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Giving Eckstein Her Voice Back


At no point had Emma Eckstein anticipated that a simple knock would open the door to not only Sigmund Freud’s house but also a life of eternal anguish back when she first sought Freud’s help desperate to find the cure to her agonizing cramps. The year was 1892, and a young 27-year-old named Emma was finding it harder to deal with her deteriorating mental health by the day. That’s when she decided she had had enough and turned to the renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud for help.

Freud was well into his 40s at the time however that didn’t stop him from taking advantage of his much younger patient’s vulnerability. Freud quickly determined that the young Eckstein was suffering from tremendous amounts of trauma, which he linked to child sexual abuse. Under the influence of his close friend Wilhelm Fliess, Freud diagnosed his patient with a “nasal reflex neurosis” condition and concluded that she was due for a life-altering surgery. This surgery included injections into her nose and the removal of her nasal septum. The latter procedure was intended to cure her of her supposed "nasal neurosis", which Fliess believed to be the cause of her hysteria.

The surgery was a disaster, and Eckstein nearly died from the bleeding. The incident caused a rift between Freud and Fliess, who was revealed to have been using unorthodox and dangerous medical techniques on his patients. Despite this setback, Eckstein continued to be an active member of the psychoanalytic community. Eckstein's most notable contribution to psychoanalysis was her treatment of hysteria. At the time, hysteria was a poorly understood condition that was often attributed to women. Eckstein believed that the root of the condition was the trauma and that it could be treated through psychoanalytic techniques. She wrote several articles on psychoanalysis and was involved in the founding of the Vienna

Psychoanalytic Society.

Eckstein's legacy in the field of psychoanalysis is complex. While she made significant contributions to the understanding and treatment of hysteria, her association with Fliess and his controversial methods has cast a shadow over her work. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in Eckstein's life and work. Scholars and historians have reexamined her contributions to psychoanalysis and have sought to separate her from the controversy surrounding her treatment by Fliess and Freud.


Emma Eckstein's story is a reminder of the challenges faced by women in the field of medicine and psychoanalysis at the turn of the century. Her contributions to the field of psychoanalysis should not be forgotten, and her legacy should be celebrated for the groundbreaking work she did in a male-dominated field.






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