False ascription of motivation

A classic example of the false ascription of motivation is
Freud’s ascription of sexual desire to “Dora”.
As of 2012-09-17, Wikipedia described it thusly:

[Ida Bauer (real name) was given the pseudonym “Dora” by Freud.
She] regularly babysat
the children of a married couple known only as Herr and Frau K.
Ida’s father was the lover of Frau K,
and (according to Ida, and believed by Freud),
Herr K himself had repeatedly propositioned Ida,
as early as when she was 14 years old.
(Freud, “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (‘Dora’)”)

Ultimately, Freud sees Ida as
repressing a desire for her father,
a desire for Herr K,
and a desire for Frau K as well.

After only 11 weeks of therapy she broke off her therapy,
much to Freud’s disappointment.
Freud saw this as his failure as an analyst
and decided the whole treatment had failed.

After some time, however, Ida returned to see Freud
and explained how her symptoms had mostly cleared.
Freud had been the only person to believe her
regarding ‘Herr K’ and her father.
After the analysis, she chose to confront her tormentors
(her father, his lover and his lover’s husband).
When confronted, they confessed that she had been right all along
and following this,
most of her symptoms had cleared.

Freud’s interpretation

Through the analysis, Freud interprets Ida’s hysteria
as a manifestation of her jealousy
toward the relationship between Frau K and her father,
combined with the mixed feelings of Herr K’s sexual approach to her.[3]
Although Freud was disappointed with the initial results of the case,
he considered it important,
as it raised his awareness of the phenomenon of transference,
on which he blamed his seeming failures in the case.

The somewhat controversial psychologist Kevin MacDonald has written concerning this case:
Both Esterson (1992) and Lakoff and Coyne (1993, 83-86) show that
Freud’s famous analysis of the teenage Dora
(in which her rejection of the pedophilic sexual advances
of an older married man
is attributed to hysteria and sexual repression)

was based entirely on preconceived ideas and circular reasoning
in which
the patient’s negative emotional response
to the psychoanalytic hypothesis

is construed as
evidence for the hypothesis.

More completely, in Chapter Four of MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique
he added some piquant details concerning the case (emphasis added;
I go on to include several interesting thoughts of MacDonald about psychoanalysis besides his description of the case of Dora
contained in that chapter):
Freud used psychoanalysis to pathologize
female resistance to male sexual advances.
This is apparent in the famous analysis of the teenage Dora,
who rejected the advances of an older married man.
Dora’s father sent her to Freud because
he wanted her to accede to the man’s advances as an appeasement gesture
because the father was having an affair with the man’s wife.
Freud obligingly attributed Dora’s rejection to
repressing amorous desires toward the man.


Lakoff and Coyne (1993) conclude their discussion of Dora
by arguing that in general
psychoanalysis was characterized by
thought control, manipulation, and debasement of the analysand.


An important corollary of these findings is that
psychoanalysis has many features in common with brainwashing
(Bailey 1960, 1965; Salter 1998).
During training sessions,
any objection by the future psychoanalyst is viewed as
a resistance to be overcome (Sulloway 1979b).


[I]t is reasonable to conclude that
Freud’s real analysand was gentile culture,
and that
psychoanalysis was fundamentally an act of aggression
toward that culture.

I (the author of this blog) should add at this point that
I have no formal training whatsoever in psychology or psychoanalysis.
However, the views of MacDonald,
who has been professor of psychology at California State College at Long Beach for a number of years,
seem quite reasonable to me.