Born in 1895, Anna Freud was the sixth and last child of Sigmund Freud. An Austrian-British psychologist, she expanded on her father’s work and is considered one of the founders of child psychoanalysis. She discovered that children often needed different psychological treatment than adults, emphasizing the role that early disruptions in attachment can play in the subsequent development of psychological problems.
As a child, Freud was close to her father, but was distant from her five siblings and her mother—she preferred her nurse instead. During the summers, her parents sent her to camps in order to assist her in overcoming health problems, which may have included depression and chronic eating disorders. After completing high school and training to be a teacher, she began her teaching career at the Cottage Lyceum, the grammar school she attended when she was a child.
Freud first became interested in psychoanalysis when her father began to analyze her in 1918. She presented a paper about the analysis titled “The Relation of Beating Fantasies to a Daydream” to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and soon after became a member. Freud worked with children in private practice until she was recruited as a teacher at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute. In 1927, she accepted the position of secretary with the International Psychoanalytical Association, followed by the role of director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Training Institute in 1935.
Freud studied children who had experienced abandonment or extreme neglect, which laid the foundation for later research into early attachments. She worked with children—tightening her father’s theories—and stressed that they develop through distinct phases. In addition, she expanded on her father’s theory of psychological defense mechanisms. Her book, “The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense,” laid the foundation for the field of ego psychology and characterized Freud as an innovative thinker. The book outlined a variety of defense mechanisms that psychologists still rely on today. They include:
- Repression: suppressing anxiety-provoking thoughts.
- Projection: seeing one’s own negative traits in another person.
- Displacement: transferring negative feelings onto a different person. An example is a woman who may displace her anger toward her mother onto her therapist.
- Regression: reverting to a psychologically younger age. Traumatized, young children may “forget” potty training.
Freud and her family fled Austria and emigrated to England in 1938 because of the Nazi invasion. She founded The Hampstead War Nursery, an institution that offered foster care and encouraged attachment and bonding for the youngest war victims. She later published her observations in the book, “Normality and Pathology in Childhood,” which described how stress affected children and the importance of creating foster attachments for children whose parents were unavailable. After that, the institute offered courses, and a clinic was erected to offer services to children with psychological needs.
During the latter part of her career, Freud lectured and traveled to the U.S. many times. She conducted courses on crime and its effects on family relationships at Yale Law School. She died in 1982.
Anna Freud was the author of many books, including:
- Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (The writings of Anna Freud, Vol. 2)
- Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development
- Introduction to the Technic of Child Analysis
- Psycho-Analysis for Teachers and Parents
- War and Children
- Infants without Families
- Reports on the Hampstead Nurseries (Writings of Anna Freud, Vol. 3)
- The Harvard Lectures
- Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Lectures for Child Analysts & Teachers (Writings of Anna Freud, Vol. 1)
- Beating Fantasies and Daydreams
- Difficulties in the Path of Psychoanalysis: A Confrontation of Past with Present Viewpoints
- Problems of Psychoanalytic Training, Diagnosis, & the Technique of Therapy
- Selected Writings
- Psycho Analysis for Teachers and Parents
- Basic Psychoanalytic Concepts, 1
- Basic Psychoanalytic Concepts, 2
- Basic Psychoanalytic Concepts, 3
- Children in the Hospital
Memorable Quotes by Anna Freud
“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”
“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.”
“If some longing goes unmet, don’t be astonished. We call that Life.”
“Why do we go around acting as though everything was friendship and reliability when basically everything everywhere is full of sudden hate and ugliness?”
“The horrors of war pale beside the loss of a mother.”
“Sometimes the most beautiful thing is precisely the one that comes unexpectedly and unearned, hence something given truly as a present.”
“Who promised you that only for joy were you brought to this earth?”
“In our dreams we can have our eggs cooked exactly how we want them, but we can’t eat them.”
“A first visit to a madhouse is always a shock.”
“Everyone here says in a surprised manner that I have grown… they are so stupid and do not notice that I am standing up straighter!”
“It is only when parental feelings are ineffective or too ambivalent or when the mother’s emotions are temporarily engaged elsewhere that children feel lost.”
“Everything becomes so problematic because of basic faults: from a discontent with myself.”
“Things are not as we would like them to be. There is only one way to deal with it, namely to try and be all right oneself.”
“Create around one at least a small circle where matters are arranged as one wants them to be.”
“Sex is something you do. Sexuality is something you are.”
“How one can live without being able to judge oneself, criticize what one has accomplished, and still enjoy what one does, is unimaginable to me.”
“Papa always makes it clear that he would like to know me as much more rational and lucid than the girls and women he gets to know during his analytic hours.”
“It is there all the time.”
“I am glad that I do not have any children.”
“Children usually do not blame themselves for getting lost.”
“We are imprisoned in the realm of life, like a sailor on his tiny boat, on an infinite ocean.”
“Papa continually emphasizes how much remains unexplained. With the other psychoanalytic writers, everything is always so known and fixed.”
“If I have a stupid day, everything looks wrong to me.”
“How can one know anything at all about people?”
“We are aware only of the empty space in the forest, which only yesterday was filled with trees.”