5.7.10

I Get My Head Examined

Today I had an appointment with a doctor. I know you probably think I'm foolish to go to a primitive 19th century medicine man, but this one is special. This is Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis. The University of Vienna asked me to record him in action, for 1892 was a period a transition for Freud.

At a quarter to ten this morning, I arrived at Freud's office at 19 Berggasse. It's less than a mile from the University of Vienna, Freud's alma mater. The five-story apartment building is new although the style hints at something older. I went into the entrance hall to find a set of white stairs. Freud's offices are on the first floor (second to you Americans). His family residence are just below.

At the top of the first landing is a door that leads into a small waiting room. I sat down on the sofa and waited. I look about feeling giddy. To think all this will be a museum someday. Now it's just an ordinary doctor's office.

After a few minutes a bearded gentleman with dark hair comes through a pair of double doors and greets me. "Hello, sir. Dr. Howe, is it not? I am Dr. Sigmund Freud."

I shake his offered hand. "You don't look at all like I imagined you would."

"How did you imagine me?"

"Older."

Freud raised his eyebrow. "I'm thirty-six and I have a medical degree from the University of Vienna. I have also studied in Paris with Europe's most renowned neurologist, Dr. Jean Charcot. I worked at the Vienna General Hospital. I assure you I am fully qualified, sir."

How can I tell Freud I've only seen photos of him as an old man? "It's just your reputation is such I just assumed you were older."

Freud smiled at me. "Your accent sounds English," he spoke in English.

"Your English is quite good, sir."

"And your German is good also." Freud continued to speak in English.

"Not as good as your English." I tried not to laugh. "I imagine my accent is thicker than yours."

"So what brings you to Vienna?"

"I'm...erm, here at the request of the University of Vienna." That is not a lie, although the people who asked me won't be born for several centuries.

"You are a professor?"

"I'm a historian."

Freud's eyes lit up. "Ah! History! Please, come. You must see my consultation room."

Freud led me into the next room. I saw the double doors were well padded, no doubt for sound proofing. Then I noticed the theme to the decor. About us were Greek and Egyptian relics. He also had photos of ancient ruins on the walls that weren't hidden by bookcases. "You are an antiquarian?"

"Yes, it's a modest collection, but I hope to add to it. Are you interested in ancient history?"

"Yes, I took classes on Roman history." That was early in my career when I was studying Cambridge University life in the 19th century. I posed as a student and had to take something. Bit hard to take Victorian history when it hadn't happened yet.

"What type of history are you studying now, Dr. Howe."

"Recent history." Well, Victorian history would be recent from Freud's point of view.

"Oh." Freud looked disappointed, then smiled. "I'm sure you didn't come here to discuss history . What brings you here?"

"Insomnia...and a twitch." I then thought real hard about the Institute of Time Travel's Enforcement Agency. That always gives me a tic.

"That does look annoying," Freud studied my twitching eye.

"A chap at the University of Vienna suggested you. Said you specialized in 'Nervous Disorders'."

Freud nodded. "Do you want me to try to hypnotize you?"

Hypnotize! Freud wants to hypnotize me?. What if I tell him the truth, that I'm a temporal anthropologist, a time traveler from the 27th century sent here to study the 19th? My mannerisms and speech are so Victorian, Freud would probably never believe me. The worse that could happen is he would just have me committed to a psychiatric hospital. No, the real danger is what the Enforcers would do to me for divulging this forbidden information!

"Please, relax, Dr. Howe." Freud looked concerned.

I realize me cheek was jerking like crazy now. I put my hand on it to quiet it down. Think happy thoughts! I visual myself on the beach at Brighton sipping tea.

"You are uncomfortable with the thought of my hypnotizing you?"

"Erm, I'm British."

Freud nods. "It's all right. I'm seriously thinking of giving up hypnotizing all together. I've been experimenting with something I call "the pressure technique." He motioned me over to a couch. "Please lie down."

Oh my! This is it! The world's first psychiatrist couch! And he wants me to lie on this museum piece! I walk over to it and look down, half afraid to touch this icon.

"It's a couch a patient gave me so I could hypnotize people. It seems to work better when one is lying down. It also seems to work well with this new technique I've just started experimenting with. You are uncomfortable with reclining on the couch? Many are at first. It is quite all right."

Yes, Victorians would be. There is something about lying on a couch in front of a stranger that they would consider too familiar, too intimate. "Yes, of course. You're the doctor." I sit down and lean back, careful not to put a wrinkle or speck of dust on this historic object.

Freud sat down in an armchair at the head of the backless fainting couch. He turned and pressed his hand down on my forehead. "Now say the first thing that comes to your mind."

"You are pushing on my forehead."

Freud let go. "Sorry. Did I hurt you?"

"No, it's just that's the first thing that came to my mind."

I heard the squeak of a hinge. I looked over my shoulder to see Freud pulling something out of a wooden box on a table on the other side of his armchair. He looked over at me. "Cigar?"

"No thank you."

"Are you sure? Smoking is one of the greatest and cheapest enjoyments in life."

I shook my head.

Freud clipped of the tip off the cigar, then stuck the cylinder in his mouth. He lit it and took a puff. He pulled it out of his mouth, dangling it in his fingers. Then he noticed me watching him, fascinated. "Is something wrong, Dr. Howe? Does the cigar remind you of something?"

How can I tell Freud it just makes him look more like Freud? In most of the photos of him, he was holding a cigar. "No."

"Did your father smoke?"

"No. I was just trying to figure out what the attraction some people have for cigars is. No offense."

"Hmmm." Freud looked at the cigar. "My doctor tells me these will be the death of me."

I don't dare tell him, he's right. Freud will die of oral cancer brought on by his twenty-cigar-a-day habit. He will spend his last sixteen years of life in agonizing pain and have 40 operations, losing his upper jaw and half his palate. And all the time he kept smoking.

Freud looks back at me. "Please lie back down and relax."

I turn back around and obey. Probably wouldn't do any good if I did warn him to give up cigars.

Freud put his hand back on my forehead. "So tell me. How long have you had this twitch?"

"I get it whenever I think about...erm, authoritarian figures."

"Your father?"

"No, some men I work with. Big sticklers for rules. Always keeping tabs on me, waiting for me to mess up so they can have me removed from my position."

Freud nods. "Educational institutions can get very cut throat. I remember my old teacher, Dr. Ernest Burke, told me not to go into academics. Posts are few and pay badly. And the chances for advancement if you are a Jew are bad. One reason I went into private practice. This insomnia, did you have it before or after you came to Vienna? Perhaps it's from sleeping in an unfamiliar place?

"No, I'm use to sleeping in hotels. I travel a lot in my work."

"Perhaps nightmares are waking you up?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Do you remember any of your dreams?"

"Well, there is this one strange dream. I dream I'm kissing Dr. Brown."

"You have feelings for this man?"

"No, Serendipity Brown. She's a woman."

"Does she know about your feelings?"

"Of course not. We never met. She died before I was ever born."

"Who is this Serendipity Brown?"

"She's the Mother of Time Travel...erm, Poetry."

"Time Travel Poetry?"

"Very avant-garde, little remembered form. Popular back in the thirties. It keeps bouncing around in time, changing tenses. Very confusing."

"I noticed you referred to her as the 'mother' and not "inventor" of this poetry. How do you feel about your mother?"

"I feel fine about my mother. Outside of her nagging me to quit my job, settle down, and get married, I have no complaints. I guess she's just being a mum." Then it dawns on me. "Wait a tick. Why did you bring up my mother? You aren't suggesting I have an Oedipus Complex, are you?"

"Oedipus Complex?"

"You know where you want to kill your father and marry your mother."

"Ah, yes! Oedipus Complex! I like that. Mind if I borrow it?"

"Erm, sure." Blast! I said too much. Enforcers won't like this.

"I notice your twitch has gotten worse. Do you want to marry your mother."

"Of course not! She's not my type...and she's my mum."

"Are you married?"

"No."

"Is there a reason you haven't gotten married?"

"My job. I travel too much to get married, but I love my work too much to give it up. It would not be fair to some poor woman to marry her and then never be home."

"Some women seem to prefer that."

"I don't think I would want that sort of relationship."

Freud took a puff on his cigar. "Ah, a romantic. You want a wife who can't bare to be separated from you because she is so infatuated with you. Wouldn't we all like that. So do you worry about not being married?"

"No. "

"What do you worry about?"

"Keeping my job."

"It sounds to me that the only thing keeping you awake are these hostile coworkers that want your job."

"Possibly."

"You could get another job."

"Never! I love my job too much."

"Or you could look the bullies in the eye and let them know they don't scare you."

"But they do scare me. They could take away my job." They could easily revoke my time travel license...or worse. It's been rumored Enforcers can go back in time and "erase" you by making you have an "accident" to prevent you from changing the past in the first place...like my "Freudian Slip" about the Oedipus Complex.

"What does the Board of Trustees at your University think of your work?"

"They seem pleased."

"Then it seems to me they will be more likely to fire the trouble makers than you."

I can't tell Freud the University has no control over the Enforcers who aren't even affiliated with them. It may say University of Cambridge on my resume, but it's really the Instituted of Time Travel that rules my life. "These chaps have connections."

"You say these men are sticklers for the rules. Was your father strict?"

Again with my father! This went on for nearly an hour, Freud always steering the conversation back to my parents and my childhood. I had to think carefully before I spoke. I could hardly tell him my best friend when I was five was Mr. Hobkins, a robotic teddy bear who used to recite Winnie the Pooh stories to me. I also refused to speak of my...erm, personal life. I was recording all of this and I really didn't want that broadcasted on University of Vienna's website.

"I think that's enough for one day." Freud stood up and stepped over to a desk. "I have a feeling there is a lot you are not telling me. That's all right. Most don't open up in the first session. I would like to see you again so we can get to the root of your neurosis.

"Am I crazy?

"No." Freud smiled like he got asked that question all the time. "Just a little anxious. I can write you a prescription.

"Prescription?" I stood up, too.

"To help with your depression." Freud began writing on a slip of paper. "This will help with your anxiety so you can sleep and your tic will stop. You can take it to any apothecary. You really don't need a prescription if you need more. Just take as directed. It's a new wonder drug from the New World."

"Thank you." I take the proffered slip of paper.

"I have a back exit you can use." Freud points to another door. "Many of my patients don't want anyone in the waiting room to see them when they leave."

There is a great stigma on mental illness in this day and age. "That is most kind of you, sir."

It's when I get down to the street that I pull out the prescription and try to make out the scribbling.

"Cocaine!"

Right. Late 19th century. The medical world is just discovering what this "Miracle Drug" can do. They just haven't discovered how addictive and destructive it is. The fools are even putting the narcotic in wine and soft drinks to sell to the public! Freud and the rest will soon figure out cocaine is bad.

I'm tempted to crumple up this prescription in disgust, then decide it has too much historical significance. I put it back in my pocket. University of Vienna will love this.

I know modern psychologists laugh at much of Freud's ideas, but let's be fair. The chap is starting from scratch. He's exploring virgin territory without a map. Criticizing Freud is like criticizing the Wright Brothers for not inventing the space shuttle.

As I walk away, a thought hits me and I chuckle. Next time someone in the 27th century looks at me in my Victorian clothes I always wear and asks me if I'm barking mad, I'll tell them no. I have it on the highest authority I'm not crazy. Dr. Sigmund Freud told me so.

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