Scholar Exhibits

The Grete L. Bibring Collection

Grete Lehner Bibring was born in Vienna on January 11, 1899. Inspired by Sigmund Freud's work in psychoanalysis, she became one of the very few female medical students at the University of Vienna in 1918, and one of the first psychiatrists to champion the need to incorporate psychoanalysis into the practice of medicine. She married a member of Freud's Vienna Psychoanalytic Society Edward Bibring in 1921. Leaving Austria after Nazi's takeover in 1938, they eventually settled in Boston in 1941, where Dr. Grete L. Bibring continued her medical career and became a chief of psychiatry at Boston Beth Israel Hospital and the first woman clinical professor at Harvard Medical School in 1961. The Boston postwar period was fruitful for both psychiatry and psychoanalysis, with more medical students entering psychiatry and more psychiatrists seeking analytic training. A change in the acceptance of psychoanalysis took place during the war, partly as a result of experiences with psychiatric casualties. Psychiatric services were established in general hospitals, and federal funds and private foundations supported psychiatric training and psychosomatic research. Bibrings’ arrival in Boston coincided with a new era in American psychiatry and medicine. The ground had been prepared by psychoanalysts like William Healy at the Judge Baker, Ives Hendrick at Boston Psychopathic, and Stanley Cobb at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Grete Bibring served as a president of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute from 1955 to 1958, president of the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1962, and vice president of the International Psycho-Analytical Association. In the early 1950’s, Grete Bibring initiated an important study of the psychological aspects of pregnancy at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Two papers summarizing the results of the study were published in the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child in 1961 (Vol. 16, p. 9-72). One of her major contributions to psychiatry was creation of different personality types to guide medical management of each patient. According to numerous accounts of her students, she was a brilliant teacher interested in bringing psychoanalytic ideas into a general medical setting. After she became emerita in 1965, Dr. Bibring continued to teach a special seminar at the Radcliffe Institute on the development of professional women. Between 1928 and 1976, Dr. Bibring published over thirty papers, in both medical and psychoanalytic journals, and as chapters in books edited by others. She co-authored, with Dr. Ralph M. Kahana, The Lectures in Medical Psychiatry (1969) and edited the The Teaching of Dynamic Psychiatry (1968). Several of her publications were on general hospital psychiatry and an important paper was on normal aging "Old Age, Its Liabilities and Assets" (1966). In 1975, she participated in a WGBH documentary television program, Psychoanalysis: A Personal View, where she was interviewed by Dr. Oliver Cope, MD. She also gave a major address at MIT on "Freud and the Understanding of Human Nature." Grete L. Bibring died on August 10, 1977 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Interview of Grete L. Bibring, M.D.

By Oliver Cope, M.D.

“Psychoanalysis: A Personal View”

WGBH, 1975

NARRATOR:

Dr. Bibring is an international figure in psychoanalysis. She was a student and colleague of Sigmund Freud, the first woman clinical professor at the Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Psychiatric Service at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. She is past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Dr. Cope is Professor of Surgery, Emeritus, at Harvard Medical School, and Senior Consulting Surgeon of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Today, Dr. Bibring and Dr. Cope will conduct an informal interview about some of her experiences as a psychoanalyst.

OLIVER COPE

Dr. Bibring, what an opportunity for me, a surgeon, to come and ask you about psychoanalysis. How come that you went into Medicine? 1918.

MRS. BIBRING

Nineteen-eighteen. Now, it’s hard for me to say exactly why I chose Medicine, but I can try. You know, I was in [ ] Gymnasium, eighteen years and we went in that period over most areas eclectic, to be learned about, so that [ ] anymore think about Greek and Latin, we went into History and into Natural Sciences, Physics and Mathematics, practically everything one could really consider. So that means that eight years, from 10 to 18, there came the opportunity to choose to decide. And finally I decided Medicine it is, and it stayed for good.

OLIVER COPE

So you went into Medicine—did you know you were going to go into Psychiatry when you started in Medicine? This was just at the end of World War I.

MRS. BIBRING

Now, I heard about Freud two years before I went to medical school. In the gymnasium I was pretty young, seventeen, and it was in the seventh grade in Psychology class, and one of the students got up and told us that her father, a physician in Vienna, had played cards with a friend, Dr. Freud, every Saturday, and Freud told him and the other men in the group that academic psychology figured out some very important parts of what is going on psychologically in people and what motivates them, and what influences their lives, though they are not aware of it. And he called these factors unconscious factors. Now, I was very curious, and on my way home I dropped in at [ ], who was then the publisher of Freud and asked for some of his writings, and he gave me Wit and Its Relationship to the Unconscious. I didn’t like it at all. It was confusing; it wasn’t even interesting but I didn’t give up. I went back and asked for another book. At that time, he gave me The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Now, that was very different—thought provoking—it was very interesting.

OLIVER COPE

And you were still a gymnasium student.

MRS. BIBRING

In the seventh grade. Two years later I was in medical school, and I remember very well, I was sitting in my Anatomy Lecture between two returned veterans of the First World War, it had just ended. It was 1918. Their names were Edward Bibring and Madame Reich. Both of them became rather known in this country and abroad later on. Now, a little note was passed around and on it was written “Those colleagues who want to know more about certain subjects which are not taught in medical school, or are not taught well, should stay back after the lecture.” Signed, Otto Fenichel, also a man who became very known as a leading psychoanalyst later on.

I told my two neighbors I was very interested in it. This man is very good, I knew him from the time we played in the sandbox together and somehow he always stayed there. Then there was another student who wanted to become an endocrinologist and somebody wanted to go into internal medicine. And we set up a seminar-a new seminar-to study these things.

Just you students?

It was all five.

OLIVER COPE

Bibring, and Fenichel, and you.

MRS. BIBRING

No, and two others, which, they got lost and then one went to endocrinology and one into internal medicine. Now, we set up a seminar and used them not to bring the books and we started with very conservative things, with textbooks on endocrinology, and then we read [Friese?], who was a close friend of Freud but didn’t know about that, who had the most interesting idea about human physiology-not a correct one, but interesting.

Then, I think, we read Havelock Ellis’s The Psychology of Sex. And then we had an assignment to report Freud’s contribution to the theory of sex, and the student who had to review it, was Edward Bibring. Now, he came back to our seminar, and he said, “Most interesting, and most important book.” And I piped up and I really got quite embarrassed about this remark the older I got and then I got old enough not to be embarrassed but amused and touched by this very famous man, and a very great man. I read some of his writings. Now, you mustn’t forget, I was a youngster of seventeen. I’d read two books, whereas these men who were [ ] me as my elders, were in the war, [ ] another war in Russia and I was in the luxury of literature and science and could do whatever fed my . . .

OLIVER COPE

And nineteen at the time.

MRS. BIBRING

That’s right. So, nobody handed it in for a mark. And we went on, and we were working very hard on it, setting up more and more of these studies, which was later on when we became psychoanalysts, called “The Seminar of the Children”. We were the children at that time. So this is how I got into it.

OLIVER COPE

When did you first meet Freud?

MRS. BIBRING

I think at that time already, not only Freud but the other analysts, too, what we did, and maybe there were additional men, I don’t know, whether it still exists, every doctor had office hours set aside, one or two hours in the afternoon, and you could come to them without a carefully arranged appointment. So we went to analysts whose books we’d read, including Freud, and asked him simply, “What does that mean?” “What does he advise we should read after it?” And sometimes we simply debated. And you know, it was in the 1920s, early, there was no Institute in Vienna.

OLIVER COPE

Was this characteristic of the student body? Were there other groups like yours doing, in a sense, original, investigated on your own?

MRS. BIBRING

I don’t know. I think they’re all like that. I remember concentrating on what were they doing. For instance . . .

OLIVER COPE

Of course, this wasn’t outlined for you. You had no professor and no course telling you to do this. This was your own initiative.

MRS. BIBRING

There was no Institute; we were not spoiled with a theme and programs. We found it quite in order to let in four students that were Stanton [?], Reich, the two people but were married to each other, to be invited by Freud to be guests and definitely not psychoanalysts, but some of them eventually became. And this is how we met him and this is how our professional lives started.

OLIVER COPE

When was the Institute founded? Or was there never a psychoanalytic institute . . .

MRS. BIBRING

think, you know, if I had known what you’d ask, I would have asked and whatever, looked it up. But I think it was about 1926. Helene Deutsch, who had her clinic in Berlin, would come back to us and told us about an institute in Berlin and how it functioned, and we thought we should have an institute. So we established an institute, making Helene Deutsch the first chairman of the Education Committee; and then we did something very improper. We felt we had no credentials, no formal credentials, so we thought we should have certificates for us. We have a young faculty, never trained but by ourselves, and we really printed certificates, and five of them were issued, signed by Freud and I. [?] Gottschalk and then we all found that this was improper. We discarded all the other certificates. Nobody else got them. Because that is not right. But these five or six [ ], my comrades andIwere[ ]

OLIVER COPE

The Institute therefore was not in any sense formally a part of the university?

MRS. BIBRING

No.

OLIVER COPE

Did the university recognize what was going on?

MRS. BIBRING

There was a lot of fight against, aversion against Freud, psychoanalysis.

OLIVER COPE

Was he kept out of the local medical society?

MRS. BIBRING

Yes. I tell you, we had a great scandal when we first reported the theory of hysteria, and then the sex problem came up, and it was a real scandal in the medical society. This was really why he could never progress in his career as far as the university was concerned. We all were really somehow looked upon as a little bit outcast. The funny thing is, that my love was Anatomy. It was so clean and so clear and so informative, and I really slowly got more and more into medicine but I had this [ ] to [ ].

OLIVER COPE

But Freud started as an anatomic neurologist, also studying anatomy in detail. Neural anatomy.

MRS. BIBRING

But in the last two years of my medical school, Dr. Cope, I matriculated in Philosophy, too. You know, we were not quite as natural scientists as you very often are when you go into Medicine. We were feminists.

OLIVER COPE

There was not at that time a prescribed course?

MRS. BIBRING

Yes, in Medicine, yes. But we didn’t keep to it completely, we’d go apart from it but found it important and interesting.

[Coffee is served. Brief chitchat back and fourth about whether to take sugar and is the coffee okay, etc.]

OLIVER COPE

You became a member—you were a member of the Institute, and then along came Hitler, and the Institute disbanded, or couldn’t work under Hitler’s time?

MRS. BIBRING

First of all, the Institute disbanded because it was complicated, but there was a small core of underground analysts who stayed in Vienna. Now, let me try to tell you how this thing developed. We all stayed for all kinds of reasons—responsibilities, or work, or loyalties—we all knew that it would come. We weren’t naïve.

OLIVER COPE

Because there were Jews among the analysts, but also because of the process, the actual analytic processes which would be devastating to any political body that was trying to, well, to . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Sure. But, you know, we had occasion—1936, already— to go to Detroit, to set up an institute, and we felt we couldn’t do that. You know, you couldn’t just run away. So we stayed. And I remember, the second my husband would even run, and keep everything. But we run with a light heart. That was the test. So it was breaking the heart, too.

Now, I can’t vouch for Freud’s motives but he was 82 and probably didn’t want to be uprooted, and probably hoped, from what he said sometimes, that to stay there might protect the Institute, the publishing house, the documents. He was completely wrong. So, come to Vienna. Don’t.

OLIVER COPE

From London? Ernest Jones.

MRS. BIBRING

From London. He persuaded Freud to come to London. Freud insisted that he would go only when some of his editors would also go. So Jones promised the coming emigration be done.

OLIVER COPE

Jones had been a student, years earlier? Now, this is 1938, that Jones came? But Jones was not a contact man. As a psychiatrist, he had been a student in the ‘20s with Freud?

MRS. BIBRING

I don’t know exactly when. But he was very active for a long time in the United States, and [he continues], really, to a certain extent. And Putnam . . . 11

OLIVER COPE

But Putnam was a part of the Symposium at Worcester, at Clark University that was organized by the then president of Clark. But Freud somehow didn’t like the United States.

MRS. BIBRING

No, he didn’t. I remember once, even I remember, it wasn’t against American people personally. It was against something which wasn’t so wrong, this kind of, what he felt its business bent, and the fear that the Nazis would become part of it for a certain period and . . .

OLIVER COPE

And it almost did. And he could sense that in American medicine. Wasn’t it 1910 that he came to Worcester? 1910-1920.

MRS. BIBRING

Nineteen nine.

OLIVER COPE

And somehow he was cut off.

MRS. BIBRING

I remember once this little anecdote. We had a meeting in his house and he came in with a letter. He was a very written man, with a letter, and showed us the letter, the appearance of the letter. And there was a slit and the tiny things were slipped into it. The letter was asking the famous professor to send his signature to under, whatever the signed, and to put in ten cents for the stamps.

OLIVER COPE

For the postage.

MRS. BIBRING

So somehow it’s part of something that he didn’t like. But I think he was . . .

OLIVER COPE

You’re saying, ‘engrossed’ in what he was doing. That he didn’t . . .

MRS. BIBRING

That’s right. He was afraid that he would miss something between—just before the marketplace, at least he didn’t study the marketplace, but it doesn’t function well in the marketplace.

OLIVER COPE

Yes. We must come back to your own experience when you reached this country, because we still, as a country, at least in the medical profession, are quite suspicious of psychoanalysis, really, aren’t we? He must have sensed that somehow.

But first now, you were in Vienna and then you were invited to Detroit, but in 1936.

MRS. BIBRING

We didn’t go. [ ] come in winter. You know, I still can’t ... it’s in ... because it is singular.

OLIVER COPE

Well, there were two of you, so you had two visas.

MRS. BIBRING

We had a common visa. Okay, however, and the interesting thing was . . .

OLIVER COPE

I think our audience ought to know something about your Latin. You told me some time ago that when you were in medical school, the professors still, when they were talking about the disease before the patient, is that they talked in Latin. That was, theoretically, so that the patient wouldn’t be worried about what you were talking about. Well, you had to be conversant, fluent in Latin as a medical student.

MRS. BIBRING

Well, eighteen years, every day, for an hour.

OLIVER COPE

So we understand why you don’t like us to talk about visas.

MRS. BIBRING

Exactly. Exactly.

OLIVER COPE

All right. That’s an extraordinary cultural difference, because American medicine never had this cultural inhibition, if you will.

MRS. BIBRING

No, I understand. I understand and can remember, once we were on a curriculum, outside of—what was this place? Not Endicott House?

OLIVER COPE

Yes, Endicott House.

MRS. BIBRING

And I wrote in Greek. [ ], because the whole group talked about natural sciences and medicine, and nobody cared for the [psyche?]. And they said something very drastic. I had to go upstairs to take my seat, and I heard Dr. Cope say in this particular facetious way of his, he said: “Dr. Bibring had the audacity to write something here on the table which nobody in the house understands what it means.”

OLIVER COPE

[Laughs]. Well, I, I’m afraid . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Now, okay, what was your question?

OLVIER COPE

Well, I wanted to get you to Boston. You were invited to Detroit in 1936, but for various reasons you felt this was not wise, but when Jones . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Wise, but not proper.

OLIVER COPE

Because you would be coming alone and forsaking . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Well, you know, there is something to that.

OLIVER COPE

Yes, and so you stayed, and then when Jones came with the home office from England inviting Freud and you as a group . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Some of his editors.

OLIVER COPE

His editors.

MRS. BIBRING

And now, my husband was one of them. And all these editors, interestingly enough, were married to psychoanalytic ladies. So they were couples.

OLIVER COPE

Well, sort of an ‘in-group’, you might say. At any rate, as a body, you went to England. Then in London you joined a group of psychiatrists or analysts who were already practicing analytic type, and then came war.

MRS. BIBRING

Yeah. One year, the work was beautiful. Then came the war. Freud died in ’39. The publishing house was bombed. Most of the—not most but a large percentage of the British psychoanalysts—at least in the break—evacuated themselves.

OLIVER COPE

Your two boys, when the war came, your two boys were evacuated to the country but you and Dr. Edward Bibring had to stay, for professional reasons, in London.

MRS. BIBRING

That’s right, and that was really what bothered me most. They were so serious when the break started. But we really expected that our boys might not see her over the weekend anymore. And then the German invasion was threatened. So [Grovalt?] offered, seriously, that if something happened to us, he would adopt the children. Now, a woman colleague of ours, Minnie Hoffer [?], who had died in the meantime, became an air raid warden, and every morning we went around, either by telephone or personally, to friends to see whether they are still there. This was the situation and then one day, an invitation for my husband to come to Tufts Medical School. Warren Stearns had invited him with an appointment.

OLIVER COPE

Dr. Stearns, who was Professor of Neurology at Tufts Medical School at that time. Now, your good husband was attached to Tufts. How did you become attached to Harvard? You came in 1942.

MRS. BIBRING

Forty-one.

OLIVER COPE

Forty-one. Now, I think our audience ought to know, that although there had been one woman, Dr. Alice Hamilton, who was a professor of Industrial Medicine in the Public Health School, you are the first woman to have been appointed a professor of Medicine, professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. Now, how did that happen?

MRS. BIBRING

Circumstances at that time, partly. You know, when we came, we had a number of friends here, former students, colleagues. It was delightful to come to Boston and suddenly to discover how many of our friends were here, and they told us, introduced us into their many ways of life. Now, the interesting thing was that they told us, here in the United States, a doctor gives some service to the hospital. Now, that wasn’t our habit. What we did, we had our own psychoanalytic outpatient clinic which we supported ourselves. It was very interesting and we were told that the Beth Israel Hospital, which is a first-rate hospital, has an outpatient—that that outpatient wing which is almost exclusively occupied by psychoanalysts in Boston. Now, we were in the outpatient clinic during the war. And so many of our colleagues had to go into service, and somehow they appointed me as the Acting Head of the Outpatient Clinic.

Now, in the health offices, where interns and residents, [ ] because they had so little teaching, all the big names, they’re gone. So they now came to me and said that I will teach them how my specialty fits into Medicine. So I was very glad to do so. Now, this was something which I didn’t expect to turn out so beautifully. I taught them but the only hour read was from 1:00 to 2:00. Now, they all came and sat down, and half of them fell asleep, because it was after lunch and they were so overworked. So I talked to the other half, and I was sympathetic with them. The next time, the other half was asleep, and some of them were awake, so I acquired the habit of summarizing what I had done the time before. Now, this they never, never forgot. They really became a favorite of theirs, apart from the fact that I think the lectures were really interesting. It’s quite excited over it.

So when Dr. Blumguard became the new Physician in Chief, returning from India after the war, he brought with him some observation, that most of the soldiers, apart from their physical illnesses, had severe psychological disturbances. He had this genius idea that psychiatry really belongs into a general hospital.

OLIVER COPE

That was not until ’48, then.

MRS. BIBRING

It was ’46.

OLIVER COPE

Forty-six, oh yes, because his war service in part had been in India.

MRS. BIBRING

And I said “No.” You know, I wanted to go back. I told him, I said, I don’t know enough about American hospitals. I have never run a department. I can’t push people around if I know less than they do. And he said so, constantly, he repeated it, “It’s all for the better.” And finally he said something which stopped me in my flight. He said, “You know, this is the way you psychoanalysts always are. When we try to do something psychological with our sick patients, you look down your noses, and you say it’s all wrong. And we say, ‘Come and help us.’ You say, ‘Sorry, I’m too busy.’” And I knew he was right! And it bothered me. And I also admired this exact, wonderful, psychological gimmick he had, to hit me where I’m vulnerable. You know, years later, it turned out that it wasn’t a gimmick. He really meant what he said.

OLIVER COPE

It was an extraordinary thing, and I don’t know that you can really evaluate today what you contributed at that time.

MRS. BIBRING

I hope I contributed something.

OLVIER COPE

Well, of course you did. And it was an extraordinary awakening. I have to say it is an awakening because brought up here as a medical student in the ‘20s, then as a young doctor in the ‘30s, we were really—the profession was anti-psychiatric, and anti-women. You know that story about ...

MRS. BIBRING

No I don’t.

OLIVER POPE

You know that when the war came, as the war approached in 1941 just at the time you arrived, there was a thought that maybe Harvard Medical School should admit women. And then the war broke, President Conant felt it clear that it should be considered and he appointed a faculty committee. I had the opportunity of being the youngest member of a committee of six. The chairman of it was the older professor of pathology, Dr. Wolbach. And the meetings of the committee consisted really of finding out how many women were actually in practice who had graduated, and they were in a respectable number. And so, he felt that, five of six of the committee felt, it was quite clear that women should be admitted to the Harvard Medical School and Dr. Wolbach felt it was an emotional attitude, and we came to the faculty meeting, really unprepared to meet specific objections or points. At any rate, the committee proposed to the university and to the faculty, that women be admitted.

Early 1942, just after you arrived. And there were twelve opponents, and there were double the number, approximately 24 who were for it—of course, including Dr. Blumguard and the Dean, who was a very considerate, thoughtful, mild-mannered man, and Dr. Wislocki, whose wife was a doctor and there were many strong voices for the admission of women.

The senior surgeon of the time, who was the anatomist, by the way—the surgical anatomist—said he was sorry; women had no place as doctors because everybody knows that in the animal kingdom the intelligence of an animal is directly proportional to the weight of the brain. Rats, all the way up to monkeys, and then human beings. And there was no dispute about that. Women’s brains . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Are smaller.

OLIVER COPE

. . . are a hundred grams smaller than men’s; therefore, it’s perfectly clear that women are not as intelligent as men.

MRS. BIBRING

And they believed him?

OLIVER COPE

No. No, they fought over it. He, poor man, got very angry and had almost a disastrous hemorrhage the next day. He had an ulcer and he nearly bled to death. But there was an interesting alignment in the faculty: the twelve voices 23 against it were all professors of surgery. But we didn’t have sense enough to ask, I should have asked those who were against it, had they really looked at the number of cells in the brain. After all, the capacity of the brain must depend not upon its weight but upon its number of cells, and after all, women’s hands are smaller, their feet are smaller, they’re just as good hands to use as ours, and why isn’t your brain just as good? It might have more cells actually because it has more to do in the physiologic sense than man’s.

But at any rate, there was an awakening which was coming just at the time to which you unquestionably contributed at the Beth Israel. There’s no doubt that those students, those house officers as you have—

MRS. BIBRING

It’s an interesting thing, you know.

OLIVER COPE

It’s as if the man’s eyes were opened to what women might contribute. And so you were properly honored by being made the first woman professor.

Though there are a lot of things now that we need to know. Am I right that our profession doubts, really, the usefulness of psychoanalytical medicine as compared to so- called straight psychiatry? Is that true; do you feel it?

MRS. BIBRING

I don’t think so. I don’t think that they—what do you call our profession—the psychiatrists?

OLIVER COPE

No, I’m talking about medicine in general. Internists, orthopedists, surgeons . . .

MRS. BIBRING

I don’t think that they believe in psychiatry either. You know, it’s a very difficult field. Even if they accept it, the proper, the house-broken psychiatry, has very little to offer. Now you know what we go through with shock and medication and surgery—brain surgery.

OLIVER COPE

But why is it that the medical profession in general finds it hard to accommodate analytic psychiatry in its view of medicine?

MRS. BIBRING

Because the doctors think they are closest to God. And they know everything, and they are always against new ideas, which they hadn’t applied themselves. You have to think of Semmelweis; you have to think of Mesmer, of Freud; that is, they are all from the orthodox group. And they understand, you know, they have to know and they have really that life, the responsibility for the life of people it makes them. More reach it, number one. Number two, it’s a field for which you have to be gifted. It isn’t something which you can just learn by rote. You have to have a feeling for people. This is not so good, you know, that’s not scientific. And then they anecdote the thing, etcetera.

And I’ll tell you one thing which has always impressed me. People just don’t know what analysis is. They know people who taught it, applied it in their fields, in their daily language and have no idea what it really represents. And they attack it. Even scientists. Scientists really write against it and use it and are not aware of it.

OLIBER COPE

Could you give us an example of . . . we quoted—you pointed out that we quote analytic psychiatry, Freudian psychiatry, in our everyday language. It’s become part of our accepted language.

MRS. BIBRING

But it’s always misunderstood!

OLIVER COPE

Give us an example of a misunderstood quote.

MRS. BIBRING

For instance, it’s not any more since we are not

certified any longer, but you could come to a cocktail party and clearly somebody telling a dream to somebody else and the somebody else said, “Ohhh, you wanted to kill your wife?” No, they didn’t even know that the top thing has nothing to do with what is underneath. You know, at least they understood a little bit, that the dream has a significance. But they didn’t understand how to cut it. Or, transference . . .

OLIVER COPE

Transference, yes.

MRS. BIBRING

Or, they’re so nice, they find an analyst. There’s a joke, you know, about the analysts. A couch—The couch— they have no idea what it is there for.

OLIVER COPE

Yes, the shrink. Couch refers particularly to the analyst.

MRS. BIBRING

Cartoons. There’s the couch, there’s the patient, there’s the analyst with a beard, a pad, and a certificate on the wall over the patient. Now, first we don’t all have beards. Second, we don’t put our certificate—and we don’t have a pad. Only when we want to make a special note for something, if we work on something, or young candidate in trainings, writes down because they are afraid when they come to their supervisors they have forgotten. However, the couch is no joke. It’s a relaxing thing which we want to introduce. We don’t want the patient to sit and look at us thewaywelookatour[ ] and then say what we think is acceptable and what isn’t. This is our whole, most important tool. We call it free association. That the patient relaxes, looks inward, and says what comes out. This is why the analyst sits behind him, so that he doesn’t scan his face; and the analyst can do what is his main obligation, to listen very carefully and not to try to control his expressions.

Now, this listening carefully means he doesn’t do anything. I had a patient who came to me, and when he was on the couch for the first time, he said, “Dr. Bibring, are you one of those analysts where the patient detects after two years that the doctor was dead two years ago already?” So I said, “No. With me, you will find out after one year.” [Laughs.] And then we started a very fruitful analysis.

OLIVER COPE

I can see that this is an area where the other members of the medical profession failed to grasp—of course, they’re so used to being right in the middle of things, and you’re trying to remove yourself as a personality. And any troubles—because you’re not in the middle of it, you’re not trying to influence it. At what point do you decide to try to influence your patient? Or do you never . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Oh yes. I don’t try to influence, I try to offer a suggestion, what we call an interpretation. At the time when we feel that the pattern has come close together, it makes sense what he said last time and what he said in the first hour and what he said today. And we feel we understand something and the patient can understand [ ]. We don’t throw it at him just because we think it’s right. If we are good analysts, you understand.

OLIVER COPE

Now, this is something that’s very hard for the profession to get, because we expect when we talk to our children that when we say, “Do it this way, now don’t do it that way,; do it this way,” that that will straighten it out.

MRS. BIBRING

That’s right. But look here, there’s such a difference in the overall technique of the medical person and in the overall technique of the psychoanalyst. You know, we keep things in abeyance. As I said, the first thing and the present thing and his symptom all have to stay there until we think we see the pattern. You doctors go whoooff, like that. You know? This doesn’t belong, this doesn’t belong, this doesn’t belong—you go as to what is useful at this moment. This is this kind what some doctors call their tunnel thinking, and we’re thinking this kind.

OLIVER COPE

Well, you brought up a very—I want to bring you to another point, but you brought up something very important about dreams, and I want to be sure I understand it correctly. You saw the superficial aspects, where the dream was and what you actually did may not be the real issue. You said it was below. Now does that mean that there’s an anxiety, or does that mean . . .

MRS. BIBRING

It’s something—a censorship.

OLIVER COPE

A censorship did you say? Censorship imposed by a parent?

MRS. BIBRING

By life, by adjustment—you know, we all have our ideas what we don’t want to wish or to feel or to think.

OLIVER COPE

And dreams give you—two or three or four dreams, one after another, you may see a common denominator. Or is that too quick?

MRS. BIBRING

It’s too quick. First of all, we have associations, what we call free. We let the patient see what comes up when he talks about his dream, with the idea that it leads to the thing which he holds down. Now, in real life, day life, we hold down much more than when we are asleep.

OLIVER COPE

Anybody who’s watched his dreams . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Sure, they come up much more. But still camouflaged, so that we try to get under it. Sometimes it comes directly—quite simple things. I give you a dream a few days ago—an anecdote. A person who hates his boss, and the boss hates him. Hates his boss. He has a dream. He’s a very good man, by the way. He has a dream where he sits at the desk of his boss and the boss sits at the chair with a pad and takes down what the patient says. And the patient is [ ] the dream and they both laugh heartily and it’s all in the greatest friendship. Now, you know he has demoted that hated man but not quite to the point that he didn’t take the sting out. It was all very funny, very nice, you know. So one thing we did in the dream, we shift around. Or can give you relationship between children, parents.

OLIVER COPE

Now, you’ve given a little glimpse of what you drive at in a dream—transference, which is another common thing. What does it mean?

MRS. BIBRING

[Kluning?] calls it the psychoanalytic slang. People use transference in a very odd way. For instance, they ask someone who says he’s in analysis, “Have you already a transference?” What do they mean? “Are you in love with your analyst?” Transference means that and many more. You can help your analyst lot of times, for instance. You can suspect your analyst out of times, for instance. And I tell you what it really means. We keep, as you know, very much out, incognito. We don’t intrude our personality or point of views into the thoughts of our patients.

OLIVER COPE

You try not to, but you do, don’t you?

MRS. BIBRING

Well, naturally, naturally.

OLIVER COPE

But you can’t help it.

MRS. BIBRING

No, but we can’t help, help it. And there’s a reality, too. However, we try not to disturb the transference, namely, a patient in this work with his memories and his deep feelings somehow brings up old, important relationships and depicts it in his relationship to the analyst, who he doesn’t know, really, who permits him to be bad, or wants to poison him—because that is what comes up—this is transference. And it is extremely manageable, because there he can see in reality feelings which he has completely repressed and brushed aside since childhood.

OLIVER COPE

Would you call-would you think of that patient you talked about who hates his boss—is it proper to say he has a negative transference to his boss?

MRS. BIBRING

Yes, too. You have to have transference all your life, only it isn’t used and it isn’t as intense.

OLIVER COPE

And it is this kind of tense friendship . . .

MRS. BIBRING

You transfer, you choose your life according to your mother. You know, this is all transference. This is a phenomenon which we reserve for a psychoanalytic relationship which revives old ideas to this authority figure.

OLIVER COPE

You’re not really to be limited to psychiatric relationship.

MRS. BIBRING

We do . . .

OLIVER COPE

Otherwise you terminate, like in qualitative, like a friendship. Or a dependence.

MRS. BIBRING

Well, I’ll tell you, whatever it is, it can be very nice and cozy. Whatever, you know you are so influenced by early experience. Positive and negative ones, you know? You can have a brutal brother, and you are unable to speak up in front of any strong male in later life. This is also transference, only it’s not used, but when you make your analyst, who is a nice woman, and start talking to a bully, strong man, that is transference.

OLIVER COPE

Yes. I’d like to ask how much time we have. I have no idea what time it is. I have in mind, because Dr. Bibring wants to come at the end, to a very special question. And I’ve not broached that area. Let’s keep right on going. Well, now that would be better if we kept going. All right. How do you explain—it relates to common, everyday things today—the difficulties and the worries that women have about their rights and women’s rights, rights of minorities? How do you yourself see the—how you became the first woman clinical professor in the medical school. See, well, I just feel that it’s—nobody can really see how that happens, and yet it’s enormously important in a day when we think we’ve got to struggle for everything. You have not described to me as you were talking about your early days in the outpatient in the Beth Israel and then having seminars or house offices with some students, and then Herman Blumguard, the professor of medicine, hearing about you on his return from India after the war, and then consulting you. You described something that just seemed to be a natural. And yet, you’re a woman.

MRS. BIBRING

Look here, it’s very hard to know really, but I can try analyst to boot.

MRS. BIBRING

Look here. I have been asked that many times, and it’s very hard to really come down to what it is. I can give you a few ideas I have. First of all, I think I take my job What’s more, a psychiatrist! Who worked, and an very seriously. And I don’t like gaps in my knowledge which one could fill. And my husband and I, we had a joking but very realistic statement when we didn’t understand something in our field very well. We decided to get a course on it. Number one, it’s very good, very helpful. Number two, I always did my homework. I don’t slough off things, really. I can’t live with myself when I’m sloppy in that form. Number three, perhaps because I was a foreigner, perhaps because I didn’t fit into anything quite, you mustn’t disregard; perhaps you might, as a woman and as a foreigner, and with everything, what the others are not.

OLIVER COPE

And when you came to the Beth Israel, there was no other doctor who was in the field of psychoanalysis.

MRS. BIBRING

Yes, the whole outpatient clinic.

OLVIER COPE

So it wasn’t the fact that you were unique.

MRS. BIBRING

I don’t know how many there were, but quite a number of these experienced Boston psychoanalysts, so we just joined them. We were, I think, really senior to most of them. Most of the people were our students, somehow, somewhere, you know? However, they liked us, respected us, they could learn from us, we could learn from them. So, there were a number of them, really. Now, what else shall I tell you that might have spoken in favor of it? IO think there was one thing and I think it was a major thing. I simply didn’t know that it isn’t done.

OLIVER COPE

You didn’t know, you didn’t put up a fight.

MRS. BIBRING

I didn’t notice it at the time.

OLIVER COPE

And you didn’t exhibit any undue aggressiveness.

MRS. BIBRING

I hope not.

OLIVER COPE

Well, I was thinking, maybe if you had “This I want” and “This I’m up against”—well, I was conjecturing that perhaps you were . . . [ ] and sets up barriers, and you just . . .

MRS. BIBRING

First of all, I don’t mind little disadvantages, really, I’m not sensitive. Yes, but in very other fields. For disrespect, yes; but for lack of knowledge, no. And I probably was quite flexible, and I just didn’t think of it.

OLIVER COPE

Would you be willing to give a little advice as a result of this experience? For women who feel neglected and unappreciated, and that chauvinist males . . .

MRS. BIBRING

I’m very hesitant because I know here, coming from a patriarchic environment in Vienna, I learned here about the way women feel about their position and I do believe that here things have gotten out of hand. Because I remember when I had so many friends in the medical school, in the institute, most of them were men. And something came to my attention, very unpleasantly. We had many guests. They were very interesting people and they were interested people and we had discussions on everything. They came with their wives. And all these women were college graduates, and didn’t open their mouth. And I was the only woman, and I was embarrassed because I was the hostess. At least there was something in that family pattern which obviously never came to my attention in my own home.

In Vienna, I was taken for granted, like another student, and I never thought of it. I was a maverick, probably. Because when I went to medical school, there were perhaps five women in medical school. I found it delightful that there were so many men but in my seminar, the Harvard seminar, two young, intelligent women felt worried because they went into medical school in a Harvard/MIT combination, and there were 25 other students or something like that and they were worried because there were so few women to hold their hands. And I was delighted that there were so few women in the medical school, because everybody liked you and tried to do something. It didn’t bother me. There’s something here, and I think it’s advertisement. It’s the shampoo, it’s the stroking oneself and being so lovely.

OLIVER COPE

Going way back to hysteria and the origins of the word ‘hysterical’, as a result of the experiences that force them sometimes into hysterical positions—do women have anything special to contribute to the field of psychiatry, as compared to a man?

MRS. BIBRING

I tell you, it’s a quite interesting thing, because what happened when the movement started, the liberation movement, I had a number of urgent calls and the people wanted to talk to me but in my seminar, the Harvard seminar, two young, intelligent women felt worried because they went into medical school in a Harvard/MIT combination, and there were 25 other students or something like that and they were worried because there were so few women to hold their hands. And I was delighted that there were so few women in the medical school, because everybody liked you and tried to do something. It didn’t bother me. There’s something here, and I think it’s advertisement. It’s the shampoo, it’s the stroking oneself and being so lovely.

OLIVER COPE

Going way back to hysteria and the origins of the word ‘hysterical’, as a result of the experiences that force them sometimes into hysterical positions, do women have anything special to contribute to the field of psychiatry as compared to a man?

MRS. BIBRING

I tell you, it’s a quite interesting thing. Because what happened when the movement started, the liberation movement, I had a number of urgent calls and the people who wanted to talk to me were women, young women in the liberation movement, and they came always armed with Freud’s writing on women. Now, they ask me, “How could you work with such a man?” I never thought of it! I mean, he appreciated us, he made no distinction, but he had a certain theory about women that they have a weaker conscience (meaning Super Ego) on the basis of their special anatomical difference, etc. I don’t want to go into all that. I just tell you that he saw women of the turn of the century. Deeply repressed, deeply frustrated, playful, nothing to do. Even my patients were already completely different. And he collaged a theory about what he thought he saw. He always used clinical observations to form a theory. He gave it up when he found that he was wrong. And later on, with the new lectures, etc., he said, “Probably I don’t understand women.” Or the specific. And it might need women analysts to help us out. Now, I don’t think it needs women analysts if that were the case. I wouldn’t understand men patients either., This is not really necessary, if you are a free person, if you can look at things, listen carefully, and appreciate what the patient tells you.

OLIVER COPE

That brings us into a whole of—obviously there are physical differences in the way man and woman has biologically is different, but you’re saying there’s no reason why a man couldn’t understand the full concepts of a woman, understand what the biologic differences might produce in the way of different thinking. That isn’t quite fair, not thinking, I mean concepts and the same way that the woman, there’s no inhibition to her intellectual power to understand man’s thinking.

MRS. BIBRING

No, I think here to put two things now together. I don’t know, do you talk about theory about women? Or do you talk now about Madam Mark, and I don’t think it has to be a woman to understand the woman. Because I could communicate with any man what I think, a specific female, or that women can tell it to you, and if you are a person who can listen, you will understand it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t understand you, either. Because you are a man, you have different needs, I’m fully aware of the difference we need.

OLIVER COPE

What I’m puzzled over, is how the tradition, the thinking of man and woman, are different. How that has come into being and how one, if it’s wrong, how can one go about dispelling it? It’s giving us trouble now.

MRS. BIBRING

Ah, you touch on something very complicated. I tell you why. There are differences in the emotional reaction but if I get into that now, I can just highlight it. I do believe women usually are closer to childhood, to emotions because their whole biological function somehow directs them that way and certain things in a woman might be very influenced by these little yet-unproduced caretaking, if I make myself understood and clear. There’s a tendency in women to foster this.

You know, for instance, I have observed that women— this is all very forbidden as far as liberation is concerned—I have observed that women who had some training, then got married, gave up their work, had children, and didn’t find the need for something. Very often they are in community service, schools, art. You understand? Perhaps somehow they apply. I don’t say there is a mother instinct, I don’t believe that, but something in a woman which is inclined and doesn’t shut it off— perhaps you may try not to just be soft, perhaps you could also go into community service (and they do it now more, by the way).

OLIVER COPE

Modern society, present-day society hasn’t placed man quite in that same position. He doesn’t have to give up for the bearing of children.

MRS. BIBRING

It’s not only culture, really. It’s also biologically.

OLIVER COPE

As an ordinary doctor, I have a feeling that this biological difference exists. It has to exist, and it’s one of the reasons for knowing that you women have a brain, which in one sense at least is more complex than men’s. It’s more complex and the brain runs the body, yes. The brain runs our intestinal tract, it runs our breathing. All right, the brain is more complicated and the intelligence therefore has more places, the emotional balance has more places to disturb the body. So your equilibrium, one could say in a way, is more vulnerable, or more sensitive.

MRS. BIBRING

I think so. I think our bodies are stronger than yours.

OLIVER COPE.

Well, I wouldn’t—stronger means muscular strength. You say that its equilibrium is more solid, it’s less easily disturbed.

MRS. BIBRING

More strength, also because of our biology.

OLIVER COPE

Maybe. But I’m trying to-I hadn’t thought of it that way. You mean, you can starve for longer than man.

MRS. BIBRING

No, but I think you can get ill, can tolerate it better.

OLIVER COPE

Your equilibrium is less readily discombobulated. And strength in that sense, I wouldn’t disagree with that. Although I’m . . .

MRS. BIBRING

Offended . . . but you don’t disagree.

OLIVER COPE

But clearly, our obligations and our senses of responsibility are touched differently. Our sense of responsibility, let’s say, toward marriage—man and woman has a different concept of it, must have a little.

MRS. BIBRING

Can I tell you what one of my students said? Somebody asked in my seminar, “Why do men really marry?” So, one of the students said, “Because they want a housekeeper who stays put.” Ha ha. Well?

OLIVER COPE

Well, yes, we’re very selfish. And many of them want somebody to make their economy stable and secure because it’s a way of avoiding anxiety. And the children. So, I don’t think we’re so . . . we understand each other on that point.

MRS. BIBRING

I think now we really do interest too, what we are saying. We can’t say it all, it opens up so many things like culture versus biology, and you know, we pick and nick, and I say things which are not quite right. So I really think we have to be a little bit more definite about it. . . . children, and their whole emotional tendencies.

OLIVER COPE

Here we could spend the whole hour on children. I have a very sort of simple idea about how—I was brought up on a farm and I thought that was particularly good because I sort of richly experienced without-and perhaps I judge human beings in animal terms a little bit, but there is a set of animal instincts and friendships and growing up, I have patterns which resemble—the friendships the children grow up in, resemble animal patterns. For example, boys in their early adolescence at the time of puberty don’t want anything to do with the girls. They’re all for the boys and they . . . and then there’s this sudden sort of a change as adolescence proceeds.

MRS. BIBRING

Girls don’t want to have anything to do with boys.

OLIVER COPE

All right. They don’t. And this is referred to often among girls as crushes, girls who are interested in older, slightly older girls. Isn’t this a natural pattern? Isn’t this a pattern one sees in animals, really? And now currently we’re so worried about this sort of thing, and homosexual tendencies and friendships that seem to go a little bit beyond what are considered reasonable— friendships among boys that go on overly long, parents get worried or friends get worried that there’s a latent homosexual tendency among them. And the same thing is true with girls. But this is, basically, this is friendship, the nee for—am I right? This is a need that animals have.

MRS. BIBRING

Friendship. You make a difference between friendship and sexuality, as if it were really things of a completely different breed. Difference is the great misunderstanding of Freud that when he talks about the biological foundation and the drives—and the sex drive is one of the most important things—shaping our adjustment, he talks not just about pure sex and intercourse, he talks about all the derivatives of this love. But it’s one nature. This all he compromises in his concept of love and sex. So you can’t say it isn’t sex, it is sublimated and it is a new directed type but there is something underneath this need for another closeness for people. We just call it all part of the primitive, lowdown sexual drive, and this is what people misunderstand. And they think we have sexists, and we are preoccupied with just constantly sex.

OLIVER COPE

Is the word ‘friendship’ interdependent be an adequate alternative? Friendship between brothers is not adequate, friendship between brother and sister.

MRS. BIBRING

But you know, it’s a derivative of this very primitive deep down drive. What’s wrong with it?

OLIVER COPE

Well, the only thing wrong is that the word ‘sex’ either makes people recoil, or they are excessively interested and wonder what’s coming next. It puts us off, let’s say. It puts us on our guard, it makes it very difficult. Perhaps the modern generation is very much better off in being able to talk about it. I’m not sure that they understand it any better. And I’m not sure that they’re dealing with it any better. However, maybe . . .

MRS. BIBRING

It’s all very complicated. This is a theoretical concept I just mentioned that through this primitive ape that is in humans and in animals and in everything that lives and procreates, a number of important threads and branches which all have to do with erotic and friendship. You know, it’s still the same, ape down. Like, for instance, aggression. Aggression is a deep animal instinct, and you find it hidden when somebody wants to have a promotion in his career. He wants the same claw that goes in all directions.

OLIVER COPE

And the appreciation of beauty. I mean, is that the same? Because they still think of pornography when we talk about the sex drive.

OLIVER COPE

And the love of beauty or the appreciation of a very beautiful painting, can be misinterpreted.

MRS. BIBRING

Sure, sure. So you understand, this is what I say, they knew about psychoanalytic concept but they don’t understand them really. All of them seem to talk about nothing but sex. I can assure you that there can be half a year without ever touching on it, on its direct, simple form., We talk about attachment, we talk about all kinds of things.

MRS. BIBRING

Yeah, you understand this is frightening to people. Homosexuality, for instance. It is Freud who says, like a good anatomist, that we are bisexual.

OLIVER COPE

Yes, very clear. And perhaps it’s the most telling argument that in essence we’re both, but we’re predominately one or the other. And hard, very hard for a lot of people to deal with. And medical.

MRS. BIBRING

More than that. You know, now they try to say homosexuality is normal, which is the other extreme. There is a homosexuality that is built in, and they are very neurotic homosexuals who are homosexuals because they are afraid of the woman.

OLIVER COPE

Looking at my upbringing in the farm, I had no other reaction than it is inadequacy, it’s stopping, it’s resting life at an incomplete, immature level. In maturity, a person of sex evolves fully, yet retaining that piece of the other sex, both physically and in an understanding and an affection for people of their own sex, but something very hard for all of us, though, to deal with. It’s very hard for men. I wonder if it’s as hard for women, too. It’s hard for grown men, established men to recognize a really deep affection for another man. Am I right on that? And yet it’s a very natural thing. Is that also true in women?

MRS. BIBRING

I don’t think so. I don’t think quite so. You know, the beauty of all this psychoanalysis is that there is nothing that can be said for everybody. Everything is different and we are used to try to find out where the difference is. However, a little bit in general I can say, you know, a boy grows up with an attachment to his mother. And shifts, transfers it to the girls and to the women. When this attachment is disturbed to such a point that he has to avoid women, that is a much more deep-rooted problem for him, because it breaks, so to speak, his—let us call it—‘normal’ development.

A girl is attached to mother, too, and can stay attached and can turn into a homosexual and doesn’t feel that this is something which makes her a freak. A boy usually feels it makes him a sissy, that something is very wrong. So they are very often more frightened by discovering these tendencies.

OLIVER COPE

A boy’s homosexual tendency then doesn’t derive from an unusually strong love of the father.

MRS. BIBRING

That is what I mean. It can be an unusually strong love, it can be an unusually strong fear of the father and a submissiveness to father. It can come from an unusually strong conflict with mother, so that one turns to father for compensation. It has then enough possibilities.

OLIVER COPE

Yes, you’ve just given an excellent example of the multiple factors involved in anything. As a matter of fact, all could operate in the same time in a kind of confusion, and it may be very difficult for you as an analyst to identify in a patient.

MRS. BIBRING

Well, you have to wait and to listen.

OLIVER COPE

And it isn’t subject to a decision, well “You are this, and therefore you are bad.” Or, “You’re off the beam.”

Well, they wanted that done. And I don’t know whether they have something else you want done. Is there something else you want talked over? Because I think you covered that beautifully. Talk informally . . .

MRS. BIBRING

We chatted for the last fifteen minutes, I think, responsibly.

OLIVER COPE

Well, we have a picture of two types of psychiatrists and this is the basically difficult thing for the profession. One is the straight-line psychiatrist that I see as the person who tries to make a quick analysis, if you would. It has to be an analysis or else the patient is in trouble. And then tell the patient, “Look, you’re just doing this and if you just turn around and look over there, then you’ll do better.”

MRS. BIBRING

Nobody says ‘naïve’ anymore. Not in that simple form. But there are a few psychiatrists in this country who are not touched by psychoanalysis in one way or another. They are the main users of psychoanalytic concepts if they understand and can apply it. But you know, there is now in the population a trend away from psychoanalysis. It’s an anti-intellectual trend and analysis before was mysterious, because of symbols and dreams. Now it’s too intellectual, and the younger generation goes towards mysterious experiences, gurus, astrologers, the primal scream, the touch, sensitivity group, with the hope to cleanse themselves of those by an emotional discharge. So they are now against analysis because we are too rational.

OLIVER COPE

Sessions take too long. It takes more than that year. And the guru, on the other hand, if you devote five, six weeks . . .

END OF RECORDING