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Daniel Paul Schreber (1842-1911) was a German judge suffering from schizophrenia. He described his condition in his book Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (original German title Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken). The book was influential in psychology. Sigmund Freud put his own interpretation on Schreber's case.

Schreber's ExperiencesEdit

Schreber was a successful and highly respected judge until middle age when the onset of his psychosis occurred. He woke up one morning with the thought that it would be pleasant to "succumb" to sexual intercourse as a woman. He was alarmed and felt that this thought had come from somewhere else, not from himself. He even hypothesized that the thought had come from a doctor who had experimented with hypnosis on him; he thought that the doctor had telepathically invaded his mind.

As his psychosis progressed, he believed that God was turning him into a woman, sending rays down to enact "miracles" upon him, including little men to torture him.

Schreber died in 1911, in an asylum.

Freud's InterpretationEdit

Although Freud never interviewed Schreber himself, he read his Memoirs and drew his own conclusions from it. Freud thought that Schreber wanted to be turned into a woman so that could be the sole object of sexual desire of God (who represented Schreber's father).

Schatzman's InterpretationEdit

In 1974, Morton Schatzman published a book entitled "Soul Murder" in which he gave his own interpretation of Schreber's psychosis. Schatzman had found child-rearing pamphlets written by Moritz Schreber, Daniel Schreber's father, which stressed the necessity of taming the rebellious savage beast in the child and turning him into a productive citizen. Many of the "techniques" recommended by Moritz Schreber were mirrored in Daniel Schreber's psychotic experiences. For example, one of the "miracles" described by Daniel Schreber was that of chest compression, of tightening and tightening. This mirrored one of Moritz Schreber's "techniques" of an elaborate contraption which confined the child's body, forcing him to have correct posture at the dinner table. The "freezing miracle" mirrors Moritz Schreber's recommendation of placing the infant in a bath of ice cubes beginning at age 3 months.

Daniel Paul Schreber's older brother, Daniel Gustav Schreber, committed suicide in his thirties.


Daniel Paul Schreber: Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (ISBN 094032220X)

Morton Schatzman: Soul Murder: Persecution in the Family

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