chapter  6
26 Pages

A bloody affair

The case of Emma Eckstein and Freud’s Irma dream
WithDanielle Redland

Chapter 6 concentrates on one of the earliest hysterical cases treated by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. The patient, Emma Eckstein, presented with hysterical symptoms, low moods and irregular menstrual bleeding and she was one of Freud’s first psychoanalytic patients. With a careful review of the key commentaries on this, we can go on to re-question what happened between Freud and Eckstein that resulted in her nearly bleeding to death. What was truly going on between the two of them and indeed what was it that Freud was not picking up and interpreting from their conversations? What were the impasses, in both the patient and her analyst, that caused a torrent of emotional and physical damage? And what part did Fliess, the surgeon, play in all of this? Having analysed the case material, I will endeavour to present my own ideas on the matter. By doing so, I challenge some of the accepted views and in furthering the line of enquiry and in perhaps speaking the unspeakable, I am in my way paying homage to Eckstein and other hysterical patients who dared contest the might of the institutions. This is a thorough and full account of the treatment including analysis of Irma’s dream, the psychoanalytic sessions and the letters passed between Freud and Fliess.