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"He who draws the conclusion that I mentally medicate a human who has broken his leg is very true – but I adjust the fracture and dress the wound. And then – I give him a massage, make exercises with him, give a daily bath to the leg with water at 45 °C for half an hour and I take care that he does neither gorge nor booze, and every now and then I ask him: Why did you break your leg, you yourself ?"
With such and other methods the German physician Georg Groddeck, who practised in Baden-Baden and was the pathfinder of psychosomatic medicine, astonished his numerous listeners and readers. His therapy connects naturopathic treatment with psychoanalytic, suggestive and hypnotic elements. His foot and arm bath, massages and dietary cuisine are still practised today, although the bold doctrine of salvation, where he vigorously massaged his patients, is necessarily quite authoritarian, and a more reserved approach would be judged appropriate today. He said “To provide obedience [is the] foundation of medical art".
Association with Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis
In his introduction to the 1949 English version of Groddeck's The Book of the It (1923), Lawrence Durrell comments that Groddeck is often mistaken for an orthodox disciple of Sigmund Freud. He goes on to say "Groddeck was the only analyst whose views had some effect on Freud", and "while he accepts and employs much of the heavy equipment of the master, he is separated forever from Freud by an entirely different conception of the constitution and functioning of the human psyche."
Now I think we shall gain a great deal by following the suggestion of a writer who, from personal motives, vainly asserts that he has nothing to do with the rigours of pure science. I am speaking of Georg Groddeck, who is never tired of insisting that what we call our ego behaves essentially passively in life, and that, as he expresses it, we are "lived" by unknown and uncontrollable forces. We have all had impressions of the same kind, even though they may not have overwhelmed us to the exclusion of all others, and we need feel no hesitation in finding a place for Groddeck's discovery in the structure of science. I propose to take it into account by calling the entity which starts out from the system Pcpt. and begins by being Pcs. the "ego", and by following Groddeck in calling the other part of the mind, into which this entity extends and which behaves as though it were Ucs., the "id". (Freud 1927/1961, 13).
In contrast to Freud, Groddeck was primarily engaged with the treatment of chronically ill patients. Groddeck is considered by many as a founder of psychosomatic medicine – his reservations against strict science and orthodox medicine made him an outsider among psychoanalysts till today.
In 1902 Groddeck published his first book, Ein Frauenproblem, dedicated to his wife; in 1909, the book Hin zu Gottnatur was released.
In 1913 he published Nasamecu. Der gesunde und der kranke Mensch, where "nasamecu" stands for the Latin motto "Natura sanat, medicus curat." Here Groddeck offers his understanding of what happens to the bones, muscles, the importance of food, talk about blood circulation, the eyes, the whole human body and what happens to this body when it obeys the orders of Isso (unconscious). According to these orders, a person becomes "healthy" or "sick."
In 1921 Groddeck published his first psychoanalytic novel, Der Seelensucher. Ein psychoanalytischer Roman, later published in English as "The Seeker of Souls". After reading it and promoting its publication Freud commended Groddeck to the Berlin Psychoanalytic Association. Alfred Polgar in his comprehensive review (Berliner Tageblatt, 20 December 1921) found "nothing comparable among German books" and felt reminded of Cervantes, Swift, Rabelais.
In 1923 he published The Book of the It, an unusual work in which each chapter is in the form of a letter to a girlfriend addressed as "my dear".
Toward the end of his life, many colleagues and admirers asked Groddeck to form a society that would promote his ideas. To this request, he would laugh and reply:
Disciples like their master to stay put, whereas I should think anyone a fool who wanted me to say the same thing tomorrow as I said yesterday. If you really want to be my follower, look at life for yourself and tell the world honestly what you see.
In a talk called Who is it who knows there is no Ego? the zen philosopher Alan Watts said that when people came to Groddeck for analysis, he would give them massage, and when they came to him for massage, he would give them analysis. "He was a completely wonderful man because everybody felt calmed by him. They felt an atmosphere of implicit faith in nature and especially in your own inner nature. No matter what, there is a wisdom inside you which may seem absurd, but you have to trust it." Watts mentions that Hermann Graf Keyserling, the Lithuanian philosopher, said that nobody has ever reminded him more of Lao Tse than Groddeck. (This lecture contains the above comments, around 39 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpwrTKNUY8k).
- Georg Groddeck, The Meaning of Illness: Selected Psychoanalytic Writings, International Universities Press (June 1977), ISBN 0-8236-3205-9
- Peter L. Rudnytsky, Reading Psychoanalysis: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi, Groddeck, Cornell Studies in the History of Psychiatry; Cornell University Press (November 2002), ISBN 0-8014-8825-7
- Gerda Boyesen, "Entre psyché et soma", Payot (December 1996), ISBN 2-228-89064-2
- Georg Groddeck, The Book of the It, Vision Press (1979 ed), ISBN 0-85478-234-6
- Durrell's introduction originally appeared as an essay, Number VI in the series "Studies in Genius," Horizon magazine (London), Vol. XVII No. 102, edited by Cyril Connolly, June 1948.
- Freud, Sigmund (1923), Das Ich und das Es, Internationaler Psycho-analytischer Verlag, Leipzig, Vienna, and Zurich. English translation, The Ego and the Id, Joan Riviere (trans.), Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-analysis, London, UK, 1927. Revised for The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, James Strachey (ed.), W.W. Norton and Company, New York, NY, 1961.
- see Freud/Groddeck correspondence: Georg Groddeck, Schicksal, das bin ich selbst, Limes Verlag, 1970.
- cited in "Der Nabel der Welt" (The Navel of the World) by Ludger Luetkehaus, Die Zeit, 24 September 1998.
- Frederic D. Homer, The Interpretation Of Illness, Scholarly Book Services (June 2002), ISBN 0-911198-88-1