Caption: Dr Jeffrey Masson
Dr Jeffrey Masson 

Conversations 106: Jeffrey Masson

From: Richard Fidler
Series: Conversations with Richard Fidler
Length: 53:28

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A conversation with Jeffrey Masson, former Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives.

Jeffrey_masson_09_small Jeffrey Masson grew up in a 'wealthy but eccentric' household in Los Angeles, among some of the Hollywood stars of the 1940s. His family lived under the influence of a guru who encouraged Jeffrey to study the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit at Harvard University.

Jeffrey rose to become a professor of Sanskrit, but was dissatisfied and he found himself drawn into the world of psychoanalysis.

He completed a clinical training course and became acquainted with Anna Freud, the daughter of the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

Anna Freud made Jeffrey the director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, with access to all of the great man's correspondence. So he began looking into why Freud had developed - and then dropped - his famous 'seduction theory'. At first Freud had said that you could locate the origin of all hysteria and neurosis in women from the sexual abuse they had suffered as a child.

But later, Freud abandoned this idea and went completely the other way: he insisted that all such claims of abuse were really just imaginary fantasies.

Jeffrey found evidence in Freud's letters of shocking mistreatment of a patient called Emma Eckstein. Freud had put her case in the hands of an Ear Nose & Throat Specialist, who believed he could treat her sexual neuroses by performing an operation on her nose.

The operation was a disaster and Emma Eckstein was permanently disfigured.

Afterwards, Freud chose to protect his friend the ENT specialist against charges of malpractice.

Jeffrey Masson was appalled to uncover this sorry tale from Freud's letters and notes. But when he presented his discoveries to his colleagues he was shunned and eventually dismissed from his job at the archives. He chose to quit psychoanalysis altogether and today he has grave doubts about the ethics of the profession.

But rather than becoming embittered, he chose to follow a new path and pursue his lifelong fascination with the emotional lives of animals. He came to believe through his study of mammals and birds that animals experience just about every emotion that humans do - compassion, altruism, happiness, friendship, as well as boredom and disappointment.

He says this was until recently a taboo subject for scientists, but now science is more open to the idea that animals have complex emotional lives that go beyond the 'brute' feelings we've always ascribed to them.

Piece Description

Jeffrey Masson grew up in a 'wealthy but eccentric' household in Los Angeles, among some of the Hollywood stars of the 1940s. His family lived under the influence of a guru who encouraged Jeffrey to study the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit at Harvard University.

Jeffrey rose to become a professor of Sanskrit, but was dissatisfied and he found himself drawn into the world of psychoanalysis.

He completed a clinical training course and became acquainted with Anna Freud, the daughter of the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

Anna Freud made Jeffrey the director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, with access to all of the great man's correspondence. So he began looking into why Freud had developed - and then dropped - his famous 'seduction theory'. At first Freud had said that you could locate the origin of all hysteria and neurosis in women from the sexual abuse they had suffered as a child.

But later, Freud abandoned this idea and went completely the other way: he insisted that all such claims of abuse were really just imaginary fantasies.

Jeffrey found evidence in Freud's letters of shocking mistreatment of a patient called Emma Eckstein. Freud had put her case in the hands of an Ear Nose & Throat Specialist, who believed he could treat her sexual neuroses by performing an operation on her nose.

The operation was a disaster and Emma Eckstein was permanently disfigured.

Afterwards, Freud chose to protect his friend the ENT specialist against charges of malpractice.

Jeffrey Masson was appalled to uncover this sorry tale from Freud's letters and notes. But when he presented his discoveries to his colleagues he was shunned and eventually dismissed from his job at the archives. He chose to quit psychoanalysis altogether and today he has grave doubts about the ethics of the profession.

But rather than becoming embittered, he chose to follow a new path and pursue his lifelong fascination with the emotional lives of animals. He came to believe through his study of mammals and birds that animals experience just about every emotion that humans do - compassion, altruism, happiness, friendship, as well as boredom and disappointment.

He says this was until recently a taboo subject for scientists, but now science is more open to the idea that animals have complex emotional lives that go beyond the 'brute' feelings we've always ascribed to them.

Broadcast History

Originally broadcast on ABC Local Radio and ABC Radio National, Australia. (Edited here for a US audience).

Timing and Cues

Piece Audio Version

Billboard
In cue: Music
Out cue: "... That's right after this."
Dur: 59"

Segment 1
In cue: Theme music
Out cue: "... That's just ahead."
Dur: 13'48"

Break 1
In cue: Music
Out cue: Music fades
Dur: 59"

Segment 2
In cue: Music sweeper
Out cue: "... That's just ahead."
Dur: 17'31"

Break 2
In cue: Music
Out cue: Music fades.
Dur: 59"

Segment 3
In cue: Music sweeper
Out cue: "... Thanks for listening".
Dur: 19'12"

Conversations 106.Masson SINGLE FILE Version

Single File
In cue: Theme music
Out cue: "... thanks for listening."
Dur: 52'30"

Intro and Outro

INTRO:

Right now: 'Conversations with Richard Fidler' (pron: FY-dler) features a conversation with Dr Jeffrey Masson: the former director of the Sigmund Freud Archives... who left the world of psychoanalysis to investigate the emotional lives of animals.

OUTRO:

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Hollywood Sunset Barry Adamson Lost Highway. Fontana Interscope 1997 01:00
Insensatez Antonio Carlos Jobim Lost Highway. Fontana Interscope 1997 02:00

Related Website

abc.net.au/conversations