Translated by Katja Schütt and Alan Schmukler
When Dr.Bronfman was organizing the lectures, I suggested the title “Freud from the homeopathic point of view”, with which he agreed. But when I received the scientific program I noticed the title had changed to “Homeopathize Freud”. I don’t believe in coincidences and less in this case, and I imagined Dr.Bronfman saying to me, as if in a dream: “Sergio, look, Freud is not Marilyn Monroe, you cannot undress him as you have done with her”. 
In this moment I realized that Freud’s lifework is truly much more important than the detailed analysis of his sufferings. I have to admit that I could not resist this temptation with Marilyn.
I met Freud by first reading his biography, to introduce myself to the topic. Sigmund Freud was born at 6.30 p.m., on May 6th, 1856, in Freigberg, Moravia, and died on September 23rd, 1939, in London. He was born with abundant black, curly hair, so that his young mother gave him the nickname “my blacky”. At birth his head was covered with a fetal membrane, which was interpreted as a sure omen of happiness and fame. When his young mother met by chance an old woman in a pasta shop, this belief was reinforced. The woman told her she had born a great man, which caused the proud and happy mother to firmly believe in this prediction.
Freud had inherited the humor of his father, his astute skepticism towards the uncertain vicissitudes of life, his moral principles which were supported by a Judean anecdote, his liberalism and free thinking, and possibly also his tendency to be lead by his wife. Freud’s father, named Jacob, was a trader and died on October 23rd, 1896. From his mother he inherited sentimentalism, as he himself reported. Freud also wrote: “When a man has been the undisputed favorite of his mother he will have the feeling of being a winner during his whole life. This confidence in success is what often really leads to success”.
He received his first lessons from his mother, then his father took care of his education before sending him to a private school. Freud reported that from age 12, he used to accompany his father, in walks around Vienna. He also enjoyed ice skating and was a great swimmer and walker.
The only dissidence with his father was apparently caused by his love of buying books, which his father could not afford. His father educated him as a Jew. He was a man well versed with Jewish habits and parties, although it is known that Freud’s nanny was Catholic and taught the Christian cult. Freud rewarded the education received by his father by helping to raise his siblings, and even selected the literature they had to read.
There is no doubt that the young Sigmund lived through his books and was a great worker. Reading and his studies seemed to have filled the greater part of his life. This young man also had a notable aptitude for languages. Besides being completely familiar with Latin and Greek, he also had knowledge of French and English. He taught himself Italian and Spanish, and of course he was taught in Hebrew at his home. He read his first literature from Shakespeare at the age of 8.
Freud suffered from anti-Semitism which prevailed in Vienna at that time, and caused him to suffer in various ways. In a letter Freud wrote about himself:
“After forty one years of medical activity, my self-knowledge tells me that I have never really been a doctor in the proper sense. I became a doctor through being compelled to deviate from my original purpose; and the triumph of my life lies in my having, after a long and roundabout journey, found my way back to my earliest path. I have no knowledge of having had any craving in my early childhood to help suffering humanity. My innate sadistic disposition was not a very strong one, so that I had no need to develop this one of its derivatives. Nor did I ever play the ‘doctor game’; my infantile curiosity evidently chose other paths. In my youth I felt an overpowering need to understand something of the riddles of the world in which we live and perhaps even to contribute something to their solution. The most hopeful means of achieving this end seemed to be to enroll myself in the medical faculty. Afterwards I continued to experiment with zoology and chemistry, although unsuccessfully, until I finally turned towards physiology, influenced by Brücke (the greatest of all authorities which have had an influence on me). But this did not go beyond the narrow limits of histology of that time. At this time I had already passed all exams in medicine, but did not show enough interest to relate with medicine, until the day when a teacher, whom I deeply respected, told me, that it would not be possible for me to pursue a mere theoretical carrier in view of my reduced material possibilities. In this way I came to dedicate myself to the histology of the nervous system, neuropathology, and later, due to new influences, to occupy myself with the neurosis. Nevertheless, I was hardly inclined to believe that my lack of an authentic medical temperament had caused much damage to my patients. It is not a big advantage for the patients that the therapeutical interest of the physician with regard to applied methods reaches an exaggerated emotional tone. For them it is more advantageous when the physician relates his task objectively, and if possible, with precision.”
To me this letter, which describes this period of his life with his own handwriting, appears to be very eloquent.
At this point, nobody will be surprised that his medical career, which began in a rather unorthodox way, then became irregular and excessively long. Freud took a lot of time to finish his medical studies, three years more than necessary. He was criticized by his colleagues for the delay, but he was not tardy due to laziness, but because he studied those topics profoundly in which he was really interested. His great teacher was the eminent physiologist of the time, Brücke, and Freud joined the institute as a student researcher. When the council met to suggest Freud as a teacher, Brücke described him in the following way: “Dr. Freud is a man with a good general education, of a quiet and serious character, an excellent worker in the field of neuroanatomy, with fine skills and a clear vision, immense knowledge, and a cautious method of deduction, and gifted with the talent to write in a well-organized manner. His findings enjoyed approval and confirmation. His style in conferences is clear and secure. The condition of being a scientific investigator and a gifted teacher join in such a way that the commission makes the suggestion to the honorable college to accept his proof of suitability”.
In voting acceptance, there were 21 votes for and only one dissent. There were a lot of problems to overcome before getting a scholarship, but 1885 was a successful year for him. He realized his intention to visit Charcot in Paris and present himself as a “private lecturer” in neuropathology.
An interesting episode in his life is the one with cocaine. To demonstrate this I’m using the following letter in which Freud wrote:
“I may here go back a little and explain how it was the fault of my fiancÃ©e that I was not already famous at an early age. A side interest, though it was a deep one, had led me in 1884 to obtain from Merck some of what was then the little-known alkaloid cocaine and to study its physiological action. While I was in the middle of this work, an opportunity arose for making a journey to visit my fiancÃ©e, from whom I had been parted for two years. I hastily wound up my investigations of cocaine and contented myself in my book on the subject with prophesying that further uses for it would soon be found… When I returned from my holiday I found that not he [Konigstein], but another of my friends, Carl Koller (now in New York), whom I had also spoken to about cocaine, had made the decisive experiments upon animals’ eyes and had demonstrated them at the Ophthalmological Congress at Heidelberg. Koller is therefore rightly regarded as the discoverer of local anesthesia by cocaine, which has become so important in minor surgery; but I bore my fiancÃ©e no grudge for her interruption of my work.”
At this time the young Freud was a real threat for the publicity. He supplied cocaine to his girlfriend, friends, etc. and suggested to them that there were not any contraindications at that time. He used it with great success for depression and indigestion. I remember a case which Freud described, about Fleish, a famous physician, who was strongly addicted to morphine. Freud started to give him cocaine in the hope of weaning him off morphine, and was very successful. About that time, in June 1885, he started to explore the subject of addiction. The French scientists Jean Mari Charcot and Joseph Breuer were some of his greatest teachers. With hypnosis these two used a method of free association, which Freud later evolved to psychoanalysis. At conferences in the United States, in 1910, Freud declared that psychoanalysis was born in the twentieth century.