Anna Freud (3 December 1895 – 9 October 1982) was the 6th and last child of Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays. She followed the path of her father and contributed to the field of psychoanalysis.
Alongside Melanie Klein, she may be considered the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology: as her father put it, child analysis “had received a powerful impetus through ‘the work of Frau Melanie Klein and of my daughter, Anna Freud.'”
Compared to her father, her work emphasized the importance of the ego and its ability to be trained socially. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Freud as the 99th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.
Anna Freud was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary on the 3rd of December 1895.Anna Freud appears to have had a comparatively unhappy childhood, in which she ‘never made a close or pleasurable relationship with her mother, and was instead nurtured by their Catholic nurse Josephine’.
She had difficulties getting along with her siblings, specifically with her sister Sophie Freud (as well as troubles with her cousin Sonja Trierweiler, a “bad influence” on her). Sophie, who was the more attractive child, represented a threat in the struggle for the affection of their father: ‘the two young Freuds developed their version of a common sisterly division of territories: “beauty” and “brains”‘, and their father once spoke of her ‘age-old jealousy of Sophie’.
As well as this rivalry between the two sisters, Anna had other difficulties growing up – ‘a somewhat troubled youngster who complained to her father in candid letters how all sorts of unreasonable thoughts and feelings plagued her’.
It seems that ‘in general, she was relentlessly competitive with her siblings…and was repeatedly sent to health farms for thorough rest, salutary walks, and some extra pounds to fill out her all too slender shape’: she may have suffered from a depression which caused eating disorders. The close relationship between Anna and her father was different from the rest of her family.
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’. Freud is said to refer to her in his diaries more than others in the family[cita
Later on Anna Freud would say that she didn’t learn much in school; instead she learned from her father and his guests at home.
This was how she picked up Hebrew, German, English, French and Italian. At the age of 15, she started reading her father’s work and discovered a dream she had ‘at the age of nineteen months…appeared in The Interpretation of Dreams.
Commentators have noted how ‘in the dream of little Anna…little Anna only hallucinates forbidden objects’. Anna finished her education at the Cottage Lyceum in Vienna in 1912.
Suffering from a depression and anorexia, she was very insecure about what to do in the future. Subsequently, she went to Italy to stay with her grandmother, and there is evidence that ‘In 1914 she travelled alone to England to improve her English’, but was forced to leave shortly after arriving because war was declared.
In 1914 she passed the test to work as a teaching apprentice at her old school, the Cottage Lyceum. From 1915 to 1917, she worked as a teaching apprentice for third, fourth, and fifth graders. For the school year 1917-18, she began ‘her first venture as Klassenlehrerin (head teacher) for the second grade’.
For her performance during the school years 1915-18 she was highly praised by her superior, Salka Goldman who ‘wrote…she showed “great zeal “for all her responsibilities, but she was particularly appreciated for her “conscientious preparations” and for her “gift for teaching”….being such a success that she was invited to stay on with a regular four-year contract starting in the fall of 1918’.
She finally quit her teaching career in 1920, due to multiple episodes of illness.
Her first analysis was conducted by her father Sigmund Freud from 1918 to 1922 (then a second analysis from 1924 to 1929). Jacques Van Rillaer describes this “incestuous analysis”.
She presented the paper “Beating Fantasies and Daydreams” to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, subsequently becoming a member. In 1923, Anna Freud 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, Freud 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 Freud’s reputation as a pioneering theoretician.
In 2002 Freud was honoured with a blue plaque, by English Heritage, at 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead in London, her home between 1938 and 1982.
On 3 December 2014, Freud was the subject of a Google Doodle.
The final track on the eponymous debut album of indie-rock band The National is titled “Anna Freud”.