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Case Study: Dora - The Girl Who Walked Out on Freud

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 01 September 2010

Without a few unusual people, human behaviour would have remained a mystery - ordinary people whose extraordinary circumstances provided researchers with the exceptions that proved behavioural rules. Claudia Hammond revisits the classic case studies that have advanced psychological research.

Dora was the pseudonym Sigmund Freud gave to the teenage girl who claimed that her father had offered her to his friend in exchange for the continued sexual favours of the friend's wife. Freud used this, his first case history, to show how the interpretation of dreams could be used in analysis. Also to illustrate his new theory of infant sexuality, and to explain transference. Although Freud said he believed Dora's account of the adults' love triangle, Dora ended the analysis after just 11 weeks. Freud wrote up his account immediately, but didn't publish it until 1905, as Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.

In the 1970s the case was taken up by feminists to discredit Freud's theories. Claire Pajaczkowska made a film about it: Dora: A Case of Mistaken Identity. She speaks about it to Claudia Hammond in the Freud Museum, Sigmund Freud's former London home.

American psychoanalyst, Karin Ahbel-Rappe, asserts that Dora, a vulnerable teenager, was badly let down by Freud. So does Anthony Stadlen, a psychotherapist who has researched the real people behind the pseudonyms in Freud's case histories. Dora was in fact Ida Bauer, later Ida Adler, and the image of the self-obsessed hysteric perpetuated by Freud and his followers was apparently untrue.

Janet Sayers, Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology at the University of Kent, and Michael Billig, Professor of Social Science at Loughborough University, also feature in the programme.

Producer: Marya Burgess.

  • Karin Ahbel-Rappe

    Psychoanalyst and member of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Council
    Author of “After A Long Pause”: How to Read Dora as History and “I no Longer Believe”: Did Freud Abandon the Seduction Theory?

    “After A Long Pause”: How to Read Dora as History
    Journal of American Psychoanalytic Assoc
    June 2009 57: 595-629

    "I no Longer Believe”: Did Freud Abandon the Seduction Theory? Journal American Psychoanalytic Assoc
    March 2006 54: 171-199

  • Michael Billig

    Professor of Social Sciences, University of Loughborough

    Michael Billig
  • Claire Pajaczkowska

    Senior Research Tutor in Fashion and Textiles, Royal College of Art
    Co-Director: Dora: A Case of Mistaken Identity, 1979
    Co-Editor: Shame and Sexuality: Psychoanalysis and Visual Culture

    Shame and Sexuality: Psychoanalysis and Visual Culture
    Routledge Feb 2008
    ISBN-10: 0415420121
    ISBN-13: 978-0415420129

    Dora: A Case of Mistaken Identity
    available from:
    Shacklewell Studios
    18 Shacklewell Lane
    E8 2EZ
    Tel: +44 (0)20 7503 3980

    Dora: A Case of Mistaken Identity
  • Janet Sayers

    Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology, University of Kent

    Janet Sayers
  • Anthony Stadlen

    Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

    Anthony Stadlen
  • Freud Museum

    20 Maresfield Gardens
    NW3 5SX
    tel: +44 (0)20 7435 2002

    Freud Museum


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