Research Projects

PAUL VERHAEGHE: Narcissus in Mourning. The Disappearance of Patriarchy

Lecture at the Sigmund Freud Museum Wien

One way to understand a concept is to contrast it with its opposite. For the psychoanalyst Verhaeghe, narcissism is the counterpart of melancholia. Narcissism implies completeness and omnipotence. It harks back to the identification with the almighty mother. She is almighty because she can give what the child lacks. During the oedipal period, this identification disappears. Melancholia implies loss and helplessness.

The failure of the original fantasy of omnipotence is the inevitable failure of the father and the safety that he was meant to guarantee; there is in fact no final phallic guarantee whatever. Consequently, a typically neurotic reaction is the endless search for a substitute, creating a series of imaginary fathers. This leads to secondary narcissism and stays within the realm of phallic thinking.

We are accustomed to interpreting these ideas at the level of the individual – the child with his parents, the oedipus complex and so on. When Freud was writing his essays ‘On Narcissism’ and ‘Mourning and Melancholia’, the very same clash was happening on a global scale. Phallic narcissism was brutally shattered by the First World War, and a period of universal mourning followed – the mourning of the father, of The Father. In Verhaeghe’s view, this mourning announced the end of patriarchy, in other words, the end of traditional authority. This compels us to rethink the concept of authority as such.


Paul Verhaeghe, PhD, is senior professor at Ghent University and holds the chair of the department for psychoanalysis and counseling psychology. He has published eight books and more than two hundred papers. Since 2000, his interest has mainly focused on the impact of social changes on psychological and psychiatric difficulties. His most recent book Identiteit (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij 2013; translated in German: Und Ich?) explains how neoliberalism has changed our identity. Recently, he has turned to a new subject: patriarchal authority and its disappearance. Personal website with downloads:

Psychoanalysis, Monotheism and Morality. The Sigmund Freud Museum Symposia 2009-2011.
Psychoanalysis, Monotheism and Morality. The Sigmund Freud Museum Symposia 2009-2011.

Psychoanalysis, Monotheism and Morality. The Sigmund Freud Museum Symposia 2009-2011.

Edited by Wolfgang Müller-Funk, Inge Scholz-Strasser, Herman Westerink. In collaboration with Daniela Finzi, Leuven University Press 2013 (Figures of the Unconscious 12).

In this volume renowned experts in psychoanalysis reflect on the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion, in particular presenting various controversial interpretations of the question if and to what extent monotheism semantically and structurally fits psychoanalytic insights. Some essays augment traditional religious critiques of Freudianism with later religio-philosophical theories on, for example, femininity. Others explore the relation between psychopathology and morality from the Freudian premise that psychopathology shows in an excessive way aspects or mechanisms of the human psyche that constitute our subjectivity, and as such also our moral capacities and behaviour.

Wolfgang Müller-Funk is Professor of Cultural Studies at the Department of European and Comparative Literature Studies (University of Vienna) and research coordinator of his faculty.

Inge Scholz-Strasser is Chairwoman of the Sigmund Freud Foundation and Director of the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna.

Herman Westerink is Assistant Professor of Psychology of Religion, Protestant Theological Faculty, University of Vienna.


Andreas De Block (University of Leuven), Fethi Benslama (University of Paris Diderot), Sergio Benvenuto (ISTC, Rome), Gohar Homayounpour (Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran), Felix de Mendelssohn (Sigmund Freud University, Vienna), Julia Kristeva (University of Paris Diderot), Lode Lauwaert (University of Leuven), Siamak Movahedi (University of Massachusetts), Wolfgang Müller-Funk (University of Vienna), Gilles Ribault (University of Paris Diderot), Céline Surprenant (University of Sussex), Inge Scholz-Strasser (Sigmund Freud Foundation), Herman Westerink (University of Vienna), Joel Whitebook (Columbia University), Moshe Zuckermann (Tel Aviv University)

Overconfidence among market participants - A psychological study of investment behavior

Dr. Thomas Oberlechner, Psychology Department Head of Webster University, Vienna, in cooperation with Carol Osloer of Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts), is investigating the phenomenon of overconfidence in an empirical study of American stock and bond brokers.

Overconfidence is associated with a number of phenomena on the financial market, such as the development of market bubbles. It can also be observed that private investors tend to be too active in their market behavior and that the volatility of stock market prices is exaggerated. Psychological research indicates that human overconfidence is especially strong in those situations in which it is difficult to make exact judgements. However, market decisions are characterized by precisely such situations, where predictions frequently can only be made in probabilities that are near to pure chance. The study, commissioned by PMA Hottinger, seeks to document this behavioral phenomenon with empirical data, making it possible to account for overconfidence in market observation.

The Sigmund Freud Foundation recommended Dr. Oberlechner as the project leader and was also involved in the development of the research project. In the continuing working process, the Foundation functions as an organizational platform and as an interface between PMA Hottinger and the scientific team.

The Sigmund Freud Foundation organized the start event of the cooperative project on 29 November 2007 at the Sigmund Freud Museum and is also preparing its concluding presentation, to which discussion participants from Austria and abroad will be invited. The production of a printed documentation of the project for the clients of PMA Hottinger is also being overseen by the Sigmund Freud Foundation.

Web Interface Classification

Together with the Österreichische Bibliothekenverbund und Service GmbH, the library of the Sigmund Freud Foundation has developed a web interface for displaying classification information with the aim of improving the user-friendliness of research in WebOPAC. This improvement facilitates thematic research according to subject groups in the local online catalog. The labeling of the classifications was set up so as to conform with the library’s existing shelving system.

Both the main categories of the system and the subcategories are represented, and thus catalog users are able to browse the entire catalog inventory conveniently. All of the hits in a given category are displayed by clicking on the classification, and thus they can be called up conveniently.
A new link explains the notations, which until now were only numerological, providing information on group and category. Thus it was necessary to convert the existing notations into 1,718 local data sets – so-called holding sets. In the process, the library’s shelving system, with its more than 200 categories, was optimized and standardized.

An automatic display of category information in the local holding sets is enabled by a newly installed program. Here an Aleph fix doc routine has been implemented, which when the holding set is saved adds the category names to every notation from a database. The individual notations in the local title data sets of the online catalog are displayed both as numbers and as keywords.

Digital Inventory Management

The collection of the Sigmund Freud Foundation is composed of very heterogeneous categories. These include printed matter, manuscripts, memorabilia, artworks, antiquities and visual documents. During recent years it has been possible to digitally catalog the written materials and make them available in an online catalog, and now the same is being done for the nonwritten items in the permanent exhibition and in the depot. With the help of a grant from the Section for Science and Research of the City of Vienna (MA 7), an internet module is being created – on the basis of the existing database on the history of psychoanalysis (PADD) – that provides access to the entire collection in the form of an object database. As a first step, a cataloging template has been developed containing all of the metadata necessary for each object, which will also streamline the lending process. In a second step, the museum objects will be cataloged according to museological standards, while provenance questions will be clarified through internal and external research in order to establish the origin of numerous items.  

PADD (Psychoanalytic Document Database)

The EU project PADD was initiated in October 2004 and completed in September 2005. Following this first project phase, for which the EU provided half of the funding, the Sigmund Freud Foundation has taken responsibility for PADD’s operation, maintenance and development.

In its content, PADD is a Europe-wide web-based catalog and knowledge database that provides user-friendly access via website to primary sources in the history of psychoanalysis, such as letters, manuscripts, photographs and other documents from Sigmund Freud and other psychoanalysts. This website also features a knowledge database with information on the lives and work of numerous psychoanalysts, as well as extensive bibliographies of primary and secondary literature.