Essay, Research Paper: Anna Freud


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Elizabeth Young-Bruehl is a professor at Haverford College and a member of the
Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis; this psychological background is
very much evident in her writing. Young-Bruehl's obvious knowledge of
psychoanalysis, often times made reading Anna Freud: a Biography difficult. For
example, the book covered many of Anna Freud's theories and this being a
biography and not a psychology textbook it was difficult to comprehend without
previous knowledge of her theories. An entire chapter of the book dealt with the
conflicting views Anna Freud and Melanie Klein had regarding the Oedipus
complex. But I never caught on to what the different views were, so the
importance of that chapter was somewhat lost. The book is also written with
great attention to detail that it just becomes overwhelming, are difficult to
follow. One other problem I had with the book was that there were so many names
mentioned that it was difficult to remember who did what and what their
significance was. The beginning of the book, Young-Bruehl provides some
background information on the Freud family, before Anna is born, particularly
Sigmund. In fact, the first fifth of the book deals more with Sigmund Freud than
it does with Anna. However, it is important to discuss her father, because was
the founder of psychoanalysis and had a huge impact on her life. Most of her
life seemed to be based around him. Every since Anna was little, she craved her
father's love and attention. This is why she began to take an interest in
psychoanalysis in the first place because it allowed the two of them to spend
lots of time together, which pleased Anna. She was the youngest of the six Freud
children and had felt excluded from her siblings and ignored by her father,
during her youth. I found it rather disturbing the way she lived her life so
much for her father instead of for her self. And being exposed to this knowledge
early on tainted my opinion of Anna for the remainder of the book. Her father
was involved with every aspect of her life, including her love life. Sigmund
Freud once wrote to his friend concerning his daughter's suitor, Hans Lampl,
that although he was very fond of Lampl, he was "not interested in having
Lampl as a son-in-law when the courtship became more serious". And
undoubtedly Anna could sense her father's desire, and was influenced by him. In
a letter Anna writes to her father she says, "I am often together with
Lampl in a friendly relationship, but I also have the daily opportunities to
confirm our judgment of him from last year and to rejoice that we judged
correctly"(96). When she wrote this letter Anna was twenty-six years old.
By this age children should live for themselves and should no longer need
approval by one's parents. She should be making decisions on her own, especially
concerning her love life. It was examples such as this that made me angry and
wanted to discredit Anna's achievements. However, just because her personal
choices upset me they do not discredit her contribution to the child
psychoanalysis. Throughout her father's life Anna basically just studied and
agreed with his theories, but she did not come up with many original thoughts on
her own. It wasn't until after Sigmund's death in 1939, that Anna truly made any
significant contributions to the Psychoanalytical Society. Anna opened up the
Hampstead War Nursery, where they cared for children during the wartime. This
nursery allowed Anna to address two of her main concerns: "to have an
evacuation residence organized and ready to receive children from the London
homes, and to be able to care for babies, the most vulnerable
population"(246). While they cared for these children, they observed them.
Anna recorded the children's eating, sleeping and play pattern, as well as, the
emotional development of the children. Much of her child psychoanalysis came
from the observations she made in the nursery. This nursery was such a good idea
that years later after the war was over she received grants to open up another
clinic. The clinic was not a refuge for children of war but rather a place to
observe normal, neurotic, disturbed and blind children, as well as an
establishment that advised young mothers how to accommodate their babies
physical and emotional needs. The clinic was also where Anna's student analysts
worked, since observation and actual interaction with one's patient is the basis
of psychoanalysis. Anna Freud is credited for making substantial contributions
to the field of child psychoanalysis. Her father, the founder of psychoanalysis,
is recognized for his revolutionary thinking. Anna on the other hand was able to
get more personal and is recognized with her ability to empathize with her
patients. She really tried to see things from the viewpoints of her patients.
Young-Bruehl's book was very informative and it really gave an insight into Anna
Freud that was unexpected. I incorrectly assumed that psychologists are people
that have their lives pretty figured out and are able to live a happy and
fulfilling life. But, Anna Freud certainly did not fit my stereotypical
psychologist. She seemed to have some pretty heavy issues herself. I wonder if
she was truly satisfied with her career or if it was just the life she choose
because it made her father proud and this acceptance from father was all she
really wanted out of life. An interesting book, even though Anna's weakness of
character and her dependency on her father was a disappointment.
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