Psychoanalysis is the name given to a form of treatment for psychological problems developed by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), based on his theories of the unconscious mind, defence mechanisms and repression.
By the 1930s, significant parts of Freud's work had been translated into English and his ideas were fairly well-known amongst sections of the British public. It is not surprising that Stella Gibbons should have chosen a German name for the psychoanalyst who treats Judith Starkadder, or that she describes him as coming from Vienna; many psychoanalysts working during the 1920s and 1930s were Austrian or German and had links with the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, established in 1920 to further the practice of psychoanalysis.
One such individual, the Child Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein (who was to be responsible for major theoretical developments in the field of psychoanalysis), left Berlin in 1926 and settled in London, where the British Psychoanalytical Society had been founded in 1919 by Ernest Jones. (Its forerunner was the London Psychoanalytical Society set up by Jones in 1913.) Other psychoanalysts left Germany and Austria in the 1930s following Nazi persecution. Sigmund Freud and his daughter, Anna Freud (a Child Psychoanalyst), were forced to leave Vienna for London in 1938.
Reggie Oliver, Stella Gibbons's nephew and biographer, has noted the author's distaste for psychoanalysis - a distaste which became more marked as she grew older. She saw it as a treatment which was emotionally self-indulgent and which stirred up material best left dormant. Although the State psychoanalyst is portrayed in a fairly positive light in Cold Comfort Farm, some of Gibbons's mistrust of the field comes through when she describes Flora as feeling 'uneasy' about the success of Dr Müdel's treatment of Judith Starkadder: 'It was not the first time that she [Flora] had seen a distraught patient grow calm beneath the will of the analyst, yet she had never grown used to the spectacle. Would Judith really be happier?'