Saturday, February 23, 2008

Anna Freud and Common Sense

I wrote in my book:

“……But Miss Horowitz you cannot fault. Her father was a famous child psychiatrist and she was really an Anna Freudian. Not so much of the penis envy or bad breast good breast stuff that Gail kept talking about……”

Miss Horowitz was my psychotherapy supervisor. We spent an hour and a half every week talking about my patients. It was years later when I realised the essence of her approach and therefore that of Anna Freud’s is the naturalness.

Much has been written about Sigmund Freud as a person with what looked like unresolved personal problems. He had without doubt influenced our thinking for at least thirty years as the Nobel Laureate Kandel conceded. He provided a framework for our further understanding of the working of the human psyche. Much as physical medicine is being continually updated by newer findings based on new scientific discoveries, later psychiatrists have been able to modify and improve upon Freud’s original ideas. I always view with suspicion the rigid adherence to classical ways in matters of the mind.

At the time when I was working at the Tavistock, Anna Freud (December 3, 1895 - October 9, 1982, sixth and last child of Sigmund and Martha Freud) continued to give seminars on Wednesdays at lunch time at her home opposite the Hampstead Clinic. This is now the Freud Museum. Anna Freud herself would already have been seated even if you made special effort to arrive early in order to have a seat. She would invariably be knitting and the few times I was there she seemed to be knitting this enormous scarf or even blanket. It spread over her knees and the floor in front of her as if to say “This is my space.”

Arthur Couch, who had 6 ½ years of psychoanalysis with Anna Freud, wrote a paper to try to give a picture of Anna Freud's views about adult psychoanalytic technique. The following excerpts gave particular insight:

“……She seemed not to know the orthodox 'Freudian' rules of technique about such restrictions. At times she even expressed her own opinions on certain realistic issues I was talking about. I recall telling her I was surprised that she should say such things; she answered : ‘Why are you surprised?’ …… I came to realize that I had previously assumed something too rigidly limited about Freudian clinical principles…….”

“……As I recounted these various failed attempts each day, Anna Freud seemed to increase the intensity of her knitting, which she did most of the time so silently that I hardly noticed it. Finally, in one session, she began to speak about the issue of my soft-spoken patient. I expected her to give a very important interpretation about my difficult situation. But what Anna Freud simply said was: Tell her to speak up.’ This I did, and it solved that particular problem for the rest of a long analysis……”

“………Erikson's wife was pregnant, and he was spending many sessions talking about his worries about her pregnancy and what having a baby meant to him. Being very involved with this topic and wanting his analyst's full attention and concern, Erikson expressed his irritation to her that she was not speaking about it, but Anna Freud just kept knitting with increasing intensity while remaining silent……. when Erikson came into his session and announced that his new baby son had been born, Anna Freud gave him a blanket she had been knitting all along for his baby……”

Anna Freud once said: “The trouble with common sense is that it is so uncommon.”

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2 comments:

mandy lifeboats appeal said...

Came across your site via Mentalnurse.

"I always view with suspicion the rigid adherence to classical ways in matters of the mind"

ME TOO

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe that Freud, entering the mind of his own daughter, is guilty of a novel form of incest.