Social Sciences

Start Your Free Trial

Who was Ernst Simmel and what were his contributions to psychoanalysis?

Expert Answers info

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write5,649 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

Ernst Simmel was a neurologist by trade who later taught himself in psychoanalysis to such a successful point that his work even influenced Sigmund Freud's Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921). The work of Simmel was particularly influential because it took place in the period of the beginning and end of World War I. To the modern reader, WWI was nothing different than any other war we know about today. However, in the early 1900s, there had never been something so shocking, wide-spread, dangerous and scary ever seen before. War, its consequences and, most importantly, its aftershocks in both land and man were something completely new to the psyche of the universe. Hence, Simmel provided that much needed understanding on what was going on with the world at that point.

Simmel was the first man linked to psychiatry and psychology who would touch on the topic of "shellshock", or "war trauma". This is what we call today PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome caused by the battlefield. WWI soldiers were the first to experience the exposure to chemical agents, rampant death, violence, and the re-integration to society in the early 20th century. The psychosomatic events that Simmel experienced, the neuroses of the soldiers, and the psychic tribulations experienced among them were the subject of much study by Simmel, and this became his area of expertise.

In Simmel's case, war neuroses came as a totally new project that even he had to learn to treat. It was not just understanding the symptoms, but figuring out a way to try to cure them. This is why in 1921 he founded the first outpatient service for neurosis and psychic trauma, geared mainly toward shell-shocked soldiers. His style was much different than the medieval treatment that most psychiatrists gave mental patients, where they believed that shock and more distress would shy the trauma away. Contrastingly, Simmel incorporated psychoanalytic techniques, talk therapy, nurse support, and separate services for separate cases. Unfortunately the collapse of the economy in 1929 led to the further collapse of his clinic. His body of work was not to be recognized until years later, as late as the 1960's where WWII and Viet Nam called for effective ways to deal with what now was a civilization of wars.

Further Reading:
check Approved by eNotes Editorial

laurto | Student

Ernst Simmel was a neurologist and psychoanalyst. Simmel was one of the discoverers of "war neuroses" and stressed the part played in them by the superego and the revival of forgotten infantile traumas. One of Simmel's biggest contributions was the study of Antisemitism, which is the hostility to or prejudice against the Jewish.