Journalist, Humorist, Novelist, and Book & Pitch Doctor

—Afterword (Truth vs. Fiction)

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It’s the job of a novelist to magnify and simplify in order to make a complex story dramatic and enjoyable. And so, as I said in the “Author’s Note,” I have invented scenes and dialogues and given personalities to characters about whose actual temperaments I am unsure.

But to a very large extent, Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story adheres to history as detailed in the included bibliography. Major exceptions include:

There is no record of Anna ever being let into the examining room during Ida Bauer’s analysis—or anyone’s analysis.

Minna Bernays (“Aunt Minna”) did lose her ability to have children through some sort of abdominal surgery, usually described as “appendicitis.” I have tied the surgery to a pregnancy about which I and others have suspicions but no proof.

What I’ve described about Anna’s sexual fantasies Anna admitted in her correspondence with family and friends. I added the bit about the boy’s occupation (tender of the willows in brooks).

Although Sabina Spelrein probably visited the Freud family apartment, she probably did so when she was a bit older and no longer keeping company with Carl Jung.

Otto Gross occasionally attended Sigmund’s Wednesday Night Psychoanalytic Circle. Since Anna was allowed to attend Circle it is probable that she and Otto knew each other. I have no idea, however, whether he had the ongoing, influential personal relationship with Anna that I have portrayed him as having.

I don’t know whether Sigmund ever presented patients in vivo to colleagues.

I have no information that Oliver ever crossed any boundaries of desire with his mother. What I do know is that Oliver was Martha’s favorite child. Furthermore, there was an episode of some critical sort between Oliver and Sigmund and, to the best of my understanding, it had to do with masturbation and resolved in an admonition something along the lines of, “A gentlemen should never do such things, not even subconsciously.” Apparently whatever the episode between Sigmund and Oliver was, it was not happily resolved, for afterwards Oliver and Sigmund were forever somewhat estranged. Oliver became increasingly odd and developed what Sigmund called an “obsessional neurosis.” Sigmund did arrange for Oliver to be psychoanalyzed, and may have also analyzed him himself. However, that (those) analysis (analyses) did not transpire until about a decade after I portray them as having occurred.

My description of the Alpine hike and its drama and mystery is entirely a product of my imagination. You could call this “fun with recovered memory” if you want. But Anna had childhood exposure to highly sexual analytic material. Then, in the first years of her adulthood she was analyzed by her father, who proceeded despite having warned his colleagues that analysis is too erotic to practice on a member of one’s own family. I have written this “did-he-or-didn’t-he?” plot line as a natural consequence for Anna of the confusing situations her father created for her.

The start and end dates of Anna’s two analyses are difficult to pinpoint. While I say that the analysis that began in 1918 lasted two years, those psychoanalytic biographers who have dared to acknowledge that the analysis even happened typically describe the 1918 analysis as having lasted at least three years. I say that analysis resumed in 1925. I chose that date for dramatic purposes. Again I am at odds with biographers, who say that it began in 1924—though it’s almost impossible to know for sure because of the level of secrecy surrounding the analysis.

It is only fair to say that, while Ernest Jones was, indeed, fired for possible pedophilia and inappropriate sexual contact with an adult patient, there is no evidence whatsoever that he behaved inappropriately with Anna when he was her escort in London. However, Sigmund was direly worried about how Jones would deport himself. He warned Anna by letter about Jones and he sent Jones a rather stern letter full of “hands off” hints about Anna.

I have written the details of Anna’s psychoanalysis. All that I really know about the psychoanalysis is that they met nightly, late. They discussed her dreams and they discussed her masturbation fantasies and they discussed all of the matters that Sigmund revealed when he wrote A Child is Being Beaten. It is true, however, that Sigmund suggested to Anna that she had forgotten an important fantasy (what in the novel I call “the Read Phase Two Fantasy”) that occupied her between the two phases of fantasy that she reported.

I do not know whether Otto Gross attended the reading of A Child is Being Beaten.

Martha’s (“Mama”‘s) decline and attempted suicide after Sophie’s death I imagined. This is why: As is evident in their voluminous engagement correspondence, before their marriage Sigmund bullied Martha, arrogantly demanding, for example, that as proof of her loyalty to him she cut off contact with her family of origin. Despite some fairly brash haranguing, she somehow usually refused to comply. But after her marriage she seems to have became more obedient, and after having six children in eight years she may have lost her spirit. Biographers generally describe her either as dull or as an excellent wife (for example, by virtue of relieving Sigmund of the necessity of putting toothpaste on his own toothbrush). Sophie really did die suddenly in 1920. It seemed to me reasonable to imagine that, having abided for decades some of Sigmund’s outlandish behavior, including his back-door affair with her own sister, losing a child was one blow too many for her.

I have no evidence of Martha ever having had a female lover.

The little speech that Sigmund gives Anna —”I am not necessarily the sole author of your little melodrama, Anna, though I can see that you regard me as its primary villain. Unfortunately, it is never the aim of an analysis like yours to create conviction. Our discussions were only intended to bring the repressed complexes into consciousness, to set the conflict going in the field of conscious mental activity and to facilitate the emergence of fresh material from the unconscious. I think you will agree with me that is precisely what we did.” — is actually paraphrased from Sigmund Freud’s summary of the Rat Man case.

In Hysterical, Anna gives Sigmund full credit for the idea of projection. Many people would argue that credit for formalizing the concept goes to her.

As is the case of Anna’s relationship with Dorothy Burlingham, her relationship with Eva Rosenfeld has always been described by psychoanalytic biographers as an intensely intimate friendship, not a homosexual love affair.

Anna wrote Beating Fantasies and Daydreams in 1922 (two years after Sigmund’s A Child is Being Beaten), not in 1925.

There is no historical evidence that Anna suffered a hysterical paralysis. Again, all I truly know about her analysis with Sigmund is that they discussed her dreams and masturbation fantasies, and that her fantasies were about being beaten by a father figure.

The only evidence that I have about the matter of Sigmund, rape, and Gisela I pieced together from stories involving Sigmund and two young women, Gisela Fluss and Pauline Freud. Gisela Fluss was actually not Sigmund’s cousin but the daughter of people who were friends of Sigmund’s parents. Sigmund stayed with the Fluss family in his sixteenth year during a visit to his birthplace in Frieberg, Germany. Gisela was a year or two younger than Sigmund and, according to Ernest Jones in The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Sigmund “fell in love with her on the spot. He was too shy to communicate his feelings or even address a single word to her, and she went away to her school after a few days. The disconsolate youth had to content himself with wandering in the woods and with the phantasy of how pleasant life would have been had his parents not left that happy spot where he could have grown up a stout country lad, like the girl’s brothers, and married the maiden. So it was all his father’s fault. As might be expected, the phantasy was accompanied, though quite unconsciously, by a deeper, plainly erotic one.”  Apparently, according to Jones, Sigmund was given to confusing his erotic fantasies of Gisela with a rape fantasy that he entertained regarding his actual cousin, Pauline, a fantasy in which he seized flowers that she held. Jones writes, “Freud himself related how he and his nephew used to treat the little girl cruelly.”

To the best of my knowledge, Oliver Freud had absolutely nothing to do with the invention of airplane black boxes.

Sigmund’s protest to Anna when she quits her second course of analysis — “I am an old man, and you do not think it worth your while to love me!” — is actually something he said to artist Hilda Doolittle during the course of her analysis.

Sigmund analyzed Eva, but that analysis may not have started until 1929.

Sigmund did apparently refer Dorothy Burlingham to a trusted colleague for analysis. Eventually, however, Dorothy became Sigmund’s analysand. Indeed, for a while, Sigmund analyzed Dorothy, Eva, and Anna simultaneously.

Freud’s humor became mordant during his tribulations with the Nazis. One story has it that, upon first seeing the house at Maresfield Gardens, he said “Heil Hitler!” either in jest about the imperial opulence of a beautiful free-standing house (as an adult he had always lived in rented apartments) or in jocular thanks to Hitler for having prompted him to leave lesser quarters in Vienna for the magnificence of suburbia. Similarly, for half a century there circulated a myth that Freud, when obtaining permission to leave Vienna, added the sentence, “I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to anyone” to the document he was asked to sign testifying that he and his family had been well treated. However, in more recent years the actual document has been found and examined. The sentence is not there.

I have no idea whether the Freud family really sprinkled Sigmund’s ashes into their wine. My guess, anyway, is that the bulk of it remained in the urn.

To BuySample | Praise | Bibliography
Readers Guide for Book Clubs | Truth vs. Fiction “Cheat Sheet” | Backgrounder |
Speaking EngagementsTo Buy