| Freud: ‘Full of power’
Berlin, May2: The last living patient to have been treated by Sigmund Freud has talked for the first time about the 45-minute session with the father of psychoanalysis that changed her life.
Margarethe Walter, now 88, spoke before the 150th anniversary of Freud’s birthday on Saturday, which will see events across Europe, focusing on Vienna where he set up his first practice, as well as London, where he lived and worked as a refugee from the Nazis.
Walter told the German newspaper Die Zeit that she was taken to see Freud in the now famous Berggasse 19 in Vienna in 1936, two years before the Anschluss, which would join Germany and Austria, bringing exile or death to the Austrian Jews.
Freud was already aged 80; his work, linking many psychological problems to early childhood and denied or repressed sexuality, had scandalised the establishment and then gradually become accepted.
“He had a small white beard, a grey suit and was a little bent forwards,” she said, adding that he filled the room with his quiet confidence.
“He was very frail-looking but full of power. He asked my name but my father answered. He asked about my school and my father answered. What I did in my free time and my father answered. The answer to my ambition for a career also came from my father’s mouth. Just like it always was at home.
“I sat there silent like an object that had been brought along.” She said Freud then dismissed her father from the room in a friendly but firm manner.
Walter had been taken to see Freud by her domineering father after the family doctor diagnosed her with “mental suffering”.
In a description that echoes Freudian diagnostics, Walter said: “I was the loneliest girl in Vienna. Lonely, over-protected, locked in and pretty certainly not loved.”
Her mother died while giving birth to her, she described her stepmother as greedy and cold, her grandmother as terribly aged and her father as unapproachable.
“Everything that happened to me was decided behind my back,” she said.
The teenager opened her heart to the therapist. “He looked at me uninterruptedly, and his full participation enveloped me,” she added.
She told him of reading erotic books. “At night, next to my snoring grandmother I devoured the spicy books which were hidden behind Grillparzer and Goethe, but she caught me.”
Her liberation at the hands of Freud was focused on her father and rebellion against him over ' inevitably ' sexual matters.
She told Freud how when she and her father were at the cinema, he would insist on leaving when a kissing scene started. “He would tell me, ‘such a thing is not for you’,” she said. “I wanted to watch a kissing scene to the end.”
Freud told her: “Being an adult entails overcoming the difficulties and implementations of that which forms a personality. Fostering your desires. Putting up resistance. Asking why and not silently accepting everything. It is about standing up for that which is really important, with quiet determination.
“When the next kiss scene comes up in the cinema, stay seated, stay seated. I’m telling you explicitly, stay seated. Think of me.”
Walter did defy her father on their next cinema visit when he tried to order to leave.
Gradually she gained the self-confidence to detach herself from his rule and eventually pursue her own career, becoming a sculptress.
“He saved my life,” she said.