger Dora was given a gift from a young man who intended to date her that was of a health resort and had pictures of the town. Continuing on with the dream he moves to her letter. Dora, it turns out, wrote a letter to her parents when she was little about running away. She only wrote it to break up the affair between he dad and Frau K. Freud thinks the letter was in the dream because Dora wanted revenge. Dora then brings up a letter that was written to her by Frau K. Freud asks her to describe what happened with Herr K. and she says that she hit him and tried to go back to town, she asked a man how far away it was and he told her two and half hours. Then Dora actually adds to her dream, she says that she went in her room and read a book. Freud asks her if it is an encyclopaedia, and she recounts a time when her cousin had appendicitis and she looked up the symptoms. Then we learn that shortly after this happened Dora was showing the symptoms herself, about nine months after her encounter with Herr K. Freud finds that she was using this as a way to fantasize childbirth. Dora decides to end her treatment, giving Freud a two weeks notice, like someone would an employee. Dora starts to talk about a governess who gave Herr K. a two weeks notice. Apparently Herr K. also was inappropriate with her causing her to return home. Freud says that Dora wasn’t actually mad about the advance by Herr K. but by the fact that he would come on to her the same way as someone else and continues to tell Dora she identifies with the governess. Freud thinks that Dora wanted Herr K. to leave his wife and marry her. Dora then ends her treatment and Freud regrets that when he got close to being able to help her that she ended it.

Dora, Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (1905 [1901], Standard Edition Vol. 7, pp. 1–122


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