(The cornerstone of psychoanalysisand legacy of the landm...)
The cornerstone of psychoanalysisand legacy of the landmark Freud/Breuer collaborationfeaturing the classic case of Anna O. and the evolution of the cathartic method.
Breuer studied medicine in his native Vienna, receiving the degree of M.D. in 1863.
From 1867 to 1875 he was an assistant at Oppotzer’s Clinic and from 1875 began to teach medicine at the University of Vienna. For over fifty years he was one of the most prominent internists in Vienna, and many of the most important men of science were among the patients in his large private practice.
In addition to his clinical work Breuer was also involved in neurological, respiratory, and otic research. In 1868 he reported his discovery, together with Ewald Hering, of vagus nerve control of respiratory movements (the Hering-Breuer reflex). In 1874 he published another article demonstrating the otic labyrinth as the organ of equilibrium and motion sensation.
Breuer’s most famous work, first published in 1880, was on the use of catharsis under hypnosis in the treatment of hysteria. His most famous case was that of Anna O. (see Bertha Pappenheim). He demonstrated that his patient’s neurotic symptoms, which were induced by unconscious processes, improved and even disappeared after “purging” her mind and bringing to consciousness, her past experiences. This provided Sigmund Freud, with a basis for his theory of psychoanalysis and led to years of cooperation between Freud and Breuer that lasted until 1900.
He was very active in the Jewish community in Vienna. In 1894, annoyed at the reaction of Jewish students to anti-Semitism, he wrote to the Jewish fraternity, Kadima, “Our epidermis has become too sensitive. I wish that we Jews had a consciousness of our own value which would make us quiet and half-indifferent to the judgment of others rather than this unwavering, easily insulted, hypersensitive point d honneur which is a product of assimilation.”
Breuer was a man of magnetic personality, vision, culture, creativity, and striking intelligence.