Freud and Jeanne Lampl-de Groot

Harold P. Blum

Jeanne Lampl-de Groot (1895–1987), a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, was born in Holland to a Jewish family. Her father was a prosperous businessman and her mother a homemaker. She obtained her M.D. in 1921, and, after reading The Interpretation Dreams (Freud, 1900), she contacted Freud to learn psychoanalysis. The same age as Anna Freud, she began analysis with Freud in 1922 at age twenty-seven. Their analytic work rapidly evolved into enduring friendship. This elicited Anna Freud's possessive jealousy, not helped by Jeanne de Groot's 1925 marriage to Hans Lampl, a former suitor of Anna and close friend of Freud's son Martin. Jealousies having subsided, Lampl-de Groot later attended Anna Freud's child analytic seminars and the two became lifelong friends. Sigmund Freud and Lampl-de Groot also corresponded frequently, with intimate exchanges about their families, friends, and colleagues.

Frequently, their correspondence included intense dialogue on psychoanalytic thought, practice, and organizations. Freud commented on his own health, Anna's health and welfare, and Jeanne's marriage and motherhood. Despite and perhaps because of the very personal, even gossipy character of their correspondence, the letters are fascinating in their autobiographical and historical revelations. Much of this lengthy correspondence is available in the Sigmund Freud Papers at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Two of the letters—of September 11, 1921, and November 20, 1938, respectively—are reproduced here because they illuminate the intimate relationship between Freud and Lampl-de Groot.

Despite and perhaps because of the very personal, even gossipy character of their correspondence, the letters are fascinating in their autobiographical and historical revelations.

[Freud from Seefeld]
11 September 1921
Esteemed Fraulein Doctor,

I am always pleased to receive inquiries such as yours. I cannot take you into analysis at present since I am fully booked, but this fits in well with your intention to spend the next few months in Italy. Between January and Easter I will probably find time for you and will write to our home address to ask if you can come. An analysis of oneself by oneself is the essential part of the preparation for analysis. During this self-analysis you can read some analytic literature, listen to lectures and participate in meetings of the Psychoanalytic Society. After termination of the self-analysis it would be advisable to go to Berlin in order to have some initial contact with the treatment of patients in the Psychoanalytic polyclinic. You could also have your complete training Berlin where all facets of a training program are in place.

With the best wishes for the realization of your intentions,
Yours sincerely,

By the time of this letter, psychoanalytic training institutes had developed in Europe, and the International Psychoanalytical Association had a training committee. The Berlin Institute's Eitingon model for personal analysis, supervised cases, and analytic courses of instruction had been adopted by some psychoanalytic institutes and was under consideration by others. Freud had written several papers relevant to the initiation of analysis and the theory of technique, but perhaps indicative of her special status, his recommendations for Lampl-de Groot were not consistent with them. The capacity for self-analysis, as Freud knew, is no simple undertaking and, for most individuals, is an outcome of, rather than a precondition for, a successful analysis. Yet Freud regarded initial self-analysis as essential preparation for Lampl-de Groot's analysis with him.

Were these preliminary requirements just for Lampl-de Groot, or would Freud have made the same request of anyone seeking to become his analysand and a psychoanalyst at that time? He had already analyzed Anna Freud with similar recommendations for her analytic development. Freud's own self-analysis was pivotal in the foundation of psychoanalysis.

Lampl-de Groot was personally and professionally loyal to Freud but could also be respectfully independent. Her writings on female sexuality aroused Freud's ire, followed by his apology. Though attuned theoretically to counter-transferences, Freud was apparently far from integrating his ideas in his own analytic or extra-analytic relationships. Lampl-de Groot cautiously described the Oedipus complex of girls and relegated their castration conflicts to secondary significance. She indicated that an important reason for the difficulty in apprehending girls’ pre-oedipal phase was that analytic investigation and conceptualization had been undertaken by male analysts. The awareness that the gender and age of the analyst were determinants of transference and counter-transference confirmed that transference was not simply a repetition of the past. Years later Freud referred the Wolf-Man to a female analyst, Ruth Mack Brunswick, to promote the analysis of his castration anxiety and negative Oedipus complex. Influenced by Lampl-de Groot, Karen Horney, Ernest Jones, and others, Freud (1931) eventually came to the same conclusion in an essay on female sexuality. In accord with Freud's early concepts of narcissism, Lampl-de Groot stressed the importance of the infantile omnipotent self and object. Her ideas incorporated object relations, anticipating current formulations. She did not subscribe to Freud's propositions about female masochism, narcissism, and weak superego.

In the period after World War I, Lampl-de Groot and other gifted female analysands of Freud, while idealizing their analyst, each in her own degree and direction fostered the further growth and development of psychoanalysis. The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society was among the first to welcome female members, with their active participation in teaching, training, and research.

Fast forward sixteen years:

20 November 1938
My dear Jeanne,

Your letter from October 14 is as kind and as reasonable as all the previous ones but to my delight it is richer in good news. Among the best news I count is that you will be in a position to utilize your undoubted psychoanalytic superiority in the new-old Fatherland.

I would not understand why you of all people should think about emigrating. I hope you will always feel more comfortable in Holland and it will take a long time before the Nazis occupy that country—if it happens at all. The same elements that create the atmosphere where you are can be found here. The news from Germany, the waves of emigration that beat against these shores, the uncertainty that the near future can bring, all this makes it impossible to really feel secure and comfortable. Apart from all this, if it were possible to be apart from it, there is much here that is very beautiful. Especially the house. You will like it when you come with Hans to make the first visit. We live with and in the midst of all our own possessions. I think there is no reason for you to renounce yours at this point. Aunt Minna is again becoming mobile. Yesterday for the first time, she was downstairs in the dining room. She took the elevator that Ernst had constructed and it is this elevator that does away with the distinction between downstairs and upstairs and that has returned the freedom to the two prisoners who cannot climb the steps.

Anna has plenty to do but of course primarily with her old cases. No new case has lost his way and wandered to my door either. In this respect London is a disappointment. In Anna's judgment the group here is impossible and although she participates in all the meetings, she has decided to consistently keep her distance instead of starting a hopeless polemic. Neither has anybody asked me what I think about Melanie Klein's famous school. Martin will probably come to see you soon. He has business with our publisher in Holland. Little Ernst has been the most successful one so far, he has become self-supporting by finding a position in a large photographic establishment. There are also hopeful developments in Mathilde's business. My damned bone splinter has not disappeared yet and thus my complaints remain unchanged.

My warm greetings to you all.
Your Freud

By now the cultural context of psychoanalysis had changed; an atmosphere of international anxiety, instability, and traumatic disorder prevailed. Freud had been forced to flee Vienna to London, with the invaluable assistance of Ernest Jones and Marie Bonaparte. Although Freud's writing suggested concern that the Nazi barbarians were at the gate, he nevertheless used denial regarding Lampl-de Groot's safety in Holland, as he had, earlier, about his own need to leave Vienna. In his letter, he was realistic yet concurrently denying reality, which he had theoretically described as splitting of the ego with both recognition of reality and denial of reality. Despite his reassurance, Lampl-de Groot was indeed in danger and had to plan for her safety and survival.

Freud's own denial had been punctured only when Anna Freud, taking a cyanide pill with her, was interrogated by the Gestapo. His oral cancer was advancing along with the external cancer of the Nazi barbarians. He continued to deny that his four sisters were in danger: Who would murder four elderly Jewish women? He provided funds for their necessities when he left. One of his sisters died of starvation, others in concentration camps. His sister Anna, married to Eli Bernays, with whom she emigrated to New York, was the only sister to survive.

Lampl-de Groot visited Freud in London frequently, maintaining her close friendship and alliance with Anna Freud after her father's death. Her final contribution to psychoanalysis was to join Anna in convincing the International Psychoanalytical Association, after World War II, to acknowledge the importance of child analysis and endorse the membership of child analysts.

Timidly asserting ideas on feminine narcissism, feminine superego, and masochism, Lampl-de Groot's early work was relevant to the later evolution of the psychoanalytic theory of femininity. She remains a significant figure in the history of psychoanalysis. APSAA

Harold P. Blum, M.D., is training and supervising analyst at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Education of New York University's School of Medicine, a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and executive director emeritus of the Sigmund Freud Archives.