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Australas Psychiatry. 2013 Jun;21(3):271-5. doi: 10.1177/1039856213480412. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

Gustav Mahler as Freud's patient: a note on possible obstacles to communication and understanding.

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  • 1Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Sydney, Penrith, NSW, Australia.



This article examines the meeting between Gustav Mahler and Sigmund Freud from a perspective that takes into account possible obstacles to their interaction.


Mahler consulted Freud in the context of a marital crisis in 1910. While it appears that a meeting between the two men had some positive effects on Mahler, its long-term impact will never be known because Mahler died only eight months later. This consultation is first examined in the light of a number of its implications and questions for contemporary psychotherapy. The fact that Freud was unable to appreciate music did not seem to interfere with a very focused, ultra-brief intervention for the patient completely devoted to music. On the other hand, Mahler's series of death-related traumas, a life-long preoccupation with death and fear of death, were apparently unnoticed by Freud, who neglected fear of death as an important intrapsychic force and provided an explanation to Mahler that was in accordance with his theories. The article concludes with a comment on the speculation about the link between creativity on one hand and unsatisfied libido and psychological conflicts on the other.


Gustav Mahler; Sigmund Freud; fear of death; music; psychotherapy

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