Otto Gross was a psychiatrist who took his first steps as a disciple of Sigmund Freud and contributed various theories to psychoanalysis.
However, he had somewhat controversial ideas for the time, being considered an anarchist, which meant he was excluded from the Freudian school, as well as another set of problems for him.
He had a severe addiction to various drugs, which led to him being admitted to various mental hospitals. He was also treated by the psychoanalyst Carl Jung at the request of Freud.
A this biography of Otto Gross we will see a brief biography of this psychiatrist who has come to raise all kinds of controversies for his way of thinking and for his unconventional therapeutic methods.
Brief biography of Otto Gross
Otto Hans Adolf Gross, better known as Otto Gross, was born on March 17, 1877 in Giebing., a city in Austria. Although some authors claim that he was born in a city in Ukraine called Chernovtsi because his family is from that country.
He had no siblings and his father, Hans Gross, was the first prosecutor in this city where he lived with his family, considered a pioneer in the field of modern criminology. A few years later, the family moved to Graz, Austria’s second largest city, where Otto Gross’s father took over the management of the founded Institute of Criminology.
Otto Gross he received a strict upbringing from a bossy father who was obsessed with having his only child follow in his footsteps.. Due to the high demands of his father, he was always a very studious student, with excellent grades. At the end of his secondary studies, he decided to continue his studies by entering the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Vienna.
Medical studies in Vienna
During his student years, he was a rather shy, withdrawn, and very unsociable student.; Focused exclusively on his studies, so he hardly made any friends during his time at university.
After graduating in medicine, he began to work as a doctor in the merchant navy and after a few years of work, he meets Sigmund Freud, who has just published his book on dream analysis and offered him the opportunity to work as an assistant.
Acquaintances of the two said that Freud and Gross got along very well at first. Freud even helped Gross to continue his training to become a teacher in the future. Gross therefore obtained a doctorate in psychopathology from the University of Graz. Freud being the director of his doctoral thesis.
In 1902, he attempted to systematize psychology by publishing a work entitled “Secondary Brain Function”, to which Carl Jung devoted a chapter of his work on his definition of psychological types 18 years later.
Carl Jung’s stage as a patient
Freud came into contact with Jung when the two had a friendly relationship, asking him to treat Otto Gross psychologically. because he had cocaine, opium and morphine addiction problems, which he had become addicted to when he was a naval medic, so he had serious problems.
Jung first diagnosed Gross with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and later, after further therapy sessions with him, diagnosed him with dementia early on. Without finishing the treatment with Jung, Gross escaped by jumping on the wall of the mental hospital where he was being treated.
In addition to this, there is a film titled “A Dangerous Method”, which features clips from Gross’s therapy sessions as Jung’s patient, as well as interactions between Freud and Jung.
Stay in Munich
Following Freud’s recommendation in 1906, Gross moved to Munich, Germany. working with Kraepelin in his psychiatric clinic.
In the city of Munich, Gross came into contact with the bohemian anarchist, which then had its nerve center in Munich, in the very turbulent years leading up to the First World War.
In contrast was an alliance made up of industrial, financial, agrarian and military oligarchy, characterized by a very compact bloc, forming the state structure of the Empire. These men wielded a dictatorial power which, with ever increasing industrialization, marked the need to develop a diversification of knowledge and a range of skills that this implied.
Also, the great constant growth of the number of inhabitants in the cities has resulted in the increase of complexity and diversity at the social level, a fact which made that the established social and political structure previously decomposed, so that disagreements arose among young newborns who made their voices heard through new ways of expressing themselves and with different lifestyles.. These were the days of glory for the members of German Bohemia.
In this cultural and social framework, Freud’s theories on the relevance of the human unconscious and sexuality had opened up a world of possibilities to be able to therapeutically address the inner suffering of people and, as it was a recent discipline , have given rise to several interpretations.
Among them was that of Gross, who he used this Freudian theory as a central element to make a critique of the dominant culture, so that according to this theory, this conflict that existed between the proper and the other, having been imposed by the family and the State, was the root of the internal conflict.
Gross criticized the fact that the state he was living in was the cause of the promulgation of a family model in which the father was to be authoritarian within his family, so he saw them as responsible for personal suffering. It could be related to the fact that he had a strict and bossy father.
The case of Sophie Benz
Sophie Benz was an Otto Gross patient who couldn’t recover from trauma as a result of rape. After receiving therapy with Gross for a while, he once committed suicide by poisoning, being Gross’s second patient to do so.
This tragic event led to Gross being charged with medical negligence a search and arrest warrant has been issued against this psychiatrist.
Gross then ends up undergoing psychiatric treatment on his return to his country, although he does not complete this treatment and decides to flee to Switzerland. There, he tries to create a university of free education. However, his project not being accused of being involved in a series of smuggling activities in the country, he ended up fleeing to Munich and then to Berlin.
Scene in berlin
Otto Gross arrived in this city in 1913 and moved into Franz Jung’s house., a bohemian writer with whom he will eventually maintain a close relationship that will last for several years.
Together with Franz Jung he even published a magazine called Die Aktion which dealt with individual psychology, in which they try to expose the economic and cultural problems of the time. However, this project would later fail due to Gross’s arrest and the outbreak of World War I.
However, he managed to publish a large body of works, including the following: “Observations on a New Ethics”, “How to Overcome the Cultural Crisis”, “The Psychoanalysis of Ludwing Rubiner”, “The Effects of the Col” The Psychoanalysis or We the doctors. During these years he also published a work by himself known as “On Conflict and Relations.” “
Psychiatric detention and admission
By an arrest warrant from his father, Hans Gross, who knows that his son resides in Berlin, two men report to his friend Franz Jung, taking Otto Gross to a psychiatric hospital in Austria.
With the help of a medical report, drawn up by Carl Jung, in which he certified that he suffered from a serious and difficult mental illness for which he had to be admitted under medical supervision, the father achieved his goal of keeping your child under supervision and supervision. For that, Gross is placed in the mentorship for insanity, being attributed to his father.
Meanwhile, Franz Jung and other colleagues became involved in a campaign to free Otto Gross, publishing copies of Die Aktion magazine, focusing on psychological conflicts between parents and children. -rates of modernity.
The pressure his friends put on Otto Gross’ dad ends up paying off, so the father ends up declaring that his son had been admitted voluntarily to the psychiatric clinic. So his friends go find Gross.
However, his release was short-lived due to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when Franz Jung volunteered for the war. At the same time, Otto Gross returned to Austria to continue treatment for his drug addiction and, some time later, he also ends up volunteering for the war.
It is curious that two people like Fraz Jung and Otto Gross, both declared enemies of the state of their country, came to present themselves as war volunteers. In Gross’s case, it was because volunteering gave him the opportunity to become financially independent from his father. However, he and many others will eventually desert.
After having deserted
After deserting, Gross starts working in a Carpathian hospital. Soon after, in 1915, his father died, and despite this, Otto Gross was unable to free himself from his tutelage because his father had left him tied up before his death; his son had to go to a military hospital where his condition worsens. and he must undergo another drug treatment.
In 1917 he had his guardianship withdrawn for insanity and he decides to move to Budapest then to Prague, where he befriends Franz Kafka, on which he came to exercise a great influence, to the point that those who claim that his novel “The Trial” is based on the account of the arrest of Otto Gross. Gross is also said to have inspired more literary writers.
One year later he returns to Austria, where he was allegedly involved in an attempted revolution in the country and, after having failed, he decides to take refuge again in the house of his friend Franz Jung in Berlin. It was during this time that he published a series of political texts, all written with great logic and analytical clarity. However, Gross sinks deeper and deeper and finds no way out with the help of anything or anyone, so he becomes addicted to drugs again.
After a series of disagreements with Franz Jung, the two end up severing their friendship and Gross ended up wandering the streets of Berlin, dying on February 13, 1920 of pneumonia., being in the street completely malnourished and showing symptoms of freezing. Obituaries were barely written in his name, although he was an important person to a whole generation of artists, gypsies and men of letters.
The thought of Otto Gross
Otto Gross began to advocate for sexual liberation and antipsychiatry, an approach to mental health that undermines the dominant conventional psychiatric model of the time. This approach criticized, among other things, the medicalization of these problems whose causes were of a social nature, advocating the use of psychotherapy in order to treat them more effectively and less invasively.
He also pushed the development of an anarchist approach to deep psychology, rejecting the Freudian approach of trying to address the psychological repression of his patients, he therefore used unconventional therapy, provoking criticism from other psychiatrists who even turned their backs on him.
A supporter of free love, he came to have a large number of lovers and children together.
- Gross, O. (2003). Beyond the Divan: Notes on the Psychopathology of Bourgeois Civilization. Barcelona: Alikorni Edicions.
- Rahmani, R., Medrano, J., Martínez, O., Markez, I. and Pacheco, L. (2020). It’s been a long time: Otto Gross. Sex, drugs and psychoanalysis, 17 (63), pp. 117-128.
- Tendlarz, SE (1992). Otto Gross, between Freud and Jung. Concepts: Special Report Psychology, 501, pp. 49-84.