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Sergei Pankejeff


"From the History of an Infantile Neurosis" (1918) holds a place of special importance in the psychoanalytic canon. In this text, which recounts the story of Sergei Pankejeff's analysis, Freud presents his theory of infantile sexuality, traces the steps in the making of a neurosis, and demonstrates the way psychoanalytic technique uncovers the unconscious meaning [End Page 513] of symptoms that leads to a cure. Known as the Wolf Man for his iconic childhood dream, Pankejeff ended his analysis in 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I, and Freud had considered him cured. In reality, he had only achieved a modicum of stability; throughout the rest of his life, the Wolf Man suffered from recurrent depressive symptoms, was easily dysregulated, and depended on the support from therapists and the analytic community. This community functioned as something of a holding environment, and the Wolf Man took pride in his identity as Freud's most famous patient.

The story of the Wolf Man's treatment documented the revolutionary potential of Freud's theory and technique, and represented the possibilities of the analytic process. The standard bearers within the analytic community tried to ensure that he exemplify this living documentation of Freud's theory and technique, even though they recognized his precarious psychological stability. The Wolf Man had three additional periods of analysis, one with Freud and two with Ruth Mack Brunswick. An important role in his life after his analytic experience was played by Muriel Gardiner, who proffered friendship, financial support, and a continuing link to the psychoanalytic world. Gardiner's friendship with Anna Freud, who was devoting herself to preserving her father's legacy, reinforced her interest in maintaining the Wolf Man's reputation. In this paper, I tell the story of Muriel Gardiner and how she came to be one of the Wolf Man's most significant friends and patrons.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Muriel Gardiner's relationship to the Wolf Man began innocuously enough in Vienna in 1929. Her analyst, Ruth Mack Brunswick, introduced them when Gardiner decided she wanted to learn to speak Russian. Mack Brunswick had worked with the Wolf Man and knew that he could usethe additional income. Gardiner was involved in left-wing politics since her days at Wellesley College and had a vague future plan to visit the Soviet Union. To prepare herself, she began Russian lessons with Sergei Pankejeff. She wrote: [End Page 514]

He and I had drunk tea together every Wednesday afternoon while he patiently tried to teach me Russian [. . .] after devoting a conscientious hour to Russian grammar, we would relax and talk about more interesting things: Dostoevsky, Freud, or the French Impressionists [. . .] I always enjoyed and profited by his acute observations which grew out of a really deep understanding of human nature, art, and psychoanalysis.

(Gardiner, 1971, p. 311)

When she entered medical school in 1932, Gardiner no longer had time to continue Russian lessons, but saw the Wolf Man periodically in his professional capacity as an insurance salesman.

Her impression of him was much different after their meeting in 1938, a few months after the Nazi takeover of Austria:

I came face to face with the Wolf Man on one of the busy Vienna streets. He did not greet me in his usual polite and ceremonious manner, but began to cry and wring his hands and pour out a flood of words which because of his excitement and his sobbing were utterly unintelligible. Alarmed that he was making us conspicuous on the street, at a time when this was not only inadvisable but even dangerous, I asked him to walk the few steps with me to my apartment where we could talk in privacy.

(Gardiner, 1971, p. 311)

There Gardiner learned that his wife had recently committed suicide. In those early days of the Nazi regime, there was an upsurge in the number of suicides for political reasons, if someone were Jewish, or involved in dangerous political work. But this was not the case for them; in fact, Pankejeff "scarcely even knew the Nazis were in power" (Gardiner, 1971, p. 312). In telling Gardiner of this trauma, he sobbed:

Why did she do it? Why did this have to happen to me? I always have bad luck. I'm always subject to the greatest misfortunes. What shall I do, Frau Doktor? Tell me what to do. Tell me why she killed herself.

(Gardiner, 1971, p. 312) [End Page 515]

They met several more times and Gardiner was impressed by the tenor of his refrain, "Why did this have to happen to me?"

Clearly, Gardiner heard echoes of Pankejeff's history of losses, of his admired older sister who committed suicide when he was 19, of his father's death the following year, also a probable suicide, and of his estate and fortune in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution. She could see he needed help, but at that time most analysts were fleeing Vienna. Mack Brunswick, on her way back to the U.S., agreed to see him first in Paris and then London if he could find his way there. Bringing all her connections and resources to bear, including Marie Bonaparte (Isenberg, 2010, p. 118), Gardiner obtained the necessary documents that permitted him to travel for a few weeks of analysis in Paris and London. Comparing Pankejeff to those whose lives depended on getting out of the country, Gardiner reflected that it seemed a "bizarre luxury" to secure travel documents for him. But "[l]istening to his pained, obsessional questioning, I realized again that he was in as much danger of destruction from within as were my Jewish friends from Nazi brutality and the concentration camps" (Gardiner, 1971, p. 314).

Muriel Gardiner's Beginnings

How did an heiress to a Chicago meat-packing fortune come to play a pivotal role in the life of a formerly wealthy Russian émigré in pre- and post-war Vienna? The marriage of Gardiner's parents united two families that had earned enormous wealth through meat-packing businesses in the infamous Chicago stockyards. Born Helen Muriel Morris in 1901, Gardiner was the youngest of four children raised in a family of great wealth and privilege with a decided Victorian sensibility. They lived in a mansion on Chicago's south side in a household with numerous servants, including a beloved nurse who was a nurturing substitute for Muriel's emotionally absent parents. She barely knew her father because of his business commitments and her mother focused on her own social life among the wealthy elite. Her father died just prior to her twelfth birthday when he was 47. At his death, her mother, [End Page 516] who had inherited money from her father Gustavus Swift, now inherited another fortune from her husband. At their father's death, Muriel and her siblings all became millionaires.

Her Victorian mother, she said, was not someone she could speak to intimately (Gardiner, 1975), but she had a beloved Irish nurse and a housekeeper from whom she learned about differences between the rich and the poor. She had so many advantages. "And yet," she writes:

I was not a happy child. I was tortured by neurotic symptoms: at first night terrors, then tics, a moth and butterfly phobia, compulsive "habits" and rituals. No one at that time had any understanding of these problems or the suffering they could cause.

School opened up a wider world for her, and she excelled in her studies, athletics, and social activities. She developed an interest in current events and read intently about World War I and the Russian Revolution. Certain teachers became admired role models she could not find within her family and she planned to become an educator herself.

The women in Gardiner's family attended Wellesley College, a prestigious women's liberal arts school. Her mother studied there for one year. Her older sister graduated and went on to medical school and a career as a pediatrician. While at Wellesley, Gardiner determined to live a different kind of life from her family. She dropped her first name (Helen was also her mother's name) and from then on only used "Muriel." She became a student leader involved in campus causes. The Sacco-Vanzetti1 case figured prominently in the news and Gardiner followed it, attending the trial when she could and supporting their cause. She helped start the left-leaning National Student Forum, acquiring the reputation of being a "Red" or "Bolshie," in the terminology of the day.

Another way she freed herself of her family was to develop a severe asceticism, intending to "become independent of material things" (Gardiner, 1983a, p 17). She gave up luxuries, slept on the floor, took cold showers and sold her prized book collection, donating the proceeds to needy university [End Page 517] students. She graduated Wellesley in 1922, lived in Italy for a year and then went to Oxford where she wrote a thesis on the life of Mary Shelley.2 She never graduated Oxford because she failed her exam when she refused to condemn suicide as a sin, which the examiners insisted she do to conform to religious mores. Though at the time she did not recognize a possible identification with Mary Shelley (she chose the name "Mary" for her code name later), she once again demonstrated her independent mind by refusing to comply with her examiners religious means test.

By 1926, Gardiner recognized that her early first marriage was a mistake and she traveled to Vienna, hoping to be analyzed by Freud to address the problems that contributed to the failure of her marriage. Already ill as well as over-committed, Freud referred her to his analysand, Ruth Mack Brunswick, an American physician practicing in Vienna. Mack Brunswick's father was a prominent judge in Chicago and likely knew the Gardiner family. Gardiner found Dr. Mack Brunswick to be very "sensible" and began a 3-year analysis.3 During this analysis, she asked a single favor of her analyst, that she introduce her to Freud, which she did. Gardiner spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon having tea with the Freud family. Though she thought her analysis was "undoubtedly" helpful, she was always eager for its end and did have an unorthodox termination. After three years, at the end of the session just prior to the summer break:

[W]e shook hands, as was usual in Vienna at the end of every psychoanalytic hour. Dr. B smilingly wished me a happy summer and I wished her the same. Then she said good-bye in such a tone of finality that I asked, "Do you mean it's the end? My analysis is over?" Still smiling, she answered "Yes." I was overjoyed. "Oh, how wonderful! I'm so happy," I exclaimed. Then I remembered to thank her.

She married Julian Gardiner in 1930, had her daughter Connie in 1931, and then divorced amicably a few years later. She returned to analysis with Dr. Mack Brunswick and "immediately became much more wholeheartedly involved than [End Page 518] [she] had been during the first period" (Gardiner, 1983a, p. 41). This second analysis ended in early 1937. Still planning to enter the field of education, she arranged a tutorial to read Freud with Dr. Robert Waelder.4 Though still unclear about her career goals, she decided she wanted to become a psychoanalyst and her analyst agreed to support this goal. Because she would have been prevented from practicing in the U.S. as a lay analyst, she enrolled in medical school at the University of Vienna in the fall of 1932, while continuing to study with Waelder, and adding tutorials with August Aichhorn5 and Siegfried Bernfeld.6 Later, she attended the famous Wednesday evening meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (which Freud could no longer participate in because of his health).

Gardiner, whose daughter was just 3 years old, had decided to return to the U.S. because of the growing Fascist prominence in Austria and the Nazi threat in Germany. She planned to transfer to an American medical school to continue with her career plans. Then, in February 1934, the Fascist Chancellor of Austria outlawed labor unions and the Social Democratic party. Workers protested in a general strike. Gardiner witnessed the beginning of the shooting, shouting, and rioting of this strike from her analyst's office. The fighting lasted a week. Gardiner, horrified by these events, recommitted herself to political action and let it be known that she wanted to assist victims of the strike. Thus began Gardiner's active involvement with the Austrian underground that continued until the outbreak of World War II.

For the next four years, Gardiner devoted herself to helping people obtain the papers, money, and passage they needed to escape the Nazi takeover of Austria and the systematic "Aryanization" of Vienna. She worked behind the scenes, sometimes terrified, but somewhat protected by her status as an American medical student. One important person she hid for several years was the head of the Revolutionary Socialists, Joseph Buttinger, whom she fell in love with and later married. By June 1938, a few months after she assisted Sergei Pankejeff to go to Paris and London to see his analyst, Gardiner left Vienna, as it had become too dangerous. She continued her resistance work in Paris and finally returned to the U.S. when war broke out in [End Page 519] 1939. From the U.S., she continued to assist in any way she could and she continued these efforts after the war. In 1945, she was asked to head the International Rescue Committee, formed to assist refugees trying to return home after being displaced by the war. She accepted the position, but frustrated by the red tape involved, did not last long in this job.7

Post-Analysis and Post-War

After the Wolf-Man terminated his analysis in 1914 and Freud pronounced him cured, Pankejeff returned to Russia and married Therese, the woman he had been pursuing when he entered analysis. This is what Freud referred to as "the breakthrough to the woman" (Gardiner, 1971, p. 138) that resulted from the successful analysis of Pankejeff's infantile neurosis. But for the rest of his life, he suffered from periods of depression and obsessional preoccupations and, in contemporary terms, would likely be diagnosed as a borderline personality (Blum, 1974). Pankejeff returned to Vienna in 1919, a penniless émigré, having lost his land and fortune to the Bolshevik Revolution.

In addition to the "official" psychological help Pankejeff received from Freud, Ruth Mack Brunswick, and two other therapists in the years that followed, he also had a number of quasi-therapeutic or analytic experiences. The primary one was with Kurt Eissler who visited Vienna every summer over a period of many years, starting in 1953 and likely ending about 15 years later (Tomlinson, 2018). Eissler saw Pankejeff regularly for "analytically directed conversations" (Reeves, 2008, p. 344). Similarly, he frequently used others for support in managing his anxiety, pouring out his troubles to those who would listen. For example, when Gardiner left Vienna in 1938, she asked a Viennese friend, Albin Unterweger, to maintain contact with Pankejeff, which he faithfully did for many years, sending her periodic reports. In a letter from October of 1971, he wrote:

Unfortunately the depression, from which he is suffering for quite a while now, seems to have such a hold on him that I don't think he will overcome it soon [. . .] The problems which trouble him now are by no means very [End Page 520] extraordinary, but in his present mood he exaggerates them all out of proportion; but of course this tendency was always part of his illness.

On her first postwar trip back to Austria in 1949, Gardiner and Pankejeff met in person. Both Freud and Mack Brunswick had died in the interim. Gardiner described their meeting: "Considering that we had never been intimate, he was amazingly unreserved, no doubt putting me in the role of analyst, since his two analysts had died" (Gardiner, 1971, p. 316). The psychoanalytic community considered the Wolf Man a psychoanalytic icon and he clearly treasured his identity as Freud's famous patient.8

The psychoanalytic community rallied to support him with concrete financial assistance. He lost his fortune during the Bolshevik Revolution and reportedly harbored some resentment toward Freud for encouraging him to stay in analysis in Vienna in 1919 instead of returning to Russia to try to protect his estate (Roazen, 1975, p. 155). For a number of years post-termination, Freud solicited money from his colleagues for Pankejeff, an annuity he collected each June. His second analysis with Freud and his analyses with Mack Brunswick were without fee. After some years, Pankejeff found a job at an insurance company, which provided him a stable, if comparatively meager, income. He worked steadily until his retirement in 1950 at age 63.

Eissler and Gardiner both provided funds and directed money to him in various ways. For example, Eissler wrote to Gardiner requesting funds to help care for Pankejeff's then 94-year-old mother who was living with him (Eissler, 1953a), and then wrote a month later, presumably in response to a question, suggesting a sum of $40-$50 dollars a month for posthospitalization care (Eissler, 1953b). When Gardiner published The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man in 1971, she directed the royalties to Pankejeff. He had become a serious amateur landscape painter, which gave him a great deal of satisfaction. Gardiner helped him sell some of his paintings, mostly to other analysts.

Muriel Gardiner was one of the Wolf Man's major psychoanalytic benefactors. She maintained contact with him throughout his life, so that she knew when he was doing well psychologically and when he was not. She gave him money, [End Page 521] but also and perhaps more importantly, she helped maintain his presence in the lore of psychoanalysis, as suggested by the way she functioned as an agent for his artwork. She wrote and presented papers that served as follow-up to his analysis in various psychoanalytic venues and she encouraged him to write his memoirs to be included in The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man. The title is something of a misnomer, as the book includes not just his memoirs and his reminiscence of Freud, but also Freud's case study, Mark Brunswick's case study, and several of Gardiner's own papers describing the Wolf Man's life course.

To return to the question: How did an heiress to a Chicago meat-packing fortune come to play a pivotal role in the life of a formerly wealthy Russian émigré in pre- and post-war Vienna? What was Gardiner's motivation and why did the Wolf Man matter to her? There are similarities in their life stories. Both grew up as lonely children amidst great wealth. Both developed neurotic symptoms in childhood, and they even shared a phobia of butterflies. And, of course, they shared an analyst. Both entered analysis with issues around marriage. Both maintained a lifelong commitment to psychoanalysis.

Gardiner's investment in the Wolf Man is part of her general mode of life. Starting as a young child, she was very conflicted about her wealth and privilege. She observed inequities between rich and poor, even if from a limited vantage point. The business of the Chicago stockyards had an unscrupulous air about it that she must have been aware of while growing up. Even if she did not know the particulars, she likely sensed that her advantages rested on exploitation of others. In late adolescence, she had a period of extreme asceticism, denying herself even some basic comforts. Behind the scenes, she gave money to friends and to causes; for example, she supported a friend's travel by anonymously funneling the funds through Wellesley. Privately, she rarely told others of her background or spoke much about her family and she developed political commitments that reflected her sense of justice. In her adult life, she felt less guilty about her wealth and came to some peace with it, as she realized how to use it to support worthy causes, while also allowing herself to enjoy the benefits of her inheritance. [End Page 522]

Closely related to this, Gardiner became a rescuer of people in danger or need, best exemplified by her daring and dangerous work in the Austrian resistance when she saved many men and women from Nazi persecution and death. Her husband could be considered one of those she rescued. He came from an impoverished family and as a child often did not have enough to eat. He wore shoes only in the winter and never received a birthday or holiday gift, nor were there any books in his home (Gardiner, 1983a). When he procured a factory job at age 15, he finally felt cared for by the trade union and the socialists. The first book he ever read was The Origins of the Family, of Private Property and the State by Engels. He was inspired to join the socialists and took on leadership roles within the organization. Because of his prominence, he was endangered as the Fascists came to power in Austria and Gardiner took on the responsibility of hiding him for several years. She moved him between a small second apartment she rented and her cottage in the Vienna woods, using a carefully orchestrated system of signals. They married to smooth his way to obtain the necessary papers to leave Europe as the war broke out.

Later, when Gardiner had established her career in the U.S. as an analyst, educator, and psychiatrist interested in public health and prevention, she studied homicidal adolescents and published a book called The Deadly Innocents: Portraits of Children Who Kill (Isenberg, 2010, p. 178). She cared for some of these children in her home for periods of time. A friend recalled, "She had a boy living with her. Every time people met him, he would say, 'My name is John. I killed my mother with an axe'" (Isenberg, 2010, p. 178). As this example indicates, Gardiner continued her rescue work long after the Nazis had been defeated. For the rest of her life, she gave money and other forms of support to people in trouble or to young people who could not otherwise afford an education. Referring to her work in Austria, but making a larger point about Gardiner's largesse, Anna Freud wrote about her political comrade that:

her helpfulness and compassion began to spread: to their friends; to the friends of friends; to anybody in trouble, however remote and unfamiliar; until she was [End Page 523] surrounded by a whole crowd of potential victims who looked to her as possibly their only hope of salvation.

(Gardiner, 1983, p. xii)

Another way to understand Gardiner's commitment to the Wolf Man relates to her relationship with Anna Freud. They had known each other in Vienna in the early days, but their friendship began with Gardiner's visit to the Hampstead Nurseries in her first post-war trip to Europe. As an analyst with a special interest in education, this work appealed to Gardiner. Their backgrounds and work as educators surely helped bring them together (Gardiner, undated). Both were also the youngest child in their families and had overcome difficult feelings from a lonely childhood. Interestingly, in each of their characters is a fierce sense of privacy and restraint that they discuss in their letters. Their friendship deepened over the years on the basis of their shared professional and personal lives. Anna Freud said in 1972 to her friend Muriel Gardiner, "I like my own life very much but if that had not been available and if I had been able to choose another one, I think it would have been yours" (Gardiner, undated, p. 5). Through her New-Land Foundation, Gardiner supported many of Anna Freud's projects. But first Gardiner bought the Maresfield Garden home for Anna to live in after her father's death and then gave money to help start the museum. In the context of this friendship, Gardiner's support of the Wolf Man simultaneously supported Anna Freud's effort to shape and preserve her father's legacy. This legacy was encoded in the Wolf Man's successful analysis that demonstrated the revolutionary techniques and theory of psychoanalysis.

Just as his role in psychoanalytic history mattered to Pankejeff, the psychoanalytic community also claimed Pankejeff as an important figure in the official annals of psychoanalysis. Proudly he says, "I felt myself less as a patient than as a co-worker, the younger comrade of an experienced explorer setting out to study a new, recently discovered land. This new land is the realm of the unconscious" (Gardiner, 1971, p. 140). Anna Freud highlights his pleasure in his analyst's assessment of his "first-class intelligence [which] not only stood him in good stead throughout his personal life but was instrumental [End Page 524] also in benefiting the psychoanalytic community as a whole in an unprecedented manner" (Gardiner, 1971, p. xi). Important to the development of Freud's theorizing, he became a kind of demonstration patient who was, to quote Anna Freud again, "the only one able and willing to cooperate actively in the reconstruction and follow-up of his own case" (Gardiner, 1971, p. xi). Ruth Mack Brunswick said something similar when she referred to the Wolf-Man's desperate need for money when he returned to Vienna, explaining that Freud "collected a sum of money for this former patient who had served the theoretical ends of analysis so well" (Gardiner, 1971, p. 266). His "benefit" to the psychoanalytic community was to exemplify the validity of psychoanalysis as a theory and as a clinical practice. Gardiner cooperated and supported her friend Anna Freud's efforts to preserve her father's legacy.

A Threat to the Legacy

When Gardiner learned that an Austrian journalist who was intrigued by what she had read about the Wolf Man wanted to interview him, she firmly and definitively tried to prevent this interview from taking place. The journalist, Karin Obholzer, had discovered Pankejeff's identity and had tracked him down. She proposed that they have a series of conversations that would serve as the basis for a book she wanted to write about him. Initially he hesitated, saying he needed "to inquire" (Obholzer, 2010, p. 10). Having heard from Gardiner, he apologetically told Obholzer he could not cooperate. "Muriel Gardiner had sent a telegram urging him not to give any sort of interview, and the Wolf Man did not seem to have the courage to go against that ban" (Obholzer, 2010, p. 7). Kurt Eissler, another upholder of Freud's legacy, identified in the book only as E, also was wary. Obholzer wrote, "E gave me to understand that he did not care for books written by laymen and that only psychoanalysts had the necessary qualification in this matter" (p. 10). In the end, Pankejeff and Obholzer signed a contract with the stipulation that the book would not be published until after the Wolf Man's death. The two spoke over a period of one [End Page 525] and a half years when the Wolf Man was close to 90 years old. And, indeed, he speaks quite differently in this book, at least in parts, than the picture of his analysis offered in the official version of the psychoanalytic community. However, these conversations took place in a very particular context, affected by his age, his obsession with a woman who had plagued him for money for years and, perhaps most importantly, his transference to the journalist, which she promoted by trying to resemble the beloved older sister he had lost to suicide as a young man.

About the famous wolf dream, the Wolf Man answers a question about what he thought reading his own case history:

I never thought much of dream interpretation, you know. In my story, what was explained by dreams? Nothing, as far as I can see. Freud traces everything back to the primal scene which he derives from the dream. But that scene does not occur in the dream [. . .] that scene in the dream where the windows open and the wolves are sitting there, and his interpretation, I don't know, those things are miles apart, it's terribly far-fetched.

(Obholzer, 2010, p. 35)

Throughout the book, the Wolf Man relates to this journalist as he often did to those who expressed interest in him, with a ruminative outpouring of his travails and present-day problems. He seems most determined to get help with his obsession with the woman who wants money from him. He is critical of psychoanalysts, including both Eissler and Gardiner who he claims believe so strongly in Freud's ideas that they fail to see the places where he believes that psychoanalysis failed him. He explains:

In psychoanalysis, you live more or less through another's mind. And that is the danger of psychoanalysis, that one is dependent on the decisions of others who are not competent and knowledgeable but who believe they know everything and can guide one just because they are psychoanalysts.

(Obholzer, 2010, p. 138) [End Page 526]

Certainly, this book is less a critique of psychoanalysis, even if some of his criticisms are apt, than a picture of the Wolf Man's mindset and mode of relating. But the book does challenge the legacy of Freud's treatment of the Wolf Man and it complicates the heroic image of Freud's analysis of his infantile neurosis and the idea of psychoanalytic cure.

Anna Freud had earlier lauded the Wolf Man's cooperation in the follow-up to his analysis, but both she and Gardiner were dismayed by the publication of this book. When it was published, Gardiner was struggling to write a postscript to the new edition of The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man, writing to Anna Freud, "I have never had so much trouble writing anything as this, or disliked writing anything as much" (Gardiner, 1980a, p. 1). To Pontalis, writing about the French edition, she says, "I find Ms. O's book very distasteful. It is, however, interesting, and gives a valuable picture of one side of the Wolf-Man" (Gardiner, 1980b, p. 1). Anna Freud responded, admitting she had not read the book, but complained about the tarnishing of her father's legacy:

I am not surprised after having had experience with all the malicious things written recently about my father, and the absolute disregard for historical truth. Obholzer is just one of them. I think you have done awfully well in answering her with great dignity and restraint, and totally convincing, at least to me.

(Freud, 1980, p. 2)

In fact, Gardiner wrote a reasoned critique, adding facts, correcting misinformation and offering explanations based on her long relationship with the Wolf Man. She attributes some of the Wolf Man's complaints to the aging process and to his psychology, to his "perennial neurosis" (Gardiner, 1983b, p. 891):

"Obholzer, not familiar with the psychology of personalities such as the Wolf Man's, could not know that his negative feelings were automatically aroused toward most people who were kind to him, to whom he owed and often felt and expressed gratitude, whom he liked or loved.

(Gardiner, 1983b, p. 885) [End Page 527]

The London Review of Books assessed the book with a different slant:

Karin Obholzer rightly suspected that there was more to the story than dutiful gratitude, and there is much in her taped conversations with him which will grieve Muriel Gardiner. For all his charming old world ways, he was a ruthless old codger with scores to settle. Beneath a quavering irresolution in these tapes, there is a bitter awareness than the incorrigible torment of his inner life represents a judgment against the Master and his cures.

It is this judgment that psychoanalysis still his to contend with, in this case history and others.

Gardiner remained resolute, stating "I have found nothing in Obholzer's record to cause me to change my previous evaluation of Freud's treatment" (Gardiner, 1983b, p. 895). She ends this paper by quoting Anna Freud from a 1970 letter that predates this controversy about the book. With her developmental perspective, Anna Freud comments on Gardiner's diagnostic impressions, saying she appreciates the:

bit at the end about the normal achievements. As happens so often in a diagnostic discussion, this comes almost as a surprise. One talks and thinks so much about the abnormal parts [. . .] that the normal sides as well as the achievements are neglected. One does wonder why there was such complete restoration of his working capacity, really far above everything else, and why this was never seriously affected again. But then one usually does not know in detail how the analytic successes come about; the failures are much more obvious.

(Gardiner, 1983b, p. 896)

In a letter quoted earlier, Anna Freud complains about the "disregard for historical truth" about her father's contributions. Certainly, Obholzer's book complicated or enriches the record of the Wolf Man's analysis and follow-up. As the living record [End Page 528] of Freud's theory of psychoanalysis, the Wolf Man carried a heavy burden. Freud presented his reconstruction and construction of the Wolf Man's infantile neurosis as scientific evidence of the validity of his ideas, partly in argument with Jung and Adler, but foremost to illustrate how infantile sexuality forms the core of neurosis. Obholzer's book (1980), with Pankejeff's retrospective thoughts about his analysis, questioned the effectiveness of psychoanalytic cure and attempted to measure its thoroughness and permanence.

Gardiner's efforts on behalf of the Wolf Man supported his material well-being and his psychological well-being, as they also supported the Wolf Man's place in psychoanalytic history. When she published the book about the Wolf Man, the New York Times reviewer spoke to the complicated truth:

It is rewarding to note from the Wolf Man's letters to Dr. Gardiner what a fiercely loyal and compassionate friend she has been—how, through the years, she has never lost her faith in his ability to keep the healthy parts of his mind intact. Without such friendships and such faith, as many of us are already aware, no amount of psychoanalysis can be truly meaningful.

Anna Freud's 1970 letter concludes:

There was a recent discussion in the Society here about the technical advances in psychoanalysis. Somebody said if the Wolf Man were in treatment now and his earliest mother-relationship had been analyzed (in the transference), he would have been cured completely with no obsessional or other residues left! I think that is one of the modern analytic delusions. I have never believed in analytic omnipotence.

(as quoted in Gardiner, 1983b, pp. 896–7)

Gardiner agrees, "Neither have I" (Gardiner, 1983b, p. 897).

The Wolf Man expressed both his pride and his skepticism about his analysis with Freud and his place in psychoanalytic [End Page 529] history in his interviews with Obholzer. Thinking retrospectively about his analysis, he took into account his experiences subsequent to his analysis: "The effect was salutary, in any event. But it was not a complete cure" (Obholzer, 1980, p. 138).

For Freud, the Wolf Man's analysis demonstrated his theoretical understanding of infantile sexuality, which he parsed carefully during the analysis. The reconstruction based on the iconic dream of the wolves in the tree led to an insight that, at the time, was considered curative. Freud's views of the efficacy of the psychoanalytic cure changed between 1914, when the Wolf Man's analysis ended, and 1938 when he reviewed his experience over an additional 25 years. He, like the Wolf Man, reconsidered what might constitute a "complete cure." [End Page 530]

Erika Schmidt

Erika Schmidt, MSW, is the President of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute and an adult and child psychoanalyst in private practice. She is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Chicago Institute and on the faculty of the Institute for Clinical Social Work. Publications include articles in the areas of child psychotherapy and child analysis. She has also written about the history of psychoanalysis, including biographical studies of Franz Alexander and Therese Benedek that contextualize their scholarly and institutional contributions within the evolving field of psychoanalysis. She is on the Steering Committee of the Psychotherapy Action Network and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.


1. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian born anarchists convicted in 1921 of murder during an armed robbery and sentenced to death. Appeals were filed but denied, although there was much evidence to think they were likely innocent. They were executed in 1927, precipitating protests and riots around the world.

2. Mary Shelley (1797–1851), daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, was an English writer married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic poet who drowned in a boating accident in 1822. She is best known as the author of the novel Frankenstein published in 1818.

3. Gardiner wrote, "Many features of analysis at that time would now be disapproved of in the United States: analysts stated their opinions and tastes more openly and often discussed them freely with patients; some analysts were less stringent than we are now in avoiding social contact with patients; many did not object to their patients' knowing each other; and some even suggested their making contact if one was likely to be of help to another. For example, it was through Dr. B that I first met 'the Wolf Man' [. . .] when I wanted to study Russian; she knew he would be glad to have extra work" (1983a, p. 36).

4. Robert Waelder was a prominent Viennese psychoanalyst, famous for critiquing Melanie Klein on behalf of the Viennese analysts and for his paper, "The principle of multiple function: Observations on overdetermination," published in 1936.

5. August Aichhorn (1878–1949) was a Viennese psychoanalyst-educator who worked with delinquents and published Wayward Youth in 1925 describing this work. He was the analyst of Heinz Kohut and Kurt Eissler.

6. Siegfried Bernfeld (1892–1953) was a Viennese psychoanalyst who wrote about the link between education and psychoanalysis, and about education as a force for social change. In the aftermath of WWI, he worked with children who had been displaced during the war.

7. There is a coda to this story. In 1977, the film Julia was released, starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. Based on a story titled "Pentimento" by Lillian Hellman, this was supposedly the tale of Hellman's friend who worked in the Austrian resistance movement. In fact, Julia's life closely resembled Gardiner's. Though never officially admitted, indications are that Hellman created a fictional character based on Muriel Gardiner, claiming the story was autobiographical: "It was, in its own way, a plagiarism of Muriel's life" (Isenberg, 2010, p. 180). This prompted Gardiner to later tell her own story in her 1983 book Code Name "Mary": Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground.

8. Leo Rangell, after visiting Pankejeff in 1963, described their meeting in a letter to Kurt Eissler. "He was obviously proud to be the 'Wolf Man,' which he seemed to wear as a badge of distinction. Yet this was not done with any air of ostentatiousness or exhibitionism, but rather in a quiet way, although open when pursued. His connections with the 'Professor' have always obviously continued to be a source of deep pride and satisfaction to him" (Rangell, 1963, p. 2).


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