Book review: A re-examination of Freud and his possibly ill-deserved status in our world

In The Guru, the Bagman and the Sceptic, Seamus O’Mahony blends erudition with wit and a doctor’s compassion for humanity as he assesses the history of psychoanalysis with a critical eye

Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist and father of psychoanalysis, in the office of his Vienna home: Freud’s theories and techniques flourished during inter-war Europe. Picture: Bettmann Archive

Psychoanalysis has always “bothered” Seamus O’Mahony. He suggests that Sigmund Freud has a status and his theories an influence which neither deserves. He compares psychoanalysis to a religion in the sense that its tenets can neither be proven nor disproven.

Freud claimed that dreams have meaning and represent unconscious desires. But sleep scientists reject the idea that they can be decoded. “Many of our dreams are, in fact, quite transparent,” O’Mahony writes. Dreams have a ...