Physician, Author, "Wild Analyst", Social Reformer
Man is inhabited by the unknown, the unconscious. "In
him is an It, something wonderful which
regulates everything that he does and that happens to him." For what
has breathing to do with our will, what is it that decides how our food is
masticated and digested, that regulates the beating of the heart? We are human
beings due solely to the wilful act of the All
and the It. As an admirer of Groddeck's,
Lawrence Durrell, says in an attempt to explain his philosophy, the It
is not a thing in itself, it is a way of knowing, a pathway towards life as
a human being, towards the illusion of becoming a personality, an I.
Georg Groddeck was born on 13 October 1866 in Bad Kösen
on the river Saale. His mother was the daughter of A. Koberstein, a Germanist
and teacher of Nietzsche; his father was a spa physician. Groddeck spent his
childhood with his sister in their parents'
, which had to be auctioned in 1878 after their father had been ruined
by building speculations. Groddeck attended the Alumnat Schulpforta, received
his school-leaving certificate in 1885, and then began military training in
Berlin. He did his doctorate under Ernst Schweninger, the private physician
of both Bismark and Cosima Wagner, and later became his collaborator. Based
on Schweninger's methods, Groddeck developed his own form of treatment, which
consisted mainly of massage, baths and diet.
In addition to his activities as a physician, Groddeck
gave lectures (which he regarded as part of his therapy), initiated the inauguration
of a consumers' cooperative and a cooperative building association, and published
his writings: the essay Ein Frauenproblem
in 1902, an autobiographical novel Ein Kind
der Erde in 1905, the story Der Pfarrer
von Langewiesche in 1909, the lecture series "Hin zu Gottnatur"
in 1909, and Nasamecu - natura sanat, medicus
curat in 1913.
Independently of Freud, Groddeck developed a new medical
practice, convinced that each disorder of the organism, irrespective of whether
it is called psychological or physical, can be influenced by means of psychological
analysis. Groddeck served as director of a military hospital during the First
World War, but came into conflict with his superiors because of his over-precise
and long-drawn-out treatment of the mainly war-traumatised soldiers and was
dismissed after only nine months.
Encouraged by his friendship with the Swedish woman
Emmy von Voigt, who was to become his second wife, and by his new analytical
ideas, Groddeck began his Wednesday Lectures at the sanatorium. His Lectures
(first published in 1987 ff. by the GGG in three volumes) consist of a self-analysis,
descriptions of life and the everyday, dream interpretations, interpretations
of the Bible and of fairy tales; they celebrate the diversity of human life
and the expressive forms it takes through the It.
Groddeck wrote to Freud in 1917, confessed his wishful
thinking that he himself had discovered the concept of psychoanalysis, and
sent him his text Psychische Bedingtheit and
psychoanalytische Behandlung organischer Leiden, which is regarded
today as a pioneering work of psychosomatics. "I have to claim you",
Freud replied, "I have to assert that you are a splendid analyst who
has understood for ever the essential aspects of the matter."
Groddeck courted Freud in his Letters (Freud-Groddeck
correspondence, edited by the GGG 2008) and sent him manuscripts which Freud
allowed to be published in the journals of the Psychoanalytische Vereinigung
and in the Internationale Psychoanalytische Verlag.Psychische
Bedingtheit and psychoanalytische Behandlung organischer Leiden, which
is regarded today as a pioneering work of psychosomatics. "I have to
claim you", Freud replied, "I have to assert that you are a splendid
analyst who has understood for ever the essential aspects of the matter."
In addition to his lectures, Groddeck began another
method of therapy with the publication in 1918 of the house magazine Satanarium.
"In publishing these pages I aim to give man an opportunity to vent his
agony unimpeded, without shame or reserve. In my view, the only place where
you can scream seems to be hell, which is why I am calling this magazine Satanarium"
(published by the GGG 1992).
In 1921 Groddeck published the psychoanalytical novel
Seeker of Souls (newly edited by the
GGG 1998). This book combines analysis and a satirical critique of the times
with coarse situation comedy; what really drives the action is associations
and interpretations of words and symbols into whose traps the protagonists
fall in their analytical adventures.
Groddeck's The Book of
the It (newly edited by the GGG 2004), which appeared in 1923, was
a truly popular book of psychoanalysis: easy to read and with an amazing openness,
it is a singular variation on the theme of how the whole body, be it sick
or healthy, is an instrument of the soul.
As a physician, Groddeck was much sought-after and
his sanatorium was visited by patients from the upper classes of society;
he treated the needy free-of-charge.Seeker of
Souls (newly edited by the GGG 1998). This book combines analysis and
a satirical critique of the times with coarse situation comedy; what really
drives the action is associations and interpretations of words and symbols
into whose traps the protagonists fall in their analytical adventures.
The Book of the It
(newly edited by the GGG 2004), which appeared in 1923, was a truly popular
book of psychoanalysis: easy to read and with an amazing openness, it is a
singular variation on the theme of how the whole body, be it sick or healthy,
is an instrument of the soul.
He was invited to lecture in England, the Netherlands
and Sweden. In 1920 he became a member of the Internationale Psychoanalytische
Vereinigung. He made a spectacular appearance at the Psychoanalytische Kongress
in The Hague. During an impromptu lecture, in which he analysed his own bed-wetting
and unusual associations, he confessed, "I am a wild analyst". Most
of the congress participants were shocked by Groddeck's speech.
A close friendship existed between Groddeck and the
Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi, whom he also analysed (Ferenczi-Groddeck
correspondence, newly edited by the GGG 2006).
In 1925 Groddeck experimented once again with a patients'
magazine: Die Arche ran to 62 issues
with a print-run of never more than 300 copies (reprint newly edited by GGG
Groddeck held his last lecture in Zurich on 2 June
1934: Vom Sehen, von der Welt des Auges and
vom Sehen ohne Augen
. His health deteriorated in the days that followed
and he was admitted to the Medard Boss sanatorium in Knonau, where he died
on June 11. He is buried at the Stadtfriedhof
In the Oos-Winkel-Siedlung
in Baden-Baden, which he helped to initiate, a plaque commemorates his contribution;
there is also a road named after him. The former Sanatorium
still exists today - little changed on the outside - as
Hotel Tanneck. The city library had devoted a literary
to Groddeck. In 1984 an underground memorial was installed at
the place where once stood the
in which he completed his The Book of
The Georg Groddeck estate has been in the Deutsche
Literaturarchiv in Marbach on the river Neckar since 1997.
The edition of his works being edited by the Georg
Groddeck-Gesellschaft is published by Stroemfeld Verlag, Frankfurt am Main