3 December: Anna Freud, the mother of child psychoanalysis, was born on this day in 1895

If we were to choose an image to represent the lives of famous people and their children, it would be a comet whose tail – the child – eventually decides to detach itself from the parent star, leaving the latter to shine in all its brilliance. But the moment such children decide to go their own way, one can be sure that even the Milky Way will turn out to be a way that has been “paved” for them…

That’s how it was for Anna Freud. The last of six children, when she was born her mother refused to nurse her while her father had already chosen a name for the new baby – had it been a boy. Nevertheless, Anna became his favourite child and, above all, the only one who continued in his footsteps, investigating something that Freud had, in a way, neglected: the Ego, squeezed as it was between the Id and the Superego. According to Anna, an investigation into the defence mechanisms of the Ego had to start with the observation of children’s behaviour; she devoted hours and hours to this in the nursery school which she founded in London in 1941 for children whose lives had been disrupted by the war bombings. Anna Freud’s ‘soft’ approach (which had also been inspired by the methods of Italian pedagogue Maria Montessori) often brought her into conflict with her colleague Melanie Klein and the latter’s belief that psychoanalysis was necessary also for three-year-olds. Anna disagreed strongly and felt that it was totally wrong to touch the little ones, even if only with ideas.

Anna evidently believed it was important to fill even their first few months of life, in the cosiness of their playpens, with sweetness.

Name Day:
St Francis Xavier