Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fathoming Freud 7

Anna Freud (1895-1982)

Freud prided himself on his success as a psychoanalyst and as the founder of the International Psychoanalytical Movement.  He was possessed of a brilliant mind, and he knew it.  His theories and practice of psychoanalysis  were extremely successful and he openly courted such honour and success.  Like Jung, he revelled in academic and worldly honours.  Both these men, unlike say the brilliant scientist Richard P. Feymann, wallowed in accepting these worldly distinctions – thereby showing how egotistical they were, despite their rich and deep insight into their own personalities.  Anyway, Freud anxiously sought a worthy heir and follower to carry on the beacon of analysis into future generations.  One after another, such luminaries and promising geniuses like Jung were to disappoint him and abandon his rather dogmatic approach to analysis which was essentially Freudian, i.e., his way of doing things and his way only.  Eventually, he realised that his specially beloved daughter Anna’s were the only worthy shoulders onto which the mantle of Freudian Psychoanalysis could fall.

Anna was the sixth and last child of Sigmund and Martha Freud. Born in Vienna, like all her siblings, she followed the path of her father and contributed greatly to the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. Compared to her father, her work emphasized the importance of the ego and its ability to be trained socially.  Once again Edmundson is brilliant on Anna’s role in Freud’s life.  The following is worth considering in depth as it shows an illuminating insight into the great man’s psyche.  In short, he too, great man as he was, was nothing short of human:

To break with Jung, as Freud did beginning around 1912, and to choose Anna as the guardian of the legacy was a great shift.  In making it, Freud chose caution over imagination.  That Anna’s best-known book is The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense is entirely apt, for Anna was becoming a defence mechanism, not only for the ego that was Freud, but for his entire legacy.  In time she would set out to turn her father’s work, which was sometimes nearly as speculative and wild as anything Jung ever wrote, into a coherent, stable, and sensible doctrine.

Freud loved Anna for herself; he passionately wanted her happiness – that much is certain.  But he also loved her as a guarantor of the only kind of immortality that Freud, the self-professed Godless Jew, could believe in. (The Death of Freud, 65)

The words “doctrine,” “legacy” and “caution” are such conservative words which run counter to everything Freud did in his own time to the whole world of psychiatry and psychotherapy if I may use the last word somewhat anachronistically, but I’m sure the reader will understand what I mean here.  Freud, the radical had become Freud, the conservative – conservative of his own ideas.

Anna became the old man’s nurse, secretary and amanuensis.  She was his guardian angel in all senses of that term, looking after his every need – physical, psychological and social.

Anna’s Courage and Strength:

On March 22, 1938, the Gestapo came to Bergasse 19 (Freud’s apartment, literally Hill Street) and they took Anna away for questioning.  They would have taken the old man, but his persuasive and strong daughter persuaded them that the old man was too ill and too frail to manage the stairs.  That’s why, she told them, she was offering herself in his place.  Immediately I am impressed and overwhelmed at this young woman’s strength.  No wonder – after all, she had been analysed by her father, and they had discussed and analysed everything from her sexual fantasies to her ambitions.  One could expect nothing less from such a well-prepared woman.  She was willing, she said, to answer any of their questions about The International Psychoanalytical Association as the movement founded by her father was officially called.  It is important to recall that at this time that all over Vienna, Jews were disappearing – many were killed on the spot while others were taken off to the concentration camp at Dachau.  Her brother Martin recalled that Anna went away like a woman going on a shopping expedition quite unperturbed, despite the four heavily armed Gestapo officers sitting around her.

While Anna was the quintessence of composure, the old man was very disturbed indeed.  He feared that his beloved daughter had been taken away to her death and possible horrible torture. Edmundson recounts that Freud paced the floor continually, smoking cigar after cigar, deeply  agitated at this turn of events. (See ibid., 82-83)  The irony of all this was that both Freud and his daughter understood all too well the base instincts and desires of the human heart, all those dark places and spaces of the unconscious, indeed the dark hole at the centre of the interrogators’ hearts as well as the black hole at the very heart of the Fuhrer himself.  After all, Freud had been writing about Hitler and the latter’s obsession with power, control and authority for years.  It is recounted that the old man, for once in his life, showed deep emotion when Anna returned that evening to after he interrogation.

Anna’s Practical and Organizational Skills:

Anna was a very intelligent young woman with whom Freud had in his final years discussed and teased out his ideas before writing them down.  She was also a trained analyst and had been analysed by the old man himself.  She had also organized all facets of the old man’s existence during these final years.  She had managed all the family’s affairs in the five or so years before leaving Vienna.  Like Ernest Jones and Princess Marie Bonaparte, Anna was strong, tough and prudent.  He now realised more than ever that he had picked the right heir to his kingdom, to his legacy.  She had stood up to the Nazis, yes.  She would also later stand up to the Americans in favour of lay analysis. (This occurred at The Fifteenth International Psychoanalytic Congress  in Paris  in late July 1938) This towering strength prevented psychoanalysis from becoming the preserve of the medical profession.  What mattered to Freud and to Anna was that all analysts would undergo their personal therapy and be intelligent, cultivated and self-aware human beings not medical doctors.

As Freud became aware that he was dying, he began to create synopses of each of his current cases for Anna, so that she could continue his therapeutic work with his patients.  In the end, his work was his life and he now handed this over to his only possible heir, his loyal and trust-worthy daughter Anna.

Above Anna Freud as a young and old woman.

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