Are we repressing?

Journalists love anniversaries, but I'm surprised that hardly anyone has noticed a significant one: this month is the centennial of Freud's first and only visit to America.

Sigmund Freud hated America. He couldn't stand being called "Sigmund" by his informal hosts. He believed that Americans had channeled their sexuality into an unhealthy obsession with money. And he seethed at his own need for the dollars that we had in such unseemly abundance. "Is it not sad," he wrote to a German friend after World War I, "that we are materially dependent on these savages, who are not a better class of human beings?"

But while Freud loathed all things American (except its currency), the feeling was anything but mutual. "No nation outside of Germany and Austria was more hospitable to psychoanalysis than America," notes Mark Edmundson in "The Death of Sigmund Freud" (2007). Freud may even have anticipated the eagerness with which Americans would embrace his theories. "We are bringing them the plague," he reportedly told colleagues when disembarking in New York. "And they don't even know it."


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Daniel Akst

Dan Akst is a journalist, essayist and novelist who wrote three books. His novel, The Webster Chronicle, is based on the lives of Cotton and Increase Mather. More

Dan Akst is a journalist, novelist and essayist whose work has appeared frequently in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Wilson Quarterly, and many other publications.

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