Sweden and Psychoanalysis


Psychoanalysis was introduced in Sweden about a decade into the 20th century by two rivalling pioneers, Emanuel af Geijerstam and Poul Bjerre.

After a slow start, the Danish-Norwegian Psychoanalytical Society and the Finnish-Swedish Psychoanalytical Society were formed in 1934 in Stockholm. The same year, Ericastiftelsen [The Erica Foundation], a psychotherapeutic clinic for children, was founded by Hanna Bratt.

Ola Andersson’s doctoral dissertation (“Studies in the Prehistory of Psychoanalysis”, 1962) and the historian Gunnar Brandell’s essay (“Freud, a Man of His Century”) have had an international impact. An authorized and carefully edited translation of Freud’s collected works has been published by Natur och Kultur, and the history of psychoanalysis in Sweden has just been written within the framework of the University of Gothenburg. As a result of a recent interest in the work of Jacques Lacan, the journal Psykoanalytisk Tid/Skrift was founded in 2002, in Gothenburg.

To some degree, at the end of the 19th century, Sigmund Freud’s line of thought was anticipated in the work of the famous Swedish playwright and novelist August Strindberg (1849-1912), who wrote penetrating dramas, novels and short stories about a variety of human dilemmas, e.g. religious misgivings, the relationship between the sexes, the father and his position in the family. Strindberg studied bigotry, destructive forces and the unconscious motivations of men and women at the turn of the last century. His drama, Fadren (The Father), published in 1887, is an early testimony to the decline of the father’s position in Western society and to the manner in which the family structure was disintegrating. Strindberg focused on the question of whether one can really know for certain if a person is in fact the father of a particular child. He paints the portrait of a man tortured by the suspicion, instilled by his wife, that the child he loves and thinks of as his own is, in fact, fathered by another man. Strindberg’s drama ends with the death of the father who, in his doubt, rage and despair, has been declared mentally ill by his wife, his physician and a clergyman. Strindberg’s story illustrates how the issue of the recognition of the father is essential to the understanding of the human being. Freud pointed out in a footnote, added in 1917 to Psychopathology of Everyday Life, that Strindberg possessed an uncanny faculty for understanding the secret nature of parapraxes. In addition, a Scandinavian contemporary of Strindberg, the Norwegian author and playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), also dealt with issues similar to those that preoccupied Freud.
There is no evidence that Strindberg was ever familiar with Freud and psychoanalysis. On the other hand, he admired Otto Weininger (1880-1903) and his Geschlecht und Charakter, as well as Karl Kraus (1874-1936) and his Die Fackel. Kraus, in turn, gave Strindberg a prominent place in his journal, founded in 1899. As early as 1897 Kraus had seen and reviewed Der Vater (The Father). Likewise, Weininger had studied this particular play of Strindberg’s with keen interest. Kraus turned to Strindberg in connection with Otto Weininger’s suicide in 1903; Strindberg also wrote a personal and appreciative obituary of the latter, although it was not published until 1921.

The Earliest Introduction

Freud’s name, along with the names of Josef Breuer (1842-1925), Pierre Janet (1859-1947), and Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), appeared for the first time in a Swedish medical journal in 1893. The article, which addressed traumatic neuroses, was written by Frithiof Lennmalm (1858-1924), Professor of Neuropathology.
In 1900, the Swedish author and feminist Ellen Key (1849-1926) published Barnets århundrade (The Century of the Child.). The book was translated into 11 languages (among others: English, French, Japanese, Russian and German) and her ideas had an impact on several countries, particularly Germany. She defended the right of women to possess independence and a life of their own. In her opinion, society needed to acknowledge the crucial role that women played in giving children a harmonious upbringing. She stressed the importance of allowing children the right to express themselves and condemned the use of corporal punishment when rearing and educating children. In her opinion, a feature she referred to as the “Female Principle” deserved to influence society to a higher degree. She was a dedicated advocate of peace. Key fought for the right of women to vote and to be released from a destructive or unhealthy marriage by means of divorce. She claimed that women had an erotic drive which must have a place in the marriage. Key had discussions and dialogues with writers from abroad as well as from Sweden, such as Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) and August Strindberg.
In 1923, in a note added to On the History of the Psycho-analytic Movement (1914), Freud wrote: “At the present time, the Scandinavian countries are still the least receptive” (p. 34). Psychoanalysis had indeed been introduced in Sweden in an ambiguous way. Two pioneers, Emanuel af Geijerstam (1867-1928), who worked in Gothenburg from 1898 through 1928, and Poul Bjerre (1876-1964), active in Stockholm and its immediate vicinity during the first five decades of the 20th century, were united in a common ambivalent attitude towards the new discipline. Geijerstam was a conscientious scientist and psychotherapist, who felt a kinship with Alfred Adler (1870-1937) and Carl Gustaf Jung (1875-1961). As early as 1902, he had written about Freud, but after 1916 he repeatedly pointed out that the process known as “anagoge analysis” must be regarded as an improvement on Freud’s method. Until his death, he worked alone, without any institutional contact with colleagues. Being, after all, a physician with an interest in psychological questions, he was disinclined to place himself as a disciple of any theoretical master.
Poul Bjerre succeeded Otto Wetterstrand (1845-1907) in 1907. Wetterstrand’s practice was in central Stockholm, where he also treated Freud’s patient Emmy von N. Bjerre worked in the hypnotic tradition and accepted patients from several European countries. Bjerre met Freud in 1910. The following year, he presented a selection of Freud’s ideas to the Swedish Society of Physicians, and in 1924 he translated and published two of Freud’s articles. Already after their first meeting, Bjerre was preoccupied with the notion that his own ideas were more important than those of Freud. He believed that Freud’s – allegedly – mechanistic views were responsible for the latter’s failure to understand the significance of “psychosynthesis”. Bjerre had contact with several artists and writers and he introduced Freud to Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937) in 1913. Bjerre founded a Psychotherapeutic Institution but had, strictly speaking, no followers. He continued to write books and articles, but his work left no impact on psychoanalysis in Sweden or elsewhere.
Thus, during the first three decades of the 20th century, Freud was introduced in Sweden by two physicians, who both, in spite of mutual differences, were incapable of or unwilling to embrace Freud’s theory as a whole. However, Poul Bjerre and Emanuel af Geijerstam did not work together but were, in fact, rivals. There was at this time no psychoanalytic movement in Sweden. During this period Swedish writers and poets took no interest in psychoanalysis. Nor did academic philosophers display any interest in Freud’s theories.

Early Development and Opposition

There were additional sources of opposition to Freud. In the Society of Physicians, the influential psychiatrists Bror Gadelius (1862-1938) and Olof Kinberg (1873-1960) set the tone. The following statement by Professor Gadelius can serve as an example:
“Freud has exaggerated the importance of sexuality, and he has reached his views because his clientele in a world city such as Vienna is, in a specific way, predisposed to such exaggerations. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that, aside from the sexual complexes, the importance of which in the aetiology of hysteria I certainly do not deny, other complexes which are affect-laden in a different manner create neuroses and hysteria, and these ideational complexes are related to the `Ich-Triebe'” (Svenska läkarsällskapet, 1913, p. 470). Later, Gadelius also saw the merits of Freud’s work. In his textbook of psychiatry, “Det mänskliga själslivet” [The Life of the Human Mind, translated into English in 1933], he wrote: “[d]uring the last decades, the importance of the sexual drives on our mental life has received far greater attention, primarily through the work of Freud and his school” (Gadelius, 1921-24/1989, p. 339). The same year, 1924, the first Swedish translation of one of Freud’s books, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, was published. The book was translated by Emmy Groddeck.
As Sweden’s interest in psychoanalysis developed during the final years of the 1920s and in the early 1930s, so did resistance to it. This was evident in connection with Bjerre’s attempt to publish his lecture “The Psychoanalytic Method”, in which he presented his most positive evaluation of psychoanalysis and responded to objections that others had raised against it. Normally, lectures conducted for the Society of Physicians were published in the journal Hygiea. But Bjerre’s contribution was rejected under the pretext that it was too long. In 1934, Gadelius organized his critique of psychoanalysis in his book Tro och helbrägdagörelse, jämte en kritisk studie av psykoanalysen [Faith and Healing, and a Critical Study of Psychoanalysis].
In the second half of the 1920s, psychoanalysis was also discussed in Clarté, a socialist literary journal that was part of the international Clarté movement. Intellectual champions of psychoanalysis published their contributions in this journal, impassioned by the idea that psychoanalysis could be an element of a radical political theory and an instrument for social change.
An interest in psychoanalysis in literary circles in the 1930s was also displayed in a new journal, Spektrum. It not only published modernist poetry and prose, it also featured translations of works by psychoanalytic writers, such as Anna Freud (1895-1982), Erich Fromm (1900-1980), and Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957). One of the editors was Pehr Henrik Törngren (1908-1965), who also published psychoanalytic contributions of his own. He was a physician, writer and translator. His book, Striden om Freud [The Controversy over Freud], 434 pages long and published in 1936, is one of the first theoretical landmarks made by a Swedish psychoanalyst. Pehr Henrik Törngren, probably the most brilliant of all Scandinavian psychoanalysts during the thirties and the forties, was in analysis with Ludwig Jekels (1861-1954), translated Freud as well as Thomas Mann (1875-1955), and taught for more than fifteen years at an institution for adult education, Kursverksamheten [Open University]. He was an outsider. At the same time he maintained contact with Scandinavian physicians by way of the journal Nordisk Medicin [Scandinavian Medicine] and was thereby part of a scientific context. But he was excluded from the Swedish psychoanalytical society, and, consequently, also from the IPA; he criticized psychoanalysis in a way that was not permitted, leading him to regard the discussion about psychoanalysis and its limits as terminated. The highly admired Swedish poet Karin Boye (1900-1940) was in analysis. Boye wrote articles for Spektrum and, in collaboration with the Swedish translator and scholar Erik Mesterton, she translated The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965). She committed suicide in 1940. The new journal became a melting pot for surrealism and psychoanalysis. During this period, parts of The Interpretation of Dreams and the entire The Future of an Illusion and Civilization and its Discontents were translated into Swedish. This was a time when political efforts with regard to sexual enlightenment and equality ran parallel to the interest in psychoanalysis.
From the mid 1920s on, the Norwegian journalist and agitator Elise Ottesen-Jensen (1886-1973) devoted her life to a controversial enlightenment campaign. In 1933, she played a part in the creation of the influential interest organization RFSU (the National Swedish Association for Sexual Information). She became its first president and held this post until 1956. She fought for the humanization of the Swedish abortion laws and for the legalization of contraceptives. She was an advocate of sex instruction in school. Her ideas had an impact on Swedish legislation. In 1938 the abortion laws were modified as a result of her influence. Up till then all abortions had been illegal. In 1942, schools were recommended by law to give information in sexual matters to all children. Thirteen years later sex instruction in school was made obligatory. Through her assiduous work, a home for single mothers was also created.(1)

Establishment of a Nordic Psychoanalytical Society

In August 1931, a group of Nordic clinicians who were interested in psychoanalysis met to discuss the establishment of a psychoanalytic society. Sigurd Naesgaard (1885-1956) from Denmark, Harald Schelderup (1895-1974) from Norway, Yrjö Kulovesi (1887-1943) from Finland, and Alfhild Tamm (1867-1959) from Sweden, took part in these discussions. Two groups were formed, the Danish-Norwegian Psychoanalytical Society and the Finnish-Swedish Psychoanalytical Society. Tamm, who was the first female psychiatrist in Sweden and, since 1926, a member of the Psychoanalytic Society in Vienna, became chairperson of the Finnish-Swedish Psychoanalytical Society. Driven by a kind of enlightenment spirit, Tamm fought prejudice regarding masturbation. She also had a special interest in speech disorders and worked within the public school system with children and teenagers. At the same time, she tried to train the few Swedish physicians who were interested in psychoanalysis. She wrote articles for the daily press and defended and explained the merits of psychoanalysis to the general public. However, she appears to have lacked the collegial following required to develop a forceful Swedish branch of psychoanalysis.
In the early thirties, psychoanalysts trained in Central Europe, primarily in Vienna, started arriving in the Scandinavian countries. Ludwig Jekels, a disciple of Freud’s, stayed in Stockholm for almost three years. He experienced this time as difficult and wearing and he left Sweden with a sense of defeat. He wrote that Swedish psychoanalysts were not sufficiently motivated to learn anything new. According to Jekels, they pretended that they already were practicing psychoanalysis. Jekels was also criticized by some of the Swedish psychoanalysts. During the same period, Scandinavians started to travel to Vienna, Berlin, and Zurich to be in analysis with August Aichhorn (1878-1949), Helene Deutsch (1884-1982), Paul Federn (1871-1950), Eduard Hitschmann (1871-1958), Oskar Pfister (1873-1956) and others.

Competing Organizations

While the Nordic psychoanalysts were educating and organizing themselves according to the post-1926 standards of the International Psychoanalytic Association, alternative psychotherapeutic organizations were established in the Scandinavian countries. These organizations tended to reject certain tenets of psychoanalysis, such as the theories of infantile sexuality and dreams. In 1932, the “Nordic Psychoanalytical Association” [Nordisk psykoanalytisk samfund] was founded in Norway with, among others, Poul Bjerre from Sweden and Sigurd Naesgaard from Denmark as members. In Denmark, a society called “The Psychoanalytical Association” [Psykoanalytisk samfund] was established in 1933. Again, Bjerre and Naesgaard took part in this venture, as did Johannes Irgens Strømme (1876-1961) from Norway. In this context, we must also remind ourselves of the way psychoanalysis was received in Scandinavia. From the outset several psychotherapeutic societies were founded alongside one another-Adler, Jung, and Freud and psychotherapy inspired by Christian values were introduced simultaneously. The foundation of Sankt Lukasstiftelsen (Saint Luke’s Foundation) in 1939 is an example of collaboration between medical doctors and priests. The Foundation still offers psychotherapy as well as courses in becoming a psychotherapist.

Influential Psychoanalysts

In connection with the growth of Nazism and the Second World War, the Dutch psychoanalyst René de Monchy (1893-1969) came to Sweden and settled in Stockholm. Prior to this, he had married the Swedish-Jewish psychoanalyst Vera Palmstierna (1901-1947) in Vienna, where the latter was in analysis with Freud. De Monchy, who was a key person in Dutch psychoanalysis and who was personally acquainted with Freud, played a dominating role during his eight years in Sweden. He wrote articles in English, French, German and Swedish and helped the Swedish Psychoanalytical Society attain impact on an international scale. His wife committed suicide, and de Monchy remarried. In 1952, he went back to Holland with his new Swedish wife, a former patient. The Swedish psychoanalysts were once again abandoned by a father figure.
Ola Andersson (1919-1990) and the Hungarian psychologist Lajos Székely (1904-1995) were both in analysis with René de Monchy. Székely, who commenced his analytic training in Holland, completed it in Sweden after having arrived as a Jewish refugee along with his wife, Edith, also a psychoanalyst. For five decades, he played an important role for Swedish physicians and psychologists in psychoanalytic training. He published articles on creativity and the unconscious in English, French, German, Hungarian, and Swedish. He was a trained experimental psychologist and he was, while simultaneously carrying on his psychoanalytical work, looking for a position at a Swedish University. This, however, was something he never attained and, towards the end of his life, his sense of isolation in relation to the Swedish academic world made him question his decision to practice psychoanalysis. In retrospect he felt that it would have been better to have devoted himself to biological research. In an interview conducted when he was almost 90 years old – one of the few interviews that exist – Székely regretted that he had not pursued his neurobiological studies to become a researcher: “The progress in psychoanalysis is very slow. In effect, it remains in the same spot. I must admit that I still regret not becoming a biochemist. The most marked progress in modern science has been made in biochemistry and molecular biology.” Lajos Székely was trying to combine experimental psychology with psychoanalysis as well as trying to incorporate findings within the domain of ethological research into psychoanalytical theory. Székely’s interest in research was related to the psychoanalytic clinic, and his penetrating analysis of one of his patients makes reference to a tradition established by Freud. He tried to increase his knowledge of the conditions for creativity by combining psychoanalysis, experimental psychology, and ethology. In this context it is worth noticing that Freud’s own psychoanalytic studies aimed at understanding events where something had failed to work. This “failure” could manifest itself in the form of inhibitions or symptoms. Freud claimed that he was unable to understand creativity and found himself forced to lay down his arms before the problem of artistic brilliance.
There was another important psychoanalyst who fled to Sweden during the same period. Her name was Stefi Pedersen (1908-1980). She started her psychoanalytic training at the Psychoanalytic Institute in Berlin. Her first analysis was with Otto Fenichel, (1897-1946) whom she followed to Oslo in 1933. In 1943, still on the run from the Nazis, she escaped on foot, accompanied by a group of Jewish children, over a mountain ridge in northern Scandinavia to Sweden. Her second analysis was with René de Monchy. Pedersen became a member of the Psychoanalytic Society, which by then was called the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society. The Swedish group became an independent society in 1943, while the Finnish group was dissolved. The position Pedersen was to take was that of an independent writer. She felt an intellectual kinship with psychoanalytic thinkers as seemingly different as Alexander Mitscherlich (1836-1918), Erik Homburger Erikson (1902-1994) and Margaret Little (1901-1994) with whom she also maintained personal ties. Pedersen published articles and books in German, English, Norwegian, and Swedish on narcissism, humiliation and the psychological consequences of political terror. Her position as an outsider was reflected in her articles. Pedersen surrounded herself with an informal group of psychoanalysts and creative people.
In August 1943, Tore Ekman (1887-1971) returned to Sweden after almost 20 years in Leipzig and Berlin. In Leipzig, he held a position as lecturer at the University. Ekman was trained by Therese Benedek (1892-1977) and was close to the aforementioned Alfhild Tamm. Until his death he had an influential position in the Swedish Psychoanalytical Society. He had a comprehensive knowledge of Freud’s work and read him in German. However, he was rarely published and some of the Jewish Swedish psychoanalysts were, for obvious reasons, critical of his staying in Germany until August 1943. In the Swedish Society he held an often criticized position at the center of the power structure as well, where his influence was often felt.
A similarly prominent position in Swedish society was held by Carl Lesche (1920-1993). Born in Finland, Lesche was a philosopher of science who moved to Sweden in the early 1950s. Lesche was influenced by the philosophies of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) and Karl-Otto Apel. A primary focus of his work was the nature of psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline. Lesche delineated what, in his view, makes psychoanalysis a hermeneutic discipline in contrast to a natural scientific one, and he considered it important to differentiate psychoanalysis from psychotherapy. Lesche attracted disciples who acted as his spokesmen in different situations. They looked at his work as deeply original. For many years he was the leading Swedish psychoanalyst and trained some of the most influential third generation Swedish analysts. He was convinced that academic psychology did not understand the importance of psychoanalysis. He became a member of the Russian-Greek Orthodox Church and collected Gregorian music.
Historically, relatively few Swedish contributions to psychoanalytic thought have had an international impact. Outstanding exceptions are Ola Andersson’s doctoral dissertation, “Studies in the Prehistory of Psychoanalysis” from 1962, and the historian Gunnar Brandell’s essay “Freud, a Man of His Century”. Andersson uncovered the historical and philosophical context of the development of Freud’s ideas up to 1896, that is, to the point when psychoanalysis started to take the form of an independent discipline. He demonstrated Johann Friedrich Herbart’s (1776-1841) influence on Freud, and later he also carried out original research, leading to the verification of the true identity of Freud’s patient, Emmy von N. Ola Andersson and Gunnar Brandell (1916-1995) had participated in seminars organized by Professor Wilhelm Sjöstrand (1909-1989) at the Department of Education at Uppsala University. At that time, at Uppsala University, a select group of scholars worked together, and some of the members, like Andersson and Brandell, wrote important texts. This was also the period during which Michel Foucault (1926-1984) worked at the same university.

Psychotherapy for Children

In 1934, Ericastiftelsen [The Erica Foundation], a psychotherapeutic clinic for children, was founded by Hanna Bratt (1874-1959), a teacher. Eventually, a psychoanalytically oriented program was offered to teachers, paediatric psychiatrists and psychologists who wished to learn child psychotherapy. An early leader of the clinic was Gunnar Nycander (1900-1964), who was trained at the Swedish-Finnish Psychoanalytic Institute. He had undergone analysis with Ludwig Jekels and became a medical doctor in 1950. Another psychoanalyst, the physician Gösta Harding (1906-1976), trained in Stockholm, headed the Erica Foundation from 1945. For a brief period of time he was also the president of the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society. Relatively soon, however, he left the Society in a state of anger and frustration stemming from institutional conflicts. Both Nycander and Harding wrote books based on empirical material obtained through their work within the psychotherapeutic institution. They tried to connect empirical studies with psychoanalytical theory. In this way they were also looking for recognition from the University. Up to the 21st century, Nycander’s and Harding’s successors have all been psychoanalysts. And they have all worked to strengthen the relations between the University and the psychoanalytical movement.

Growth, Stagnation, Fluctuation and Renewal

Since the late 1960s, the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society has grown steadily; it currently numbers approximately 200 members. In 1982 and 1986, in response to an atmosphere characterized by deadlock and diminished creativity, the International Psychoanalytic Association made consulting visits to the Swedish Psychoanalytical Society. The members of the Society accomplished little theoretical work, and inner political conflicts had taken the forefront. Intellectual creativity had little place within the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society.
As in other Western European countries, Swedish university departments of Psychology and Psychiatry are rarely oriented towards psychoanalysis. A notable exception is the Department of Applied Psychology at Lund University. In the 1940s, a “percept-genetic” methodology for psychological testing was developed there. This technique exploits subliminal perception in order to study anxiety and psychological defence mechanisms. Professors Gudmund Smith, Ulf Kragh, and Alf Nilsson are the most prominent proponents of this tradition. They have published books and articles internationally, and in psychoanalytic journals (cf. Kragh & Smith, 1970) as well. They have also been in analysis. Moreover, Kragh had occasional patients in psychoanalysis while he simultaneously held professorships at the Department of Psychology in Oslo and in Lund. Smith, Kragh and Nilsson struggled to combine the psychoanalytical theory of the defence mechanism with experimental psychology.
In 1968, critical of the way in which therapeutic training was set up, Margit Norell, one of the members of the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society, left the society and formed the “Swedish Society for Holistic Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy”. Norell was subsequently expelled from the Holistic Society, and continued to work as an independent clinician and supervisor. One of her students, Barbro Sandin, has achieved international fame through her psychotherapeutic work with psychotic patients at Säter, a mental hospital in central Sweden.
The Holistic Society found ideological support in the work of neo-Freudians such as Erich Fromm (1900-1980), Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (1889-1957), Harry Stack Sullivan (1892-1949) and Otto Allen Will (1910-1993). The tenets of the Society were founded on a critical attitude towards certain aspects of the Freudian theory, e.g. the theories of infantile sexuality. Up to his death in 1976, Harold Kelman (1906-1977) of New York – Kelman was closely associated with Karen Horney (1885-1952) – was an important figure for the Holistic group. The group joined the non-IPA, the International Federation of Psychoanalytic Societies, in 1972. In recent years, the Holistic Society has oriented itself, step by step, towards the British object-relation schools as presented by Melanie Klein (1882-1960) and Wilfred Bion (1899-1980), and then returning back to Freud. After a period of collaboration on scientific matters with the Swedish Psychoanalytical Society, the Holistic Society has changed its name to The Swedish Psychoanalytical Association [Svenska Psykoanalytiska Sällskapet] and has applied for membership in the International Psychoanalytic Association on behalf of its 75 members. It became a provisional society at the international congress of psychoanalysis in Nice in 2001.
An interest in recent years in Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) and French psychoanalysis at the liberal arts departments at Sweden’s universities was preceded by the translation of a number of French structuralist philosophers and social thinkers into Swedish, such as Claude-Lévi Strauss, Louis Althusser (1918-1990), Roland Barthes (1915-1980), Michel Foucault and Julia Kristeva. Only a portion of Lacan’s own writings have been translated. A small selection, ten percent of his Ecrits, was edited by Iréne Matthis and published in 1989. In 2002, the journal Psykoanalytisk Tid/Skrift was founded. It is currently, for the first time in Sweden, publishing texts from the French psychoanalytical tradition.
In Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, psychoanalysts from the US and Latin America worked for short periods of time during the 1970s and 1980s, offering training in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy. In 1974, the “Gothenburg Psychotherapy Institute” was founded by Angel and Dora Fiasché, who had previously worked with, among others, Leon Grinberg and Enrique Pichon-Rivière (1907-1977). The Gothenburg Psychotherapy Institute–which, like the Holistic Society in its day, is not affiliated with the International Psychoanalytic Association–was established. The Gothenburg group continues to maintain a socialist orientation. It has approximately 40 members. Since the 1990s, a small group of psychoanalysts who are members–two of whom train analysts–or candidates of the Swedish Psychoanalytical Society are also active in Gothenburg. Apart from these institutions, there is, in Gothenburg, a group of intellectuals interested in Freud and the theoretical and clinical work of Jacques Lacan and other French psychoanalysts. Members of this group are affiliated with Freudianska Föreningen [The Freudian Association] and some of its members also work as university-level teachers. The Association has invited French scholars and psychoanalysts to Sweden.
Another group of psychoanalysts has emerged in the Malmö-Lund region in southern Sweden (the province of Skåne). In the early 1970s, these analysts were largely inspired by Nils Nielsen (1905-1990), an influential Swedish training analyst and his Danish colleague Reimer Jensen. The former worked in Copenhagen between 1949 and 1955 before he settled in Malmö. These analysts–approximately 20 members and 10 candidates–are members of both the Swedish Psychoanalytical Society and the Danish Psychoanalytical Society. Most were trained, or are currently pursuing psychoanalytic training, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and are active in the Psychoanalytical Institute there as well as in their own informal “Psychoanalytical Society of Skåne”

A Multifaceted Picture and an Ambiguous Future

At the turn of the most recent century, in Sweden as elsewhere, psychoanalysis was exposed to a renewed onslaught of criticism. In light of this, and in light of Freud’s own pessimistic view of psychoanalysis in Scandinavia in 1923, the strength of psychoanalysis in Sweden and the endurance of its followers must be regarded as a promising and intriguing inconsistency. At this time, Swedish psychoanalysts launched the largest psychoanalytic publication project in Sweden yet, an authorized and carefully edited translation of Freud’s collected works, published by Natur och Kultur. The history of psychoanalysis in Sweden is being written within the framework of the University; at the Department of the History of Ideas and Theory of Science at the University of Gothenburg. At the same time, the difference between psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy seems to become more and more blurred. Psychoanalysts place more and more stress on the similarity between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis; they also commonly train prospective psychotherapists.
In accordance with a decree in 1985, the authorization of psychotherapists by the state has left its mark on the thought and actions of Swedish psychoanalysts. In order to obtain the right for psychoanalysts to call themselves authorized psychotherapists, Swedish psychoanalytic associations have adjusted the scope of their training to accommodate the demands of the university system. Earlier, during the 1960s, the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society lobbied to obtain governmental authorization for psychoanalysts. These efforts never resulted in any such authorization.
At Swedish universities, cognitive and psycho-dynamic psychotherapy exist side by side. Clinical psychologists tend to be progressively more eclectic and pragmatic, while academic psychologists take no interest in psychoanalysis. Psychiatrists are mainly interested in psychopharmacology, and take an interest in Freud only in exceptional cases. In Sweden, analytic philosophy has exerted an enduring influence on academic philosophers. Discussions between psychoanalysts and philosophers have been few, and of short duration. What is in store for psychoanalysis in Sweden is uncertain. There are still people interested in going into psychoanalysis. A small number of psychoanalysts find it impossible to meet the demands of prospective patients, while the vast majority complain that they have too few analysands. However, the previously held expectation that psychoanalysis would be an effective treatment for a major part of the population has dwindled. A small number of Swedish psychoanalysts write books and articles dealing with essential and urgent issues, while the majority hesitate to put themselves through the arduous task of writing.


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Brandell, G. (1970) Freud och hans tid [Translation: Freud and His Time] (Stockholm: Bonniers).

Freud, S. (1914) On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement, SE,14, pp 7-66.

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Hanson, T. (1996) Karl Kraus och Strindberg [Translation: Karl Kraus and Strindberg] (Göteborg: Göteborgs Universitet).

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Kragh, U. & Smith, G. (1970) Percept-Genetic Analysis (Lund: Gleerups).

Lennmalm, F. (1893) “Om de så kallade traumatiska neuroserna” [Translation: On Traumatic Neuroses] (Stockholm: Hygiea).

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1 Toward the end of her career, Ottesen-Jensen became internationally famous. She propagated the knowledge she had acquired in Sweden in matters of family planning. The International Planned Parenthood Federation was founded in1953; Elise Ottesen-Jensen became its first president.

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European Journal of Psychoanalysis