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Freud: The Making of an Illusion

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  61 reviews
From the master of Freud debunkers, the book that definitively puts an end to the myth of psychoanalysis and its creator

Since the 1970s, Sigmund Freud’s scientific reputation has been in an accelerating tailspin―but nonetheless the idea persists that some of his contributions were visionary discoveries of lasting value. Now, drawing on rarely consulted archives, Frederick
Hardcover, 768 pages
Published August 22nd 2017 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2017)
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Howard Eisman Most psychologists i know would be happy to have Freud listed under "Science Fiction." However, listing Freud under "psychology" has been done for mor…moreMost psychologists i know would be happy to have Freud listed under "Science Fiction." However, listing Freud under "psychology" has been done for more than a century now. His ideas are in the realm of "psychology", however alien to scientific psychology they may be. (less)

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Paul Bryant
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are several great reviews of this book by proper grown-up reviewers in the New York Times, Washington Post and so forth. They relish every page of this ferocious forensic filleting of Freud’s fanciful foolishness. The subtitle of this huge book lays it on the line, and it’s serious – Prof Crews is out to prove that everything Freud said and did was wrong, every treatment only damaged his patients further, and if by some fluke he got something right, he misunderstood it.

Professor Crews is
Carl Rollyson
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Adamancy is the word for both Sigmund Freud and Frederick Crews.

In his new biography, “Freud: The Making of an Illusion,” the UC Berkeley professor emeritus castigates the fraudulent founder of psychoanalysis for a rigid, even authoritarian personality antithetical to science. In fact, Crews points out, others preceded Freud in the development of psychoanalysis, but Freud not only wrote them out of history, but he also formed a secret committee of apostles to excommunicate anyone who dared to ch
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Of the most famous and notable people of all time, Sigmund Freud ranks high on the list, along with Jesus of Nazareth and William Shakespeare. Frederick C. Crews PhD is professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkley: a distinguished scholar and critic of Psychoanalysis and Recovered Memory Therapy. “Freud: The Making of an Illusion” is Crew’s extensive and sharp literary critique of Freud, his career, scientific psychological theories and writings.

As a brilliant Jewish a
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book, and any anti-Freudian will as well. Admittedly Crews approach is coated with bias and some of his criticisms and logical leaps about Freud are probably more informed by this than by the evidence - although unlike Freud he will always offer some sort of basis to his theories.
The one argument I hear about Freud is that 'At least he brought x or y theory to the forefront' when his actual methods/lack of any evidence is criticised. This book highlights the fact that he did no su
Graeme Roberts
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had concluded that Freud was an unscientific, self-promoting fraud. Frederick Crews marshals the evidence for that in a most rigorous and convincing way, but who, other than a career-dependent scholar or a zealot, could be bothered reading the blow-by-blow account of his terminal defamation?
Joseph Pfeffer
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Who was Sigmund Freud, and why is Frederick Crews dressing him down, and why at this time? Freud, as the world has long known, was the founder of psychoanalysis, a "therapeutic" method (Fred never really called it such) that, it was said, would free mankind from his neuroses by bringing unconscious fantasies and traumas to light, thereby releasing their hold on the psyche. Freud was the great liberator, revealing to one and all how the murderous/sexual drives of our early childhood, thought to b ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
For me this book was one of those to be glad I was finished with. Not glad I read it, glad I was finished and persevered. Slogging through the six hundred plus pages was an exercise in psychological will. Having said that I will admit the book had merit in exposing Dr. Freud for all his various motives and manipulations. Not really a biography but an academic like dissection of how Freud formulated his at one time vaunted theories on the workings and machinations of the human mind.

A number of th
Romeo Verga
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-development
Thic book about cocain solves all & father's penis ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Where to begin? It took me awhile to finish this one. I was expecting a more structured take-down of Freudian psychoanalysis but this book is an in-depth biography of Freud's career through the 19th century. It becomes a lot less focused in the 20th century as Freud indulges in myth-making.

I see many other reviewers saying that Crews conjectures without citing sources but I see very little of that. There is some conjecture about what was actually going on in Freud's head but it is not outla
Jeff Francis
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Why, even in the 21st Century, does Sigmund Freud continue to loom so large in the popular imagination (a la Freudian Slips and Oral Stages)? Yes, his legacy as a pioneering thinker/authority/genius who solved the mysteries of the mind is appealing, but is that legacy deserved? What, exactly, were Freud’s contributions to therapy, good or bad?

It’s not an exaggeration to say that debunking Sigmund Freud has become the life’s work of Berkley professor Terry Crews. “Freud: The Making of an Illusio
Aug 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
From the full review [available at

"The only accusation missing from Crews’ book is the part where Freud sticks a dagger into a Communion wafer to watch it bleed."
Sean Reeves
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Meticulously researched and a fascinating read.
Feb 04, 2021 added it
To begin, what’s a professor emeritus of English doing writing a critical investigation on the life and work of Sigmund Freud; moreover, why spend decades immersed in the debate on Freud? I realized after reading this excellent work, who is better equipped to examine forensically and then synthesize the damning evidence lurking in Freud’s own words and those of his family and propagandists? For Freud, it seems, was a royal fraud, which Professor Crews adeptly records in persuasive detail.

Carolyn Fitzpatrick
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Definitely makes its case that Freud's reputation was undeservedly high for way too long. It was a bit dry in places because it is so specific, seemingly going case by case through Freud's career.

Reasons to feel bad for Freud:
- He was of Jewish ancestry in an place and time that viewed Jews as culturally and racially inferior.
- He was the only son of a struggling family with a lot of daughters, so he was under a lot of pressure to provide for the family.
- He was kind of pushed into medicine beca
Norton Stone
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If the 666 pages of demolition of the Freud myth are not enough for you , the 80 pages of notes and references are an ironic underscore of the author's most recurring criticism, which is the lip service Freud made to the scientific method. Freud destroyed the research for his case studies and there is evidence that there was little to begin with, his greatest ideas being intuitive and lacking any evidence base. It would be easy to categorise Freud as no more than a clever preacher, a man advanci ...more
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, science
About 25 years ago I read a biography of Freud based on the recommendation of a friend. Without much knowledge of his actual beliefs, I thought Freudian analysis was pretty much a hobby for rich people. My friend said Freudian thought represented real insight into the human condition. So I picked up a biography to learn more. I don't remember which one it was, but I clearly remember getting to the part where "Wolfman" describes his dream of wolves in a tree outside his house and Freud declares i ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The reputation of Freud has been obliterated in the scientific world over the past 50 years. Any attempt to rehabilitate him will have to first deal with this book. First off, it is a book with an agenda, and the author's agenda is to crush any notion that Freud was an honest researcher, a genius, a physician genuinely concerned about the welfare of his patients and/or that his work was based on extensive casework. Most damning of all is that the author uses Freud's own correspondence, his own w ...more
Heather Zehnder
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
By a hundred pages into this book two things are clear. the first is that this book was obviously well-researched and compiled. the second is that the author has his own agenda. while there are many direct quotes from Freud and those who knew him, the author often expands on the quotes with unsubstantiated claims as to how the speaker must have felt while writing their words, or what the relationship between people must have been like, or how a certain action of another was experienced by Freud. ...more
Gayla Bassham
Some biographies read like they were written by the subject's defense attorney; this one reads like a brief by a prosecutor. I began to feel a bit sorry for Freud before I was halfway through. Crews may be right, or mostly right, but the length and the lack of any balance made this a tough read for me. ...more
Eric O. Schultz
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A recent finding indicating that cognitive behavior theory or CBT often loses its efficacy with time elicited a great hurrah from the psychoanalytical community. This type of therapy, which is short term and thus cheap and consequently available to the poor, quickly grew to rival psychoanalyses, which for the most part had its heyday in the fifties and sixties (at least in America). What was strange about the triumphalism from the psychoanalytic camp is that there is still no evidence that psych ...more
Pang Khong Yun
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A heavy study on the so called "the father of modern psychology" Freud. After reading the book, one will realize that Freud is simply a FRAUD! he will be well deserving to be term as "the father of deceptive psychology", a disgrace human being who betrayed his mentors who block his road to fame or oppose his idea, betray his wife whilst having sex affair with his sister-in-law, encourage his friends to take cocaine, show his heterosexuality towards his friend. All of his scientific reports and p ...more
Howard Eisman
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Back around 60 years ago, if you criticized Freud, the Freudian world would attack in its own peculiar way. They would not address your criticisms but would impugn your sanity. Since then, letters, documents, and eye witness memoirs made Freud's sins against science, individuals, and professional ethics all too clear. There was too much evidence to say that a critic hated Freud because he/she really hated a father or mother. Evidence which had been embargoed for decades is now pouring out. Freud ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are critiques and there are super-critiques. Freud: The Making of an Illusion is squarely in the latter camp. I cannot imagine that a more rigorously documented, cogently argued, or wholly convincing history of the rise of Freudian psychoanalytic theory (paralleling the biography of its progenitor's namesake) will ever be written. In my life I have read only a handful of exposes (in a range of fields) that I'd rank as truly outstanding. This is one of them. Crews has done an enormous servi ...more
Ameya Warde
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, horrible sh*thead of a human being. Just, WOW. I knew I didn't like him simply from his theories, but this sheds so much light on what a gross human being he was as well. He was a liar, a fraud, a HORRIBLE doctor (like, wow), a cocaine promoter/dealer, a raging misogonyst and did untold damage to his patients lives, especially the women-- and his good friend who was a morphine user- but Freud put him on cocaine as well, and the rest of his life he was a user of both, costing the ...more
Brian Palmer
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, biography
The poison-tipped pens of biographers are rarely as demonstrated as in this masterful takedown of Freud. The only trouble with the very thorough demolishing of many of Freud's points of fame (pointing out, for example, how little case study was involved before Freud made grand conclusions, even in famous cases like his interpretation of dreams; his focus on social standing when he proposed marriage, etc) is that it draws the reader to assume there must be some defense of the doctor.

The argument
Feb 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Started but did NOT like it at all! Seem the writer intentionally trying to demean Sigmund Freud though an inflammatory approach which os out of the context of psychology. I started but dropped it soon.
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
This biography is caustic, brutal, relentless. Freud is widely seen as a paragon of scientific and psychological insight, and this book decisively pops that bubble. It also draws out numerous, countless examples from all periods of his adult life where he distorts the truth, is dishonest, is wrong or is inconsistent. If the point of the book is to recast Freud as an opportunistic, fame-hungry and money grubbing desperado then the book succeeds admirably. It's worth reading just to build a solid ...more
Kirk Johnson
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Crews, like Freud, knows how to write a page-turner and turn a phrase. And it seems that he's performed no end of research. But the tone of the book is not so much one of righteous anger as that of hatred for Freud the man. Suggestive modifiers abound - you can do a lot of unfair damage with adjectives and adverbs, and like a significant other who has turned on a partner, even Freud's seemingly benevolent actions are painted with disgust as evidence of poor motivations. Passages from his engagem ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I struggled to give this text 3 stars, but did so for what seemed like voluminous research on the part of Crews. It is certainly not groundbreaking to suggest that illuminaries, and Freud in particular, are subject to historical revision by their followers. Indeed, facts are facts and are always welcome. However, Freud is not credited for a method that has stood the test of time and remains relevant at any point in cruises work. Crews provides little room for Freud's achievements as a painstakin ...more
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Crews was born in suburban Philadelphia in 1933. In high school, Crews was co-captain of the tennis team; and he continues to be an avid skier, hiker, swimmer, motorcyclist, and runner. Crews lives in Berkeley with his wife of 52 years, Elizabeth Crews, a photographer who was born and raised in Berkeley, CA. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Crews completed his undergraduate education

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