Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen has recently brought out a French edition of Freud’s early papers on hypnosis, L’Hypnose: Textes – 1886/1893.

Try a monastery instead: Suicide

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, 17 November 2016

Around​ forty years ago, a friend of mine took his own life in the middle of a party he was throwing in his apartment. A neighbour who happened to look outside saw him climb onto the window ledge, hesitate briefly and then jump to his death from the fifth floor. His guests were stunned when the police rang at the door.

Why did he do it? We grasp at reasons, motives, causes, triggers....

Early in the morning on 13 December 2006, police officers from the small town of Hull, Massachusetts, near Boston, arrived at the house of Michael and Carolyn Riley in response to an emergency call. Their four-year-old daughter, Rebecca, had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years earlier. When the officers reached the house, they found Rebecca sprawled on the floor next to her teddy...

Gentlemen’s Spleen: Hysterical Men

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, 27 August 2009

Mark Micale’s book opens with a scene from John Huston’s film Freud: The Secret Passion (1962), which re-creates one of Jean-Martin Charcot’s legendary demonstrations of hypnosis before an audience of doctors at the Salpêtrière. With magical ease, Charcot makes two patients’ hysterical symptoms disappear. As Micale notes, the scene is taken from André...

Psychotropicana: the realities of depression

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, 11 July 2002

We all know how it happens. One day, without warning, you feel oddly removed from things and people, as if an invisible wall of glass were separating you from them. They go about their business but, for a reason that escapes you, none of it any longer concerns you. You could call out, but what would be the point? You aren’t worth it, and the friendly overtures of others come as a...

Little Brother, Little Sister: Hysteria

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, 24 May 2001

What is progress in psychoanalysis? One of the arguments most commonly used by advocates of psychoanalysis during the recent ‘Freud wars’ has been to reproach their adversaries for holding fast to an outmoded version of their discipline. Psychoanalysis, they say, no longer bears much resemblance to what its founder had envisaged, so that criticism focusing on the historical Freud...

How a Fabrication Differs from a Lie

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, 13 April 2000

‘Was Freud A Liar?’ Ever since Frank Cioffi had the audacity to ask this question in 1973, it has continued to rock the world of psychoanalysis. Till then, things had been so simple. Children of the ‘Freudian century’, we had all learned to venerate in Sigmund Freud a man of ‘absolute honesty’ and ‘flawless integrity’, as his loyal biographer Ernest Jones called him. How many times were we told that? It was his passion for truth that enabled him to confront the demons of his own unconscious and to lift the multisecular repression that weighed on sexuality, despite the ‘resistance’ of his patients and the attacks of his colleagues. It was this scientific probity, too, which made him acknowledge his error about the fantastic ‘scenes’ of incest and sexual molestation that his patients had been bringing to him, despite the stinging professional setback that this represented for him. In Freud, science coincided with the moral fibre of the scientist, whose edifying biography we never tired of reading: Anna O.’s miraculous ‘talking cure’, the break with Josef Breuer regarding sexuality, the solitary crossing of the desert, the painful abandonment of the ‘seduction theory’, the heroic self-analysis, the tearing away from the transference on Wilhelm Fliess, the stoicism in the face of his colleagues’ attacks.‘

What made Albert run: Mad Travellers

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, 27 May 1999

You wake up one morning, the whole world is grey, you have had enough of your cold, colourless life. You want to drop everything, escape, far away, where life is real. Who has not had this dream from time to time? Nothing could be more normal. The desire to escape, to travel, is deeply rooted in everyone, from the young runaway to the tourist, from the beatnik to the Sunday hiker. But suppose now that this desire to flee becomes an obsession, a truly irresistible compulsion. Suppose further that it all happens in a state of absence and you cannot remember any of it: you arrive somewhere, dazed, without the slightest idea of what happened in the interval. Obviously, you have become a pathological runaway, a mad traveller, fit for the asylum and for therapy.



11 July 2002

Alain Ehrenberg (Letters, 8 August) complains that one signatory of this letter, Philippe Pignarre, is the publisher of work by the other signatory, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, in order to imply that Borch-Jacobsen’s favourable review of Pignarre – and his unfavourable review of Ehrenberg – is tainted by nepotism. In the interest of full disclosure, we readily admit that we are both, along...
Eli Zaretsky’s wholesale dismissal (Letters, 18 May) of the documentation brought forward by Han Israëls would be more convincing if it were buttressed by specific evidence. Was Freud ‘consistently cautionary’ about the therapeutic results of psychoanalysis, as Zaretsky contends? It is true indeed that he soft-pedalled his therapeutic claims towards the end of his life, thus...
If J.P. Roos wants to argue (Letters, 10 June) that late 19th-century hysteria disappeared because brain research allowed a better understanding of the ‘genuine illnesses’ behind it, I wish him well. I would be very interested in knowing to what brain disease we should attribute the classic symptoms of Charcot’s grande hystérie – the four standard ‘phases’...

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