The case of the so-called “Wolf Man” – named after a pivotal dream that the patient had as a four-year-old boy in which he saw wolves on a tree outside his window – became one of Freud’s most famous analyses. The patient was Sergej Pankejeff, born in 1886 the son of a wealthy St Petersburg family with serious mental problems, who had been sent by his doctor to Vienna for analysis with Freud. After years of therapy with different doctors in Russia and Germany had failed to help, Pankejeff was now to get his childhood phobias and phases of depression under control in Vienna. Freud saw Pankejeff’s case as confirming several of his fundamental theoretical assumptions, particularly the role of infantile sexuality, psychosexual development, and childhood as an important part of a person’s mental development. The majority of the analysis took place between 1910 and 1914 and was published by Freud in his work “From the history of an infantile neurosis”.
Pankejeff never regarded himself as completely cured as long as he lived and after Freud’s death remained a patient of other psychoanalysts including the well-known analysts Ruth Mack Brunswick, who gave him the name “Wolf Man”, and Muriel Gardiner, who would later help him write his autobiography. Their diagnosis was in some respects very different from Freud’s: whereas the latter diagnosed an obsessional neurosis, Brunswick concluded that the patient suffered from a psychosis. Views also differed with regard to the trigger for his symptoms. After Freud’s analysis, in any case, Pankejeff was able to engage in a relatively normal working and social life, living in Vienna after the fall of the Russian Empire. Among other things, he was a gifted painter. Some of his pictures – presents to his analyst – are held in the collection of the Sigmund Freud Foundation. The famous sketch of his dream, however, one of the few illustrations in Freud’s works, remains lost.