Hysterical. Anna Freud’s Story 2


I have to say that I find the book quite heavy-going.

The dialogues are often quite intense and complex to follow, and I often get bored. However, I find the story of Anna Freud and her father interesting.

The narrator, Anna, tells us about some pivotal moments in her life. She is fascinated by her father’s work, and when she grows up and almost all her siblings have left home, she knows she doesn’t want to be a nurse or a secretary. Her father tells her that she should go away and think about her future. She goes to Italy, which she loves, and while she is there, she gets a letter in which she is told that her sister Sophie is engaged, but she is encouraged to stay away during her engagement months and the wedding. Sophie and Anna have never get on, but this snub from her family affects her so much that she falls victim of anorexia.

Back in Vienna, her father convinces her to train as a teacher as he has ideas that the educational system and school could change if there were analytical teachers. Anna finds his suggestion appealing, so she starts her apprenticeship as a teacher. Around this time, Anna agrees to be psychoanalysed by her father. This lasts for two years, but she feels betrayed when Sigmund Freud talks about her dreams in a conference, and this is also in a book of his. From then on, Anna refuses to be psychoanalysed. The relationship between father and daughter suffers, and it is also a hard time as Sophie dies of influenza.

Years later, Anna leaves teaching to help an association for orphans. Anna psychoanalyses the children who are troubled, and it is through her work that she meets Eva, who gives a home to orphan girls. Eva and Anna become good friends, and eventually they become lovers.

Around this time Freud is struggling with his health issues. He is operated on twice as he has cancer in his jaw, and Anna becomes his nurse. When he gets better, Anna agrees to be psychoanalised again. It is obvious that Freud knows about Eva, and in their talks he tells her that her dreams are evidence of her troubles, and what she needs is to get married. Freud makes her meet a cousin of hers, and even they like each other, Eddie, the young man, thinks marriage is more than cordiality. In one of these sessions, Anna suddenly feel paralysed from the waist down, and her father makes her think that what she is suffering from is hysteria, and she has brought it upon herself.

Anna has resisted to tell her father about her homosexuality, but she tells her mother, aunt, and her sister-in-law, and she is surprised  when the three women and later her brother Oliver are understanding. Actually, her mother confesses that she had a female lover when she was eighteen, but the woman refused to leave her husband, and Martha, Anna’s mum, decided to marry Sigmund. What Martha advises her daughter is that she shouldn’t let anybody do anything that she doesn’t want to.

Anna Freud’s life is quite interesting, but this is not the kind to get excited about. It is interesting but not utterly enjoyable.


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