Who was the Wolf Man?

wolf_dream.jpgABC Radio’s The Philosopher’s Zone has an edition on one of Freud’s most famous cases, named ‘The Wolf Man’, because the patient had a dream about a tree full of white wolves outside his bedroom window, waiting to eat him.

That’s a picture of the dream on the right (click for larger version) painted by the patient himself, whose real name was Sergei Pankejeff.

Pankejeff was a member of the Russian upper-classes whose sister and father had committed suicide and personally suffered from a debilitating depression.

Freud analysed Pankejeff and interpreted his current emotional turmoil as being due to a disruption in his early sexual development.

His ‘wolf dream’ was thought to be a masked expression of his disturbance at accidentally seeing his parents have sex when he was a child. Freud thought the wolves were an expression of seeing this ‘primal’ act.

This edition of The Philosopher’s Zone looks at the importance of the ‘Wolf Man’ for the development of psychoanalysis, but also looks at wider issues of how evidence is used in building theories of the mind.

Freud is often criticised for the validity of his theories, and the programme discusses whether he was justified in drawing these conclusions when there was little other evidence on the function of the mind to work with.

Link to audio and transcript of ‘Who was the Wolf Man?’.

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