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An Occupational Neurosis: A Psychoanalytic Case History of a Rabbi

  • Maya Balakirsky Katz (a1)
Abstract

In consultation with Sigmund Freud, the Viennese psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel (1868–1940) treated the first Jewish cleric known to undergo analysis, in 1903. According to the case history, published in 1908, a forty-two-year-old rabbi suffered from a Berufsneurose, an occupational neurosis associated with the pressures of his career. Stekel's case history forms an indelible portrait of a religious patient who submitted himself to the highly experimental treatment of psychoanalysis in the early years of the discipline. However, scholars never integrated the rabbi's case into the social history of psychoanalysis, more as a consequence of Freud's professional disparagement of Stekel than of the case history's original reception. Psychoanalytic historiography has largely dismissed Stekel's legacy, resulting in a lack of serious scholarly consideration of his prodigious publications compared to the attention paid to the work of some of Freud's other disciples. Stekel's most recent biographers, however, credit him as the “unsung populariser of psychoanalysis,” and claim that he is due for reconsideration. But in his published case history of the rabbi, Stekel also warrants introduction to the field of Jewish studies, not only because of the literary treatment of the rabbinical profession by a secular Jewish psychoanalyst, but also because the rabbi incorporated aspects of that experience into his own intellectual framework after treatment.

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Corresponding author
mkatz307@yahoo.com
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AJS Review
  • ISSN: 0364-0094
  • EISSN: 1475-4541
  • URL: /core/journals/ajs-review
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