Bertha Pappenheim was the child of two loving parents. However, it seems her father was too enchanted by the imaginative aspect of her personality.
Captivated by her childlikeness, he didn’t help her to grow into a woman. Given the times, he may have believed Bertha’s marriage prospects were best served by her remaining innocent and charming.
It appears counter-intuitive to imagine that someone can suffer from being overly loved, or loved in the wrong way. However, children who never suffer parental disappointment or angst, grow up in a special place that does not prepare them for the real world. They come to psychotherapy because they do not have the inner resources to negotiate life.
Rather than projecting themselves into life, these people tend to sit back and wait for the world to come to them, confident they will be loved.
Problems start when the world does not respond in the way they expect. They get angry at themselves and the world for what is experienced as a terrible failure.
It can be very hard for these patients to let go of their special position. They do not want to be ordinary, or vulnerable. They can experience psychotherapy as persecutory, as if something is being taken from them.
Allison’s Durbin song, I Have Loved Me A Man, captures the belief that the world should give them what they experienced in the family.
Fortunately for Bertha, and the development of psychotherapy, she wasn’t seduced by her father’s adoration. She wanted more from herself and from life.