Sacks vs. Freud, Different Beliefs, Different Treatments

Essay by Mozart1University, Bachelor'sA-, March 1997

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Sacks vs. Freud: Different Beliefs, Different Treatments

Whether Oliver Sacks had a desire to cure people suffering from strange mental illnesses, or whether he was simply studying the people for his own interest in the concept of illness itself is seemingly without question in, 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat'. From the Preface, when he states, 'the sick and their sickness drives me to thoughts which, perhaps, I might otherwise not have' (Sacks vii.) and throughout the collection of stories, Sacks is never so concerned with actually curing and diagnosing the person as much as he is concerned with studying them. Granted, most of these diseases at the time were virtually untreatable, but the attitude Sacks reflects is still very interesting in this respect. It is this area of his work, his study, which provides him with the greatest pleasure. Sacks attempts to develop in his studies what Barbara McClintock would refer to as a, 'Feeling for the Organism' by becoming so intimately involved with the object in question that a greater understanding is reached.

In contrast to Sacks' situation, then, is the system of Sigmund Freud. While we have concluded that Sacks loves the idea of studying his patients more than helping them, Freud's main purpose is to establish the problem, and then explain how he knew this and why he is right. The main difference, then, is essentially that Freud always thinks he is right! To show this difference I will concentrate on the specific short story, 'The Man Who Mistook...' as well as the First Lecture in Freud's, 'Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis'.

P., a music teacher, whose associates have questioned his perception, is referred by his ophthalmologist to the neurologist Oliver Sacks. Through his interviews with P, Sacks eventually realizes that P...