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Josef Breuer was born on this day in 1842

Josef Breuer was born on this day in 1842

Josef Breuer was Sigmund Freud’s mentor. He was born in Vienna and studied medicine and became a family doctor. He died in 1925.

In 1880 he treated patient called Anna O. Her issue was a nervous cough and a few other symptoms including mood swings, visual disturbance, catatonia and sometimes aphasia. At the time these symptoms would be referred to as hysteria. By talking to her and finding the times when she could talk easily and when she couldn’t he developed a process of discussion of the symptoms in reverse chronological order. This led to some improvement especially when she discussed the first time she experienced the issue. This process was facilitated through hypnosis. He used the term catharsis for this and concluded the these symptoms were results of unconscious processes that they needed to be brought into consciousness. This was the start of psychoanalysis.


Breuer and Freud wrote together about it in “On the Psychic Mechanisms of Historical Phenomena” and later studies on hysteria. Interestingly, Breuer didn’t do any other psychological work following this case perhaps because of some transference leading to discomfort but no one really knows. Maybe it was just due to disagreements with Freud about reconstruction of memories, maybe it was something else entirely.

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