Anna Freud  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Anna Freud (December 3, 1895 - October 9, 1982) was the sixth and last child of Sigmund and Martha Freud. Born in Vienna, she followed the path of her father and contributed to the newly born field of psychoanalysis. Compared to her father, Anna Freud's work emphasized the importance of the ego, and its ability to be trained socially.

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The Vienna years

Anna did not have a very close bond with her mother and had difficulties getting along with her siblings, specifically with her sister Sophie Freud. Sophie, who was the prettiest child, represented a threat in the struggle for the affection of their father. Apart from this rivalry between the two sisters, Anna had some other difficulties growing up. Out of correspondence between father and daughter, it can be concluded today that Anna suffered from a depression which caused eating disorders. The relationship between Anna and her father was different from the rest of her family; they were very close. She was a lively child with a reputation for mischief. Freud wrote to his friend Wilhelm Fliess in 1899: "Anna has become downright beautiful through naughtiness... ", Sigmund was very proud of his daughter. It was found that he mentioned her in his diaries more than others in the family.

Anna began school in 1901, later on Anna would say that she didn’t learn much in school but all the more from her father and his guests at home. This way she picked up languages as Hebrew, German, English, French and Italian. At the age of 15, she started reading her father’s work. At a young age she started to tell her father her dreams and he would publish them in his book Interpretation of Dreams. Anna finished her education at the Cottage Lyceum in Vienna in 1912. Suffering from a depression, she was very insecure about what to do in the future. Subsequently, she went to Italy to stay with her grandmother.

In 1914, she started teaching at her old school, the Cottage Lyceum. In 1918 her father started psychoanalysis on her and she became seriously involved with this new profession. Her analysis was completed in 1922 and thereupon she presented the paper "Beating Fantasies and Daydreams" to the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society, subsequently becoming a member. In 1923 she began her own psychoanalytical practice with children and two years later she was teaching at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute on the technique of child analysis. From 1925 until 1934 she was the Secretary of the International Psychoanalytical Association while she continued child analysis and seminars and conferences on the subject. In 1935 Anna became director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Training Institute and in the following year she published her influential study of the "ways and means by which the ego wards off displeasure and anxiety", The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence. It became a founding work of ego psychology and established Anna’s reputation as a pioneering theoretician.

1938 and later: Anna in London

In 1938 the Freuds had to flee from Austria as a consequence of the Nazis' continuous harassment of Jews in Vienna. Her father's health was getting bad due to a severe jaw cancer infection, so she had to organize the family's emigration to London. Here she continued her work and took care of her father, who finally died in the autumn of 1939. When Anna arrived in London, a conflict emerged between her and Melanie Klein regarding developmental theories of children. This conflict threatened to split the British Psycho-analytical Society, but ended in training courses given from two different points of view.

The war gave Anna opportunity to observe the effect of deprivation of parental care on children. She set up a centre for young war victims, called "The Hampstead War Nursery". Here the children got foster care although mothers were encouraged to visit as often as possible. The underlying idea was to give children the opportunity to form attachments by providing continuity of relationships. This was continued, after the war, at the Bulldogs Bank home, which was an orphanage, run by colleagues of Anna and was taking care of children who survive concentration camps. Based on these observations Anna published a series of studies with her lifelong friend, Dorothy Burlingham on the impact of stress on children and the ability to find substitute affections among peers when parents cannot give them.

In 1947 Anna Freud and Kate Friedlaender established the Hampstead Child Therapy Courses. Five years later, a children's clinic was added. Here they worked with Anna's theory of the developmental lines. Furthermore Anna started lecturing on child psychology. Until then Child analysis had remained a quite uncharted territory. Siegfried Bernfeld and August Aichorn, who both had practical experience of dealing with children, mentored her in this.

From the 1950s until the end of her life Anna Freud travelled regularly to the United States to lecture, to teach and to visit friends. During the 1970s she was concerned with the problems of emotionally deprived and socially disadvantaged children, and she studied deviations and delays in development. At Yale Law School she taught seminars on crime and the family: this led to a transatlantic collaboration with Joseph Goldstein and Albert Solnit on children and the law, published as Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973).

Anna Freud died in London on October 9, 1982. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium and her ashes placed in a marble shelf next to her parents' ancient Greek funeral urn. Her lifelong friend Dorothy Burlingham and several other members of the Freud family also rest there.

One year after Anna Freud's death a publication of her collected works appeared. She was mentioned as "a passionate and inspirational teacher" and in 1984 the Hampstead Clinic was renamed the Anna Freud Centre. Furthermore her home in London for forty years was in 1986, as she had wished, transformed into the Freud Museum, dedicated to her father and the psychoanalytical society.

Major contributions to psychoanalysis

Anna Freud moved away from the classical position of her father, who was concentrating on the unconscious Id (a perspective she found to be restrictive) and instead emphasized the importance of the ego, the constant struggle and conflict it is experiencing by the need to answer contradicting wishes, desires, values and demands of reality. By this, she established the importance of the ego functions and the concept of defense mechanisms. Focusing on research, observation and treatment of children, Freud established a group of prominent child developmental analysts (which included Erik Erikson, Edith Jacobson and Margaret Mahler) who noticed that children's symptoms were ultimately analogue to personality disorders among adults and thus often related to developmental stages. At that time, these ideas were revolutionary and Anna provided us with a comprehensive developmental theory and the concept of developmental lines, which combined her father's important drive model with more recent object relations theories of development, which emphasize the importance of parents in child development processes.

As such, the formation of the fields of child psychoanalysis and child developmental psychology can be attributed to Anna Freud. Anna Freud furthermore developed different techniques of assessment and treatment of children disorders, thereby contributing to our understanding of anxiety and depression as significant problems among children.

Anna Freud about essential personal qualities in Psychoanalysts

"Dear John ..., You asked me what I consider essential personal qualities in a future psychoanalyst. The answer is comparatively simple. If you want to be a real psychoanalyst you have to have a great love of the truth, scientific truth as well as personal truth, and you have to place this appreciation of truth higher than any discomfort at meeting unpleasant facts, whether they belong to the world outside or to your own inner person.

Further, I think that a psychoanalyst should have...interests...beyond the limits of the medical field...in facts that belong to sociology, religion, literature, ,[and] history,...[otherwise]his outlook on...his patient will remain too narrow. This point contains...the necessary preparations beyond the requirements made on candidates of psychoanalysis in the institutes. You ought to be a great reader and become acquainted with the literature of many countries and cultures. In the great literary figures you will find people who know at least as much of human nature as the psychiatrists and psychologists try to do.

Does that answer your question?"



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