Hysterical: Anna Freud's Story

Rebecca Coffey

Published by She Writes Press, 2014
ISBN 10: 1938314425 / ISBN 13: 9781938314421
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Synopsis: Anna Freud (1885-1982) was Sigmund Freud's youngest daughter, and his closest emotional and intellectual companion, as well. Anna is the Freud child who, after Sigmund's death, bore his intellectual seed into the world.

For nearly a century now it's been a well-kept secret that the love of Anna's life was another woman.

And that was a problem for Sigmund, who agreed with medical colleagues that lesbianism is a symptom of hysteria. But Sigmund took concern about lesbianism one or two steps further than his colleagues. He considered it an actual gateway to profound mental illness. Worse (for him, regarding Anna), he said it is almost always caused by faulty fathering.

HYSTERICAL: ANNA FREUD'S STORY is Anna's "lost memoir." In it she tells of coming of age in a household in which the stories of deeply neurotic, often sexually troubled patients were standard conversational fare. She recounts the wildly inappropriate conversion therapy imposed on her by her father. She tells of her family's escape from the Nazis, and of their years of exile in London. These are years in which Sigmund aged and died, and in which Anna and her beloved Dorothy founded orphanages and schools for traumatized children.

HYSTERICAL reads like lively, sometimes deeply moving, and occasionally even hilarious autobiography. But it's a historical novel written by a science journalist with a wicked sense of humor, an appreciation for both Anna's plight and that of Sigmund, and an eye and ear for the tugs of war that happen in families. As Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, once the Projects Director of the Freud Archives, describes it, HYSTERICAL "is the book we all wish Anna Freud had had the courage to write."

From the Back Cover: The life of pioneering child psychoanalyst Anna Freud (1895-1982) was, by any standards, extraordinary. It spanned two centuries, three continents, and both world wars, and was enlivened by her and her father's relationships with some of their era's most brilliant minds. More than just Sigmund's favorite child, Anna was his sounding board as he shaped his theories. As he aged, she became his chief protector and a profoundly influential psychoanalyst in her own right. All that--and she helped hide a few skeletons in the Freud family closet." Hysterical "reveals two of those skeletons.
First, although Sigmund warned that analysis is an erotic arena that should never be risked with a family member, at around the time that the young Anna began having intense "friendships" with other young women, he analyzed her. For at least 1000 hours they dissected her dreams, her memories, and, most disturbingly, her sexual fantasies, ones in which she was beaten by an enraged father figure. (Well, of course her father figure was angry. Sigmund suspected that Anna was a lesbian, and he had long taught that lesbianism is a perversion caused by faulty fathering.)
Second, although Anna never publicly contradicted Sigmund's "wisdom" in the matter of lesbianism, she eventually lived happily and monogamously with American Tiffany heiress Dorothy Burlingham. Together they raised her children. They were a monogamous couple for 54 years.
What exactly happened in Sigmund's analysis of Anna? Was it the erotically charged echo chamber that Sigmund said analysis always is? If so, what effect might it have had on Anna's burgeoning sexuality? On the woman she became? Who was Dorothy Burlingham, this figure that history has ignored? Who were her children? How did Anna manage to love Dorothy, co-parent the children, and become a guiding force for educators and humanitarians, all while coddling her disapproving father as he aged and died?
And why in God's name did she become a psychoanalyst?
Weaving a good story out of a pile of crazy facts, "Hysterical" is Anna's fictional autobiography, letting her freely examine all of the forces that shaped her life.

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Title: Hysterical: Anna Freud's Story
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: 2014
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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