This text, co-written by Freud and Josef Breuer, constitutes the foundation stone of psychoanalysis. In it Freud and Breuer describe five cases of hysteria they have treated over the course of a decade – one by Breuer, four by Freud – out of which clinical observations they formulate the key concepts of resistance, symbolism, and transference. Freud also introduces his innovative ‘free association,’ as a development from and improvement on hypnosis, which by this stage he has rejected as a therapeutic method.
Hysteria was an enigma to doctors and psychologists in the latter part of the 19th century, and, until the advent of psychoanalysis, the many sufferers of this strange condition remained an irresolvable problem. Studies on Hysteria is a revolutionary exposition of the illness, showing how, by allowing the patient to remember, re-live and, importantly, verbalise the emotional experience of a hidden neurotic trauma, the analyst could bring that trauma into the light of consciousness, thereby freeing the patient of its unconscious grip. One of the most famous and archetypal examples of this early psychoanalytic treatment of hysteria, Anna O., appears in this book, one of Breuer’s patients.