Anna Freud: biography and work of Sigmund Freud’s successor

When talking about psychoanalysis, it is almost inevitable to think specifically of Sigmund Freud, a historical figure who, beyond being the start of a current of thought, has become one of the most popular and popular icons. more recognizable.

However, the psychodynamic current, which is the branch of unscientific psychology founded by Freud, had since the beginning of the twentieth century many other representatives who advocated a view of the psyche significantly different from that of the father of psychoanalysis. For example, this is the case for Anna freud. Today we explain his life, his work and his most relevant theories.

Psychoanalysis: Freud, Jung and Adler

Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung are two examples. They were exceptional thinkers who quickly moved away from their mentor’s proposals to found different currents within psychodynamics (individual psychology and deep psychology, respectively).

However, part of Sigmund Freud’s successors claimed the work of his master and worked to embrace most of his master’s approaches, to broaden and qualify ideas linked to “classical” psychoanalysis. Anna freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter, was one such person.

Anna Freud’s early years

Anna Freud was born in Vienna in 1895, and she was the last daughter of the marriage formed between Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays. At this point his father was developing the theoretical foundations of psychoanalysis, so from an early age he came into contact with the world of psychodynamics. In fact, during World War I he used to attend meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Circle. Shortly after, between 1918 and 1920, he began psychoanalysis with his father.

It was at this point that Anna Freud stopped working as a governess and decided to devote herself to psychoanalysis. in particular, Was engaged in psychoanalysis with boys and girls. Between 1925 and 1930, Anna Freud began giving seminars and lectures to train psychoanalysts and educators, convinced that the psychoanalytic practice and theory created by her father could be of great importance during the first years of life. people, that is, when they internalize social norms and the decisive traumas can be repaired. He also publishes his book Introduction to psychoanalysis for educators.

It was also at this time that one of the most important train accidents of the first years of psychoanalysis occurred: the theoretical battle led by Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, Another of the rare European psychoanalysts of the turn of the century. The two had totally opposing views on many aspects of how the psyche changes with age and procedures for caring for children and adolescents, and both received extensive media coverage. Anna Freud also received support from her father.

Pushing psychoanalysis further

In the 1930s, Anna Freud began to revise Freud’s theory of the psychic structures of the self, the self, and the superego. Unlike Sigmund Freud, who is very interested in the unconscious and the hidden and mysterious mechanisms that govern behavior. Anna Freud was much more pragmatic and preferred to focus on what allows us to adapt to real contexts and everyday situations..

Such motivations led her to focus her studies on the self, which according to Sigmund Freud and herself is the structure of the psyche directly connected to the environment, reality. In other words, if Sigmund Freud offered explanations of how the ego and the superego had the role of preventing the latter from imposing their interests, Anna Freud understood the ego as the most important of the psyche, as that part that acts as an arbiter between the superego and that. From this approach arose shortly after the so-called psychology of the eye, the most important representatives were Erik Erikson and Heinz Hartmann.

But let’s come back to Anna Freud and her ideas about the self.

Anna Freud, self-defense mechanisms

In the mid-1930s, Anna Freud published one of her most important books: The Mechanisms of Self-Defense.

In this book, he attempted to describe in more detail the functioning of the structures of the self that his father had spoken of years before: the self, that and the superego. This, according to these ideas, it is governed by the principle of pleasure and seeks the immediate satisfaction of its needs and impulses, While the superego it values ​​that we approach or that we move away from an ideal image of ourselves who acts only nobly and perfectly conforming to social norms, while the ego is between the other two and tries not to harm the conflict between them.

Anna Freud insists on the importance of the self as an escape valve which ensures that the tension accumulated by something which must be constantly repressed does not endanger us. The ego, which is the only one of the three psychic structures to have a realistic view of things, tries to entertain this so that its demands are delayed until the moment when satisfying does not endanger us at the same time. negotiating with the superego so that our self-image is not seriously damaged while we are doing this.

Defense mechanisms are, for Anna Freud, the tricks that the ego uses to cheat this and offer it small symbolic victories, because it cannot meet its needs in the real world. like that, the defense mechanism of denial is to pretend that the problem that makes us feel bad just doesn’t exist; the defense mechanism of displacement causes us to redirect an impulse to a person or object with which we can “get revenge”, while rationalization involves replacing one explanation of what happened with one that makes us feel better (you can see more defense mechanisms in this article).

Laying the foundations of Freudian theory

Anna Freud did not stand out for being particularly revolutionary, quite the contrary: accept the essence of Sigmund Freud’s ideas and develop them as to how that works, the ego and the superego.

However, his explanations served to give him a more pragmatic and not so dark approach to psychoanalysis. Whether their clinical and educational approaches are really useful or not is a whole other question.

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